Well, we'll start with the good news first: The "4 in 13 against the Blackhawks" stretch has come to a close. The Stars will not face this bunch again until late in March, mercifully.
The bad news, of course, is that the Stars lost three of those four, this last one in embarrassing fashion by a score of 6 to 2 Tuesday night at American Airlines Center in front 12,542.
Would you like a Chicago Bears/Dallas Cowboy parallel from Monday night? No? It's right there. Domination halfway through, then a defeatist attitude followed by apathy and a whole lot of garbage time.
Once upon a time the Dallas Stars went to Chicago and put a 7-2 hurt on the Blackhawks. March 5th, 2006, in front of 10,889 Chicago "faithful." (It's a fickle thing, that faith, isn't it?) That was the Stars' time, on their way to 112 points and second in the conference while Chicago was chugging their was toward 65 big ones and a 14th place finish. (See that box score here, btw)
The Stars were the big dog then. The Blackhawks, with young Keith, Seabrook and Sharp on that team, were trying to figure it out.
That's what I was thinking about when the Blackhawks made it 5-0 and the Stars were sitting on six shots through nearly half of a hockey game: That there was a time when Chicago's building was empty and the Stars came to take their lunch money.
And make no mistake about it, pushing them over and taking their lunch money is exactly what the Blackhawks came here to do tonight. The Stars' antics in a cheeky 4-3 win at United Center while getting out-shot 50-18 were fun last week, but it's no way to do business, and we saw that here tonight.
Dallas preaches speed these days. Chicago was faster- Hungrier from the word go.
A lucky bounce got things started after a shot seven feet wide just happened to carom off the right combination of Stars to trickle past Kari Lehtonen's reach.
The rest of them were Dallas mistakes through and through- The first of which was never possessing the puck. Through one period of play the Stars had four shots from 52 feet, 50 feet, 57 feet and 20 feet. They'd add just two more in the first half of the second period en route to falling behind by five.
It would be rather recap-like to detail the remainder, but do you want to read it? The Ellis goal, you know the one I mean, was not good. The Kane goal was massive miscommunication and bunch of spectating. There was the Sharp power play goal from distance, in which Brenden Dillon left Shaw to his own devices to screen Kari Lehtonen, and screened he was.
A mess. All of it.
We spend a lot of time gushing over Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin when things are going well, as they did Saturday, but against elite teams like Chicago it's a different story. Jamie Benn was -3 by the end of the second period. They generated next to nothing while their actions were still meaningful and the score still manageable.
So that's concerning.
We talked about Ruff using Cody Eakin with Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel to counter the Kane line before the game started- Before the first period was over Whitney and Chiasson were back as his wingers, and Kane would get his regardless.
So that's concerning. In order to move just a little closer to the Blackahawks, Blues, Kings, Sharks and Ducks of the world the Stars have to be able to compete with them as the season wears on- And nights like tonight make you wonder if they have an answer for the kind of talent disparity they face.
That Kari Lehtonen was pulled can only be interpreted as a bit of mercy on Ruff's part. The breakaway, the screened shot, the weird bounce... Hard to call much of what went on his fault. He earned the full two in Chicago last week, but isn't going to do it every night.
On the other end Antti Raanta made few saves that are going on the highlight reel. His team made them with 21 blocks, which inflates Dallas' total shot attempts and makes for misleading metrics. Those attempts were not quality scoring chances. Nearly nothing was while the game's decision was even remotely in doubt. Not even Antoine Roussel's goal that broke up the would-be unimpressive shutout.
That the shots nearly evened up at the end is incredibly misrepresentative of the Stars' effort tonight.
In the end the Stars now have 5 wins at home to go along with 8 losses. They keep it in the division coming up with trips to Nashville and Winnipeg, then a home-and-home with the Colorado Avalanche.
At least they're done with Chicago. For a while.
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