"Be a hard team to play against" is the adopted mantra of the Dallas Stars this season. It's a Joe Nieuwendyk creation, perhaps born of his memory of what it meant to be a Dallas Star in his time. With little money to increase talent with free agent signings, the Stars decided the only way to get better was as a 20 man unit. They need to be "tough to play against," and it's been on display early and often this season.
We've seen Jamie Benn single handedly incite an entire Penguin team. Steve Ott has been Steve Ott. The Burish-Wandell-Ott trio has been abrasive. Petersen and Segal have been a valuable combination in gumming up the works for the other team, and last night it was James Neal who got things stirred up at the end of the first period.
All of this is well and good, but unless you score on the power play opportunities afforded to you in the aftermath, the result on the scoreboard at the end of the night isn't going to be in your favor, and that's what happened to the Stars last night.
This isn't to say that the Stars are looking to cause trouble. They're not gooning it up or trying to be The Ducks out there. James Neal's first period hit on Stoll was a clean, text-book shoulder to shoulder hit with no penalty called (nor should there have been), but it was the lubrication that got the hostility going last night.
Dallas reaped five power plays, including a brief 5-on-4, but couldn't find the back of the net. If they're going to stir the pot on occasion, they have to make the other team pay when the retaliation comes.
The other side of this coin is the power plays against that come from being physical...
Eight times the Stars found themselves short handed last night. Right now you're counting how many of those calls were..."less than earned", shall we say?
It doesn't matter.
When the officials are calling the game like that, there's nothing you can do about it. You have have to choose your course:
- Either start flopping around all over the place like Manu Ginobili and join in on the fun. To their credit the Stars didn't do that.
- Be extraordinarily careful, taking the edge out of your game. They sure didn't do that.
- Make them pay when you get your chance with the man advantage. Sadly that didn't happen either but it's the best option. It was a one shot game. Ralph said it on the broadcast at the conclusion of the parade to the box to open the third period. He felt as though the Stars were going to get their chances and sure enough they did. Several of them.
So they move on. 0-2 against the Kings and 1-3 in the division already. Being "hard to play against" seems like a much better idea when you're smacking the Penguins 5-2 or the Coyotes 6-3. Since then they have played six periods and scored only one goal in two road games.
It's frustrating to watch them lose a game like that but there were plenty of positives to take from it. They hung with them for about 55 minutes last night. They were one shot away and it looked like they had it when Loui Eriksson appeared to miss an open net on the Stars 5-on-3 chance. They battled hard and they limited the Kings quality chances for the most part after the first ten minutes of the first period, and the penalty kill was actually really good last night even if two PPG against looks bad on the score sheet. They just couldn't get that big PP goal when they needed it.
It all fell apart when the shenanigans ensued and Karlis Skrastins stood viciously stationary and felt someone bounce off of him while looking the other way.
The only thing they can do is shelve the frustration and move on to the Ducks tonight, and so to must we.