Photo courtesy of Shannon Byrne via www.myhockeyshots.com
The Dallas Stars arrived in Dallas after an overnight flight from Los Angeles at about 5 AM Friday morning. They did not have a practice on the ice yesterday, nor did they have a morning skate this morning. The late travel and time off the ice showed today as the Dallas Stars couldn't quite find their skating legs against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Stars went down early in this one after Kari Lehtonen made a clearing attempt that ended up hitting an Avalanche player and right to the stick of Paul Stastny who passed it to David Jones with a wide open net. Both teams were playing poorly in the first and second periods, with just eight combined shots on goal in the first period. The Dallas Stars only had a single shot on goal. That set the tone for what was a pretty pedestrian second period that saw no scoring in the middle frame. Granted, the Stars haven't exactly had their best periods in the second frames this season, and today was no different.
The third period started off better, with a little more jump in their step that saw them tie the game at one each off of a Vernon Fiddler goal at 5:26 of the third period. The momentum seemed to be changing at that point, and a weak call on Steve Ott for hooking allowed the game winning powerplay goal for the Avalanche. With the period winding down, the Stars pulled Kari Lehtonen for the extra attacker and were the benefactors of a late period powerplay of their own when Daniel Winnik went off for hi-sticking. Michael Ryder had a glorious open net look when J.S. Giguere was out of his crease, but couldn't bury it home. It was yet another missed opportunity for the Stars in this string of games lately.
Follow the jump for a few more thoughts on the game and the Defending Big D Three Stars of the game.
Steve Ott can't seem to buy a goal these days. Over the course of these last few games, Ott has hit more posts and missed more breakaway opportunities than probably the rest of the season combined. With his breakaway chance in the first period today, if he had made that shot and beat Giguere, the momentum of this game could have been very different. The frustration of these missed chances is starting to creep in, and it seems as though he's gripping his stick a little tight and trying to do too much instead of keeping with his game. Hopefully he will be able to get through this rough patch soon, as the Stars could use a little more depth in the scoring department. And if I never have to hear the PING! of another puck going off a post or crossbar this season, I think that would be greatness.
The third line is back. After a stretch of several games where the Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak line had struggled, they seem to be back to that great checking line the Stars and their fans are used to seeing. They have started to find their scoring touch again, and are not getting scorched for goals against at the rate they were during that rough patch. If the Stars hope to make the playoffs, they will need to have this line rolling consistently night in and night out.
Special teams remains an area of opportunity for improvement. The powerplay has not been clicking lately, and the penalty kill has let in a few goals after going on a great 14 straight kills. The powerplay is catching guys not moving their legs, which doesn't get the other teams penalty killers out of position to open up the second and third chances at rebounds for goals. The penalty kill is seeing Stars players running around too much and getting pulled out of position instead of sticking to their zone coverage areas. As Brenden Morrow said in his post game interview, "it's probably what's going to get us into the playoffs, and so far we're not getting it done." The guys in the locker room know that special teams needs to improve, and they are starting to run out of games to get better at it.
Scoreboard watching commences...now? The Stars went into the tilt today with a one point lead over Colorado with a chance to move into the top eight in the Western conference. They leave the game three points out of sixth and only two points out of twelfth place. The Stars and their fans will be watching every game for the rest of the season, and it's going to be another tight race in the West to get into the playoffs. With every game seemingly being a three point game in the West, the nights where the Stars don't earn a point will seem even more costly as those they are battling with start picking up points on them.
Defending Big D Three Stars:
1 - Paul Stastny (COL)
2 - J.S. Giguere (COL)
3 - Vernon Fiddler (DAL)
10:25 - COL David Jones (9) Backhand - Assists: Paul Stastny (13)
05:26 - DAL Vernon Fiddler (6) Backhand - Assists: Radek Dvorak (16) & Eric Nystrom (3)
10:35 - PPG COL Paul Stastny (12) Tip-In - Assists: Erik Johnson (16) & Ryan O'Reilly (21)