I think Ralph Strangis summed up tonight's 1-0 shutout loss to the Nashville Predators perfectly when he said during the post-game show:
You can't expect to win every game and in the sport of hockey sometimes you come up against a goaltender who is completely in the zone and near-unbeatable. It's tough to come up with a long list of negatives after this loss, especially when the Stars dominated the play for much of the game. The penalty kill was great tonight, allowing just one shot across two power plays for the Predators, and the Stars were able to significantly outshoot the Predators (58 total shots in the game) and had a significant higher number of prime scoring chances.
Yet in the end the Stars were doomed by yet another early-game breakdown and the inability to cash in on a number of scoring chances throughout the game. Considering the insanely high success rate the Stars have had this season on scoring chances, Dallas was bound to regress at some point. Unfortunately, their luck ran out against a goaltender completely on top of his game.
The Stars will have a couple of practices before opening up division play against Anaheim on Tuesday and you have to think that Crawford will be preaching a desire to get to those second chance shots. The Stars missed on several rebounds and open shots at the net all night long and seemed to be just a step late in getting to loose pucks around the net; aside from that the Stars played a fairly good game overall.
Specific thoughts on the game after the jump:
- Attendance for tonight's game at the American Airlines Center: 13,583. We'll have more on the attendance issues of the Stars on Monday, but this is something that is going to quickly become extremely disturbing to witness if the numbers don't significantly pick up sometime soon.
- The story for tonight's game: Almost. The Stars almost scored on any number of chances throughout the game, including two wide open chances for Jamie Benn. Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Brenden Morrow, Adam Burish, Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson all had prime scoring chances and failed to cash in, with Benn and Ribeiro the owners of the two biggest fails in the game. While Pekka Rinne did have one outstanding game, it's also easy to say that the Stars just flat out failed to take advantage of the opportunities they were afforded. Seeing as how the Stars have been the best team in the NHL so far this season in scoring on the chances they've had, it's tough to get too frustrated by a game where they get stymied.
- Total shots in the game: Stars - 58, Predators - 44. Total shots on net: Stars - 30, Predators - 24. The Stars were able to attack the net all night long yet the Predators did a great job of taking away passing lanes, limiting second chance opportunities and crashing down on the net as soon as the puck was shot. Consequently, the Stars did a much better job tonight defensively in a game in which the defensemen became much more active on offense. Despite the inability to score, it was a good sign for the Stars.
- Aside from one boneheaded play in his own end (and all it takes is one) I was seriously impressed with the play of Matt Niskanen tonight. He was second on the team with three hits in the game, was very active from the point (six total shots) and made some very confident passes out of the zone that directly led to scoring chances for the Stars in the other direction.
- Niklas Grossman continues to improve each game and that's a very scary thought. Last year I said that as soon as Grossman learns to become a physical defenseman, he would take that next step to becoming one of the better blueliners in the NHL. Tonight, Grossman had eight hits, three total shots and was much more actively offensively. He also stayed out of the penalty box, which is suddenly an accomplishment for the young defenseman. He had just 16:08 total time on ice and you wonder if he'll get a shot on the power play at some point. I know that Daley, Niskanen and Robidas have those spots nailed down, but the Stars are going to have change something up after once again failing to score with the man advantage. Could Grossman become an option?
- What more can you say about Kari Lehtonen. Tough to fault him on the goal, when a shot that hits a post sits down in his crease and his defensemen fail to block the Predators from getting to the puck. Steve Sullivan had a breakaway chance in the second period after the Stars failed on another scoring chance, yet Lehtonen stayed home and calmly made a big save in the game. He has played in seven straight games, has two days off before the next game and has this line for the season: 5-1-0, 2.38 GAA, .930 Save %. Not too shabby.
- When looking at exactly what went wrong tonight, the first thing that jumps off the screen is how the Stars were completely dominated physically around the Nashville net. The Stars failed to reach several second chance shots and were constantly being knocked off the puck or off the play by the Predators defense. While the Stars didn't try to become too pass happy in the game, it was also obvious that Richards and Ribeiro were struggling at times with the extreme lack of passing lanes throughout the game. What would have helped is if the Stars were much more adept at crashing the net, getting to loose pucks and not allowing Nashville to push them around down low. It's something the Stars are going to continue to work on, and we'll see how it pays off on Tuesday night.
- Final thought: Sometimes you just go up against a good team and a hot goaltender. While the Predators certainly played one hell of a game tonight, the Stars were able to control play as well for most of the game. Rinne made several big saves, but the Stars also whiffed on a number of open shots. That's just how hockey go.
- Anaheim lost tonight. Just thought you should know.
DBD's Three Stars of the Game:
Pekka Rinne, Nashville - Stopped all 30 shots by the Stars and limited the rebound opportunities. His point blank save on Mike Ribeiro was as good as you'll see.
Francis Bouilloun, Nashville - Six big hits on the night, and set the tone physically and defensively for the Nashville Predators.
Kari Lehtonen, Dallas - Didn't have to be spectacular, but was as solid as he's been as season long. Made several big saves as the Stars began to take chances late in the game.