Maybe the most frustrating part in being a Stars fan right now is that it's never all completely bad. I mean, if we were say Edmonton Oilers fans, this whole losing game after game thing would be so easy because we'd know it's a result of just not having a very good team overall and not ever having had a good team worthy of talking about since the early 90's.
But with these Stars, it's more complicated than that. There is signs of things that good, winning teams do mixed in with the overall awfulness that is the Stars current 2 wins in 12 games slide. Tonight's 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks is a prime example of this.
For two periods the Stars played a pretty decent road game and while they weren't leading they weren't getting blown out of the rink like they had in the previous three meetings this season against the Canucks. The Canucks took the lead less than three minutes into the game but Brenden Morrow got into a spirited scrap to reset the tone that these Stars were not to be pushed around on this night and then two minutes later James Neal answered to tie it up.
1-1 after one period? Of course I'd take that.
In the second the Canucks played a little better and forced the issue with the Stars more but Andrew Raycroft for the most part was pretty darn good despite giving up a second softy goal in the game in the middle period. The Stars were also much more disciplined in tonights game and even though we didn't realize it at the time they took only two penalties in the first two periods and killed off both chances with what looked to be pretty decent efforts while a man down.
So down 2-1 after two periods? Again, that's not to bad all things considered.
Then the third period happened, and really it wasn't the entire third period but rather it was a couple of bad shifts in the period that did in the Stars on this night.
Raycroft let in what I think you could argue was third soft goal to give the Canucks a 3-1 lead which is a shame because beyond those three bad goals he allowed, he was gosh darned good stopping 33 of 38 shots. Brenden Morrow jammed home a goal mouth scramble goal to get the Stars back within one goal, but then again a few more mental lapses allowed the Canucks to put on odd-man rush passing clinics that resulted in the final score we see before us now.
After the jump, some more thoughts on players and the plays of tonight's contest.
- Raycroft despite those three soft goals against was good and he kept the Stars in the game with many a solid save. Did he fight the puck a bit? Of course but he was under siege pretty much the entire night. If I had to give his game a grade, it would be a "B-"
- James Neal showing some signs of life as too is Jamie Langenbrunner. At the very least in the last two games they've skated hard. Neal I thought especially had one of his better games in the last month or so and over the last two has started to come around again.
- The defense is... Well at least they have Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas and they are good and were again tonight. As for the rest of the defense though? Not so good. Niskanen looks like a lost cause out on the ice as does Fistric. Skrastins has moments where he'll make some head scratching decisions in terms of covering his position or opposing players. Woywitka is just... there. He's never bad at any time but he's never really that good either.
- Other Stars getting points: Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro and Langenbrunner all had assists.
- Special teams wise: A mixed bag. Penalty kill as mentioned was 2 for 2 against the best in the league and considering how Vancouver has carved up Dallas before in that department, we'll call tonight's effort a moral victory. The Stars power play went 0 for 3 though and blew a golden chance to get a lead with a 5 on three power play in the first period against a battered and beaten Canucks D. This leads me to what I feel is the biggest issue facing the Stars at this point...
- Of course we can harp on the Stars defense all we want and say it's the cause for all our ills, but it's the offense that needs to really step up for the Stars if we're being honest with ourselves. I stated in the game day thread that while it's true Raycroft wasn't 100% on his game, the Stars can't go in hoping to squeak out 1-0 or 2-1 wins especially against top tier clubs like Vancouver. Eriksson, Ribeiro, Steve Ott... where are they? Even Morrow to some degree isn't producing like he should. I know part of this can be blamed on not having Benn and Richards in the lineup, but not that much. In the 12 game slide the Stars have suffered though, they've only managed to score three or more goals in a game four times. In eight of the 12 games, they've been limited to two goals or less. Blame the defense and blame goaltending all you want, but those kinds of offensive numbers don't win you hockey games... As we've obviously seen.