Cross Checks: Stephane Robidas



DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars earned their first playoff victory since 2008, beating the Anaheim Ducks, 3-0. It was the Stars' first home game of the series, played in front of a sellout crowd of 19,120.

Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: The Stars got goals late in both the first and second periods. Jamie Benn, the Stars' second-leading goal scorer in the regular season, scored after Shawn Horcoff's shot from the left circle hit the pads of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and came right out to Benn on the right circle and he deposited it in the net. The goal was scored with 35 seconds left in the first period, allowing Dallas to take some momentum into the dressing room.

The teams were physical in the second period and both had some scoring chances. But it wasn't until the clock got under three minutes left that the Stars expanded their lead. Tyler Seguin's speed and puck-handling created the opportunity. He skated into the zone and left it for Valeri Nichuskin, who managed to get the puck through Andersen.

Dallas added another insurance goal midway through the third period.

What it means: The Stars earned their first shutout since April 10, 2008, at Anaheim in Game 1 of the first-round and in the process are back in the series. It was an opportunity lost for the Ducks to take a stranglehold in the series. The result also guarantees that the series will go back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday.

Player of the game: Kari Lehtonen was terrific when it mattered most. He made several key saves on some point-blank chances, including Saku Koivu and Nick Bonino early in the second period. That kept it a 1-0 game and the Stars were able to add to it later in the period. Lehtonen was in a good rhythm and not afraid to come out and challenge shots. And he saw a lot of them. The Ducks vastly outshot the Stars, but just couldn't get anything past Lehtonen, even when they got some traffic in front of him. He made 37 saves, earned his first playoff victory and did so in a shutout.

Stat of the game: The Stars' penalty kill was 5-for-5 and became a big momentum-booster for Stars goals late in the first and second periods. The Stars didn't allow rebound chances, blocked shots and Lehtonen was able to keep everything out. The Ducks haven't had a power-play goal since Game 1.

Injured defenseman: Stephane Robidas fractured his right leg early in the second period after getting tangled up with Ryan Garbutt in front of the Ducks' net. It's the same leg Robidas fractured in November when he was with Dallas, causing him to miss four months.

What's next: Game 4 is Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET at American Airlines Center before the series shifts back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday.
The St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild tallied the most mentions in an unscientific poll of NHL general managers who were asked which clubs impressed them the most with their trade deadline moves.

The Blues were the most cited among responses from 10 GMs on Thursday, their blockbuster acquisition of netminder Ryan Miller and gritty forward Steve Ott solidifying St. Louis as a Cup contender. Blues GM Doug Armstrong got lots of kudos from his peers in our little survey Thursday.

"[Armstrong] gave up a lot, but he got the goalie he needed," said a Western Conference GM. "He’s got conviction. He went for it. I admire him for that."

Added an Eastern Conference GM: "St. Louis for sure got better. Ott is a bit overrated, but [coach Ken Hitchcock] has had him before and will get the best out of him. Miller obviously is the key guy there, a huge upgrade in goal."

The Habs and Wild were tied for the second-most mentions after Montreal nabbed Thomas Vanek and Minnesota got busy over a 48-hour period, adding goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and scorer Matt Moulson.

[+] EnlargeThomas Vanek
Paul Bereswill/Getty ImagesGetting Thomas Vanek for a bargain price earned praise for Marc Bergevin.
Montreal GM Marc Bergevin got high marks from his peers for getting Vanek at a discount rate from the New York Islanders, while Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher got praise for his industrious few days.

"Bergevin did a really good job on Vanek," said a Western Conference GM in a comment that was repeated by many.

The two Florida teams also got a few mentions and for the purpose of this survey would rank tied for third.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman had only one team to deal with in meeting the trade demand of his captain, Martin St. Louis, but Yzerman still got a decent deal out of it from the New York Rangers.

"I thought Steve did an excellent job managing that situation. He got a nice return," said a Western Conference GM.

Said another Western Conference GM via email: "To me, Steve Yzerman did the best job. He was dealt a bad hand. And nobody could have played that hand any better. Plus he did it with class (as always)."

Panthers GM Dale Tallon also got some attention for stunningly getting Roberto Luongo out of Vancouver. "Dale Tallon had the best deadline of all," said one Eastern Conference GM.

The Penguins were mentioned by one Western Conference GM, with Pittsburgh adding forward Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak. "Pitt was strong with quality, under-the-radar players," a GM said via email.

Buffalo Sabres rookie GM Tim Murray has been busy over the past week, beginning a rebuild and getting a vote from one Western Conference GM for his efforts.

"Tim Murray certainly added a lot of long-term assets," said the GM.

The Anaheim Ducks struck out on Canucks center Ryan Kesler but did add veteran blueliner Stephane Robidas. Ducks GM Bob Murray got a vote from a fellow Western Conference GM.

"[Murray] always sees the big picture. He is two steps ahead of what is in front of him," said the GM. "No one has come close to doing the job he has done the last five years. He inherited a very difficult situation and executed flawlessly."

Other post-deadline notes and thoughts:

• Interesting to find out from a source Wednesday night that Toronto was among the teams that inquired about Vanek. Imagine the Leafs’ reaction when rival Montreal got him, especially given the modest price the Canadiens paid.

• Needless to say, the Canadiens were never going to get Vanek if the Islanders’ asking price continued to include a first-round pick, which it did for quite some time. Once the first-round pick was eliminated from the equation, the Habs jumped in with both feet.

• Vanek is on record saying he’s going to the free-agent market on July 1, and at this point there's no reason to think that won't happen. Still, in the back of my mind I wonder whether this is a repeat of the Alexei Kovalev situation, with a presumed rental player ending up staying around because he falls in love with the electric market that is Montreal. Food for thought ...

• The Penguins made an effort on Kesler and also had a line in the water on Ales Hemsky, the Edmonton Oilers forward who went to Ottawa instead. I thought Hemsky would have been a nice fit in Pittsburgh, but Goc and Stempniak are solid additions. Goc is versatile and provides depth at center while Stempniak could surprise some people after being given a fresh start, like Jussi Jokinen has done since joining the Pens at last year’s trade deadline.

And this, from our friends at Bovada:



Is there an NHL GM who goes about his business more quietly than Anaheim's Bob Murray?

The architect of the NHL's top team at the quarter pole this season was at it again Tuesday, sending big winger Dustin Penner to Washington for a fourth-round pick, which the Ducks then turned around and sent to Dallas in exchange for veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas. (The pick sent to Dallas could become a third-rounder if Robidas plays 50 percent of the team's playoff games and the Ducks reach the Western Conference finals.)

The Ducks are awash in forwards but were in need of some defensive depth.

Robidas is a calculated risk.

The veteran defender broke his leg in a grisly incident in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks in late November and is just now back taking full practice. But assuming Robidas, who turned 37 on Monday, can stay healthy, he adds a nice element to a blue line that features emerging young stars Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, along with veterans Francois Beauchemin and solid Ben Lovejoy.

The Ducks began play Tuesday with the best record in the NHL. If there was a perceived weaknesses in terms of being able to translate their regular-season success into a long playoff run in the spring, it was in terms of their experience and defensive depth.

With Sheldon Souray gone for the season with a wrist injury, Robidas has the potential to be a difference-maker as the playoffs move along.

Originally a Montreal draft pick, Robidas has been the poster boy for perseverance. He is among the NHL's toughest players and has routinely played through significant injuries. Since coming to Dallas in 2005-06, Robidas has been one of the most popular players in the Stars' dressing room. Robidas will skate with the team in Anaheim on Thursday and is expected to play within one or two weeks.

He will no doubt fit seamlessly into the Ducks' locker room.

The Ducks were a busy team Tuesday, as they also alleviated some of the logjam that had developed at the goaltender position by sending Viktor Fasth to the Edmonton Oilers for a fifth-round pick in 2014 and a third-round pick in 2015, which is an excellent return for a goaltender who has played little this season due to injury.

On the other side of the Robidas trade is Dallas GM Jim Nill, who is in his first year behind the helm of the Stars. His squad has played extremely well of late and as of Tuesday afternoon occupied the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

A playoff spot is by no means secure, however, and Nill's decision to move Robidas, who can become an unrestricted free agent in July, suggests that as much as making the playoffs is a priority for Nill so, too, is making sure the team is well-positioned moving forward.

The Stars have missed the playoffs five straight seasons. In some of those seasons, the Stars have come achingly close to qualifying for the postseason, only to fall out of it in the final days of the regular season. In 2011, for instance, they lost their final regular-season game, which cost them a playoff berth. A year later, they slumped down the stretch and lost control of the Pacific Division and a playoff spot. In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, they were winless in their final five games of the season to see any shot at a postseason berth disappear.

Could the same thing happen this season?

Sure.

Would Robidas have helped secure a postseason spot? Sure. But it seems clear Nill does not want to find himself on the outside of the playoff bubble and then watch as assets walk out the door.

Does this suggest then that Nill be looking to move Ray Whitney or Vernon Fiddler, both of whom can become unrestricted free agents this summer?

Perhaps, especially if Nill might be able to land a player with some term on his contract in exchange or in a separate deal.

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