Dallas Stars Training Camp: Breaking Down A Specialty Teams Win Versus The Avalanche

Photo courtesy of Shannon Byrne

Game two in the Glen Gulutzan era was played against the Colorado Avalanche last night in front of what can only be described as a "sparse" crowd. Those fans that were there were as loud as possible when the Stars did something well, and held their collective breaths when the Avalanche had the puck, waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop much like last season.

Stars fans did not have to wait long for that shoe to find its way to the floor - in what seemed to be the very first shift of the game, Jamie Benn took a penalty for what can only be described as being excited to step foot on the ice for the first time this season.

Taking a penalty at the beginning of the game seemed to fit this squad just fine - after all, the Stars' lineup last night had a majority of what can be assumed to be their penalty killers for the season on the ice: Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvorak, Steve Ott, Jamie Benn, and Adam Burish. What is not helpful is having one of those guys in the sin bin themselves, but the Stars managed to kill the first penalty.

Then Jamie Benn did something that Stars fans are not used to: again, excited to be on the ice, Benn played a high stick and drew blood against an Avalanche player. Automatic four minute double minor. Not exactly the start fans were hoping to see out of young Benn. Coach Gulutzan decided to put the Stars' best faceoff specialist out for the beginning of the penalty kill. Fiddler didn't last long before he was called for a slashing penalty about a minute into the penalty kill. Thus began the 5-on-3 advantage for the Avalanche, and there was an overwhelming thought amongst fans that they weren't getting out of that one unscathed. Lo and behold, that was the case and the Avalanche made the Stars pay for their mistake half way through the four minute man two man advantage.

More observations of the game, as well as a look at the penalty kill and powerplay after the jump.

What was interesting after that goal was scored is that the 5-on-3 advantage continued with Fiddler still in the box. This had quite a few fans confused, as they believed that Fiddler's 2 minute penalty should have been erased and he should have left the penalty box. Enter the NHL rulebook:

Minor penalty expiration criteria:

(i)    Is the team scored against short-handed?

(ii)   Is the team scored against serving a minor penalty on the clock?

If both criteria are satisfied, the minor penalty with the least amount of time on the clock shall terminate except when coincidental penalties are being served.

Because the first part of Benn's four minute minor had the least amount of time on the clock, that one expired and the Stars remained on the 5-on-3 penalty kill. For seeing the penalty kill so often in the first, fans should be excited about Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak. They were strong on the PK, keeping guys out of the front of the net and covering the slot for much of the time. Solid work from those two guys last night. The rest of the first remained disjointed in flow as the Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Loui Eriksson line began to get comfortable with one another in a game situation.

The Stars attempted to get some semblance of pace going in the game with two powerplay opportunities to start the period. There were plenty of opportunities during those powerplays, but nothing seemed to connect. The team started to get tense, and it showed with choppy play. The goalie switch happened, and immediately Jack Campbell flings a puck over the glass and garners a subsequent delay of game penalty. Not exactly the sterling start Campbell no doubt expected of himself. The ensuing powerplay goal for the Avalanche is undoubtedly one that Campbell would take back if he could, and he also has the post to thank for saving a dangerous chance later in that period.

The third period started with a nice momentum shift back towards the Stars when Jordie Benn scored just :22 into the period. The best part to the goal, besides how nice it is to start the period that way, was that Jamie Benn had a bigger grin on his face than he ever has when he has scored himself. Brotherly love, Benn style. The period continued to swing the Stars' way with powerplay after powerplay opportunity. The Avalanche committed four minor penalties in the third period, and Loui Eriksson tallied his first, of what is expected to be many, powerplay goals.

All in all, specialty teams was the story of the night. The penalty kill was 4 for 6, which isn't exactly stellar but isn't too bad in comparison to how many of those penalties seemed to stack atop one another. The powerplay was 1 for 6 with what is looking like the second powerplay unit on the team (Ott-Benn-Eriksson.) Even though they only connected once, the Stars spent a majority of their time in the offensive zone during their powerplays (not something that happened all the time last season) and had quite a few quality looks. Overall, the PP and PK seemed to be right where one would expect it to be after only one preseason game and less than a week of training camp. However, there were some good foundations on each side of the special teams that will undoubtedly be worked on through preseason games and practices.

A few other notes about the game:

  • Kari Lehtonen looked in mid-season form with several wicked glove saves and one diving-to-the-tummy save on a point blank shot. Jack Campbell looked like he had a case of the nerves there at the beginning when he was put into the game, but settled down nicely to stop all but one of the shots he faced.
  • The Jake Dowell - Colton Sceviour - Tomas Vincour line had probably the best chemistry scoring wise in the first half of the game, with all three guys finishing with two points apiece. This line was responsible for the first two Dallas goals, both by Sceviour, and looked absolutely dangerous for much of the time they were on the ice. When will Vincour find the switch to start turning those scoring chances into scoring goals? The potential is there, and Stars fans continue to hold their breath to see him realize that potential.
  • Steve Ott recorded a three point night - two assists and an empty net goal. Which is almost like seeing a unicorn it happened so few and far between for the Stars last season.
  • The third period was much pacier than the first two, a nice change from the flat third periods we saw so often last season.
  • Trevor Daley seemed to be trying to create offense too hard last night. And the pairing of Daley and Philip Larsen was not a good sight last night. They lacked chemistry and communication at times, with both guys converging on the same side during defensive coverages. It may just be that they play a similar game, and usually play the same side, and therefore reverted to their natural style and positioning. Whatever the case, that's not a duo that looked well together.
  •  Both Sheldon Souray and Jamie Oleksiak spent time on the powerplay manning the point. Souray had several hard shots from the blue line, and passed the puck pretty well on the man advantage. He also talks a lot out on the ice, whether that is chirping the opponent or communicating with his D-partner. He also had a few nice scrums for the puck where he was able to hold up the opponent so that one of the wingers could come in and steal the puck. Oleksiak looked like what he is: young, big, mobile defensemen. He committed a few mistakes, and also had a nice play on the PP keeping the puck in the zone because of that unbelievable reach he has.
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