Yet again tonight the Stars got caught being lethargic to start off the game and yet again had a very poor first period worth of work that had them down 2-0 after the opening frame when in reality it could have been even worse. They didn't come out much better in the second period and although James Neal did score relatively quickly to start the period, the goal was sandwiched by two more Hawks goals that made it a 4-1 game with just a little over two minutes past in the second period.
Andrew Raycroft was flailing around like a guy that had just come out of junior hockey to start his first pro game, the Stars defense seemed to turn the puck over more in the first 25 minutes of tonight's game than they had in all of the previous seven games combined and because of that the offense seemed nonexistent.
There is no way the Stars deserved to win a game like this in the first place. We've said time and again that the Stars can't keep playing with fire by starting off slow and not putting in full 60 minute efforts and for the first time in a while, they got burnt badly.
Credit the guys for showing some fire and life in the second half of the game though because as predictable as the bad starts to games have been, so too have the furious finishes that see them play like a completely different squad. The defensemen started closing gaps and being more decisive with the puck. The offense appeared to be more willing than in past games to shoot the puck from multiple angles. Raycroft settled down and for the 13 remaining shots he faced was back to his better form.
And while Brandon Segal and Loui Eriksson scoring a minute apart in the latter half of the second period made it a 4-3 game and sparked thoughts of a more than unlikely comeback, the hole the Stars dug themselves into in the first half the game was too much to crawl out of.
But I'd be remiss and not doing my duty as a Dallas Stars fan if I didn't point out that it sure felt like a certain game official kept pushing the Stars into a hole...
(More on that and the three stars of the game after the jump)
So about NHL referee Dean Morton who called all of the six minor penalties the Stars were nailed with in this game as well as looked the other way when Jack Skille of the Hawks tried to skate through Raycroft while Jonathan Toews scored the Hawks second goal AND somehow missed Brent Seabrook throwing his stick at the direction Trevor Daley as he carried the puck with seconds left in the game. If I could see him face to face, I'd have but one question to ask:
What that hell was THAT?
I understand that NHL officials have one of the toughest tasks in all of sports based on the speed and suddenness of the game and that calls will be missed and or blown. Because of this, I think most fans are always willing to let things slide just a little for at least a penalty or two be it missed or unfairly called.
But that was about as pathetic a display of NHL officiating as I've seen in a long, long time. Marc Crawford seemed to agree and took the most offense to Seabrook's very obvious throwing of the stick which should have resulted in an automatic penalty shot.
We hope to have video of his post-game rant soon.
At any rate, did the horrible officiating cost the Stars the game? Of course not because they did enough damage too themselves in the first thirteen minutes of the game. But the horrible officiating doesn't help matters and in a way it's a disservice to the game and to be critical about the calls made and / or not made by the guys in stripes. And with officiating performances like that from Mr. Morton, it's little wonder the NHL has yet to allow him to officiate one playoff game yet in his ten years as an official.
Referee rant over.
- Brad Richards had two assists in the game, Segal now has a four game points streak, Eriksson finally picked up a goal and like I said the last time he scored a goal, hopefully that's the start of him starting to score more. They were your offensive standouts for Dallas.
- Defensively? Well as I said they took a step back progress wise tonight. Far too many turnovers, far too indecisive with the puck most times. I don't know if I'd panic yet though because with this group of defensemen, bad games are bound to happen. Lets just chalk this up as a really bad game that hopefully they can learn from, get better and move on.
- At least the penalty kill was good going five for six shorthanded.. The lone tally against was scored by Patrick Sharp on a buzzer beater empty net goal. The power play? Well as we saw, they only had once chance a man up and they of course didn't score on it, but I am happy to report that it was maybe the best effort we had seen the road power play put out in weeks, heck maybe in the entire season so far. So, some encouragment can be taken away from that as well.