Anyone that has trouble putting the pieces of the puzzle together that explains why the Dallas Stars struggle to put together consistent efforts should do nothing more than watch the two games that were the source material for the scoring chance reports that we are about to go over. The Stars took care of the Nashville Predators 6-3 two days before Christmas, and dropped a 5-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues on the 26th.
The Stars have been maddeningly inconsistent all season. These consecutive games show the main difference between a Stars win and loss of late. When they show up emotionally they're a difficult team to beat. When the hamster in the wheel quits running they get steamrolled. The Stars have several built-in excuses for poor play (Lehtonen's injury, the loss of Brad Richards, spending at the salary floor, etc.), but the strength of those arguments leave a lot to be desired when the Stars don't work hard.
Energy is a great equalizer in hockey. The cream of the crop will always rise, but teams like the Predators have proven that an energetic bunch can make the playoffs consistently. They haven't always had Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Pekka Rinne. They've historically worked hard to make the most of their limited skill set collectively. The Stars have as much talent as 2/3 of the teams in the NHL despite limited financial resources. If they had the consistent work ethic of the Predators I don't think anyone would question their chances of making the playoffs. When the Stars are able to sustain a high energy level they take care of business like they did on the 23rd by outchancing the Predators 14-9. When the energy is lacking the Stars get dominated like they did at the hands of the Blues on the 26th, eventually losing the scoring chance battle 5-12.
After the jump you will find the overall recap from both games and the individual player reports which further illustrate the value of an energetic Stars lineup.
The scores of the Stars win over the Predators was a bit misleading. Richard Bachman continued his run of shaky performances, otherwise this would have been a 5-1 type blowout. The Stars came out ready to play by outchancing the Predators 7-2 at even strength in the opening period. They led 3-0 at tne end of one period, and you could more or less see how the game was going to end up.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The remainder of the game was played evenly. The Stars generated one more chance than the Predators over the final two periods, and they traded three goals apiece. The individual player report highlights the Stars advantage over the Predators. No Stars player was a net negative at even strength, and the ice time distribution was much more even than normal. The fourth line played close to 10 minutes at even strength with Jamie Benn's top line pulling in about 14 minutes. Twelve different skaters were tied at +2 even strength chances to lead the Stars over the Predators.
The Stars 5-3 loss at the hands of the Blues is the other side of the coin. The Stars came out flat, and never got on track. The Blues did get on track though. After outchancing the Stars 2-1 in the first period they would go on to outchance the Stars 10-4 the rest of the way with most of the chances coming at even strength.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The individual player chances against the Blues are a stark contrast compared to the Predators game. Benn was a +2. Michael Ryder was a +3. Loui Eriksson was even. Everyone else was a negative, and some were big negative. Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow were -6 and -5 "respectively". Steve Ott, Eric Nystrom, Vernon Fiddler, and Trevor Daley were all -3. Five other skaters were -2. It was a team failure from the get go.
The energy problem is nothing new around here. The Stars have proven that when they're into a game mentally they can play with almost anyone. They don't have the financial resources dedicated to the NHL roster to have talent capable of coasting to a win on any given night. They're a club that has to work to hope to be successful. The frustrating part of this equation is that they know this situation exists better than anyone else, but you still need to flip a coin to determine which Stars team will show up on a given night. Hopefully the Stars that beat the Predators on the 23rd will show up Thursday against the Blue Jackets with first half MVP Kari Lehtonen providing that missing spark.