Mike Heika did his weekly question-and-answer session with his readers and while it’s all usually really good, I wanted to spotlight one of this week’s answers from Heika:
Q: What do you feel are the reasons for the Stars’ road success this year? And why hasn’t that success been duplicated at home?
HEIKA: Those are two good questions. My guess is the Stars have been able to turn off their brains a little more on the road and just play simple hockey. The team at home gets its choice for matchups on line changes, and I think coaches and players get wrapped up in that stuff. When you don’t have control (on the road), I think you just put your head down and play. This will be a really tough road trip, so we’ll see how the Stars respond.
Every NHL coach should have this answer posted in their office. Or at least Jacques Lemaire in Jersey and Marc Crawford in Dallas.
You see this “trouble at home” problem fairly frequently during an NHL season. Especially with match-up oriented coaches. Players are so worried about the match-ups, they don’t fully concentrate on the game; they’re only interested in getting off the ice for the “right” match-up. And that’s how a team like New Jersey can be unstoppable on the road and average at home.
Also, will Rick DiPietro’s return save the Isles? When/if he’s healthy, his puck-handling and passing could turn the Islanders into an offensive juggernaut. It’s a huge if, but one worth exploring.