bradrichardsneedsmorehype

Brad Richards, Dallas Stars’ success currently slipping under the radar

Brad Richards and the Dallas Stars have quietly put together an outstanding start to the 2010-11 season, as they currently sit one point behind the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings after beating that team in overtime on Sunday.

The problem is that a precious few people seem to notice Richards’ individual achievements and the Stars team success, judging from preliminary MVP voting (as Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski points out) and poor attendance numbers for Dallas home games (which Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News discussed today).

First, let’s discuss Richards’ tremendous contract year efforts. While his 38 points “only” ties him for sixth best in the NHL with Daniel Sedin and Alex Ovechkin, the Stars are a team that leans heavily on the playmaking forward’s production. He helped create or score 38 of the Stars’ 95 goals this season, which means he accounts for a staggering 40 percent of the team’s offense.

Does that mean he deserves to be win the Hart Trophy? Not necessarily, but he definitely is worthy of being a part of the discussion. If the team didn’t have Richards and Kari Lehtonen, they might not be competitive right now.

But the Stars are competitive, earning a 20-10-3 record for 43 points in 33 games played. They sit atop the ultra-competitive Pacific Division to the surprise of many, but their normally loyal DFW market is barely batting an eye at the team’s success.

Heika writes that the team is falling victim to the “wheel of fame.”

Bottom line, the wheel of fame is a tough thing. When you are on it, people crave attention about you, they get information about you and that feeds the fame. When you’re not on it, they don’t, and it’s tough to get people excited about your product. The Stars are not on the wheel right now, so they have to fight extra hard to get back on. This home stand will be a good test to see how things are working. The Stars play five of the next six at home, and they are playing at a time when families have time and might want to enjoy an entertainment event like a hockey game.

If the Stars win and the crowds come, the media coverage will follow. While hockey does fight some special battles for coverage in the Sunbelt, the Stars aren’t that much different than the Mavericks or Rangers. The more they win, the more people care, the more coverage they get. The Cowboys are different, and every single marketing number will tell you that, but the Stars are right in there with the rest of the pack.

Just ask FC Dallas or TCU how they feel about the coverage on a lot of days. This is not about hockey alone.

Hopefully people will start showing up for Stars games once the playoffs draw closer, because the region certainly got excited about the Texas Rangers when they made a similar Cinderella run. Otherwise, many pundits might wonder if the inevitable loss of Mike Modano also meant the inevitable loss of fan interest.

Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

Ignoring his one game with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity (it was bad), just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.

Greiss blanks Stars as Isles win in first game of post-Capuano era

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19:  Doug Weight of the New York Islanders handles his first game as head coach against the Dallas Stars at the Barclays Center on January 19, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders began the Doug Weight era in the same way Jack Capuano’s ended: with a shutout.

Yeah, it’s easy to forget that the Islanders actually won their last game under Capuano, consider all that’s happened since.

They blanked the Boston Bruins 4-0 on Monday and generated a 3-0 shutout against thd Dallas Stars on Thursday. It’s quite a feather in the cap of goalie Thomas Greiss, who owns these back-to-back shutouts.

(It’s worth mentioning that, for all the Bruins’ and Stars’ flaws, they can be very explosive on offense …)

That Monday shutout wasn’t enough for Capuano to save his job, and the Isles still have a long way to go after this encouraging outcome. The East’s second wild card spot still seems like a long shot for Weight & Co.

Even so, the Islanders will take it. They play their next five games at home and seven of eight in Brooklyn, so if there’s ever a time for movement, it would logically come now.

If nothing else, maybe life will be a bit better for John Tavares. He scored another goal on Thursday to add to his beautiful 1-0 tally.

Baby steps, right?