For the first time this season the Dallas Stars appeared to execute their desired game plan of possessing the puck at length and putting their opponents on their heels in Denver. But they trailed 2-1 by the time they put it all together.
"The effort was there, but we can't give goals away," said Ray Whitney after the game. "That's two games in a row we did that and that's what cost us. But the effort was there, we created more and got more pucks to the net and had more scoring chances. I guess you can say that's an improvement."
An improvement for sure, though the results weren't there. For the fourth time in five games the Stars failed to score more than twice, and with their game-plan and style that will be insufficient more often than not.
"Tonight I thought we did a better job of being able to play quicker and execute at a faster pace," Whitney opined of the Stars' desired style. "It's not always easy to do but it was a good indication that we are capable of doing it."
Which leads us to the Twitter postulate of the night once the game was over: "If the Stars keep out-chancing and out-attempting the opposition like they have been then they'll be fine."
That's fine, except they haven't really been that outside of last night.
A look at Fenwick differential through five games (shots, missed shots, goals)...
|Game||Opp Fenwick Events||Stars' Fenwick Events||Differential|
Twice out of five opportunities have the Stars controlled possession, and the win over Washington was nearly a wash (get it?) in possession terms. Last night was the first time the Stars truly took it to their opponents. It was nice. It was fun to watch. Indicative of future success? Not until it happens with regularity.
The difference last night was a pair of individual efforts by the high-end skill of Colorado in the form of Matt Duchene. He executed and took advantage of his chances. The Stars high-end talent did not.
Five games is still a poor sample size, but so far this can be said to be a group that just isn't scoring enough to support their desired style of play and apparent defensive shortcomings.
If you take away the seven minute span in Winnipeg when the Stars scored three goals in the first period they're averaging 1.63 goals per 60 minutes, and a generous 2.20 otherwise, which is good for 23rd in the league.
When an offense is struggling the first place one might often look is to the power play, but the Stars scored on 4 of 12 opportunities during their three-game road trip and limited the Avalanche to just two man-advantage situations last night. So the problem is elsewhere.
Even strength is considered the gold standard when measuring possession in hockey, and it's there the Stars have faltered. With just a 0.83 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio on the season Dallas is well below average while San Jose leads the pack, closely followed by St. Louis, Colorado, Anaheim and Minnesota - all likely playoff teams.
Often the problem seems to stem from failed breakouts, leading to both offensive and defensive issues. See the second Colorado goal last night.
San Jose comes to town Thursday touting the league's second best shots-against average, behind Minnesota who held Dallas in check with ease. Against Washington, the Jets and Colorado the Stars were able to get their chances. Against a Florida team that packed it in on opening night and in Minnesota they were thwarted by defensive game plans. Learning how to threaten, no matter their opponent's style is a vital lesson as the season moves on.
"It's something we can build off," said Seguin last night. "The first was shaky, but the second and third -when we were working hard and winning battles - is something we can take forward here."
That's surely the lesson their head coach wants them to take moving forward. Then the goals, presumably, will follow.