The road woes continue for the Dallas Stars as they yet again went up against a red-hot team based out of Southern California and came up on the wrong end of a 4-2 score against the Anaheim Ducks, and we once again head into a long three day break that will feel even longer thanks to yet another disheartening loss (but really, is there any other kind?) where the Stars played a competitive game, came close in the end but couldn't get a positive result to finish.
I'll be honest with you all, I'm torn on this one.
I'm severely annoyed because on one hand, the Stars came out very flat in the first period with no life, no skating legs and they once again fell behind because of it half way through the first period when Saku Koivu scored. Had it not been for the once again solid work of Kari Lehtonen in goal, this game could have been much uglier as the Ducks at that point had a 12-3 advantage in shots on goal.
But the obnoxious fog horn that signals Ducks goals seemed to wake up the Stars as a unit as Brandon Segal scored less than a minute later on a great response shift from the Stars fourth line and suddenly things were tied up as the Stars seemingly hit the reset button on the game. In that respect, that is what is encouraging about this team as compared to last year's team. Yes we would like to see them be more consistently strong to open up games, but when they do get behind they certainly don't go into a shell or fall into a panic mode.
It doesn't make these games any easier to watch though.
So lets toss aside that first period which for the most part was bad and focus on the rest of the game for Dallas because in reality, they had another decent game. Not great by any means, but not horrible either. In fact, I'd like to do a "compliment sandwich" to recap this game, but to be honest, there are so many different positives AND negatives to this game and how the Stars played in it, that it could be a quadruple-decker sub sandwich. For instance...
(Continued after the jump)
I know the Stars offense is there and working. I know this because on three different occasions tonight a Stars shot rang loudly off a post or crossbar. Call it what you want, call it bad luck, call it not being able to finish, call it the goalie (in this case the Ducks Jonas Hiller who once again foiled the Stars pretty much at every turn) giving the players just posts to shoot at, but the bottom line is after that very slow first period, the Stars had 24 shots (29 in total for the game) and did a fine job generating scoring chances.
But on the flip side, how many other times did they miss the net completely? Especially late in the game when pucks needed to be put on goal and Hiller needed to be forced to make saves.
The Stars defensive unit around their net was solid. The six man group as a whole did well to break up multiple two on one Ducks scoring drives, played physical making sure to finish checks and limited the second and third chances the Ducks would get.
But they along with the forwards need to get back to what is known as gap control. Making sure that there is just a right amount of space and that there are options for defensemen to make outlet passes to get out of their own zone. Simply put, the Stars forwards weren't as committed to team defending as they maybe should have been at times.
We won't even mention that Stehpane Robidas took all three Stars penalties tonight.. whoops. Too late, just did. Robi actually had a good game, but like his goal scoring, penalties just seem to come in bunches for him.
Jamie Benn had a good game as well with three shots, two hits and one penalty shot chance... but what the heck was up with that penalty shot anyway? It was almost as if he was trying too hard and while he had Hiller down and out, he couldn't lift it over the outstretched pad of the Ducks goalie.
Special teams for the Stars continues to be a sore spot as they gave up a power play goal to Bobby Ryan who is quickly becoming a Stars-killer, and the powerplay might look threatening at times but once it tries to show it's teeth we find out it doesn't seem to have any.
Faceoffs also seem to be an issue for Dallas and especially for Mike Ribiero who after two periods was 3 and 7 on the faceoff dot before rallying a little to finish 7 and 9 on the night. Still, he lost a critical late game faceoff with the Stars having pulled the goalie. Does Marc Crawford not pay attention to these faceoff stats? Steve Ott, Brad Richards and even Toby Peterson have been much better than Ribs, yet Ribs seems to take a lions share of them in the game... why?
But even with all the bad stuff, there is still lots of heart in this team and they don't quit on a game even as it seemed the Ducks third goal on the power play felt like a dagger. So at the very least we have an entertaining club to watch that proves you shouldn't flip off the TV before the last obnoxious Ducks horn sounds.
And hey, the Stars next game is back at home against the same Ducks, so maybe it'll be a case of 'third time's the charm' right?
Just wish we didn't have to wait so long again for a little redemption.
The Defending Big D Three Stars (With 100% less Ducks bias)
1 - Bobby Ryan (ANA)
2 - Brad Richards (DAL)
3 - Cam Fowler (ANA)
And no, I didn't forget to mention about Cam Fowler and the fine game he had... I choose to ignore it because the last thing I want is to re-engage in THAT debate right now.