The Dallas Stars had only given up five goals in the first periods of their first 13 games combined leading up to tonight's game against the Calgary Flames. They would nearly double that total by allowing four goals in the first period to a struggling Flames squad.
The Stars' transition game was once again a struggle in tonight's game. The defense had trouble trying to find the breakout pass to move the puck up the ice out of their own zone. Often, they would need two or three attempts to even get the puck into neutral ice.
Through the first two periods, they faced similar issues getting into the offensive zone as well. It seems that on the second game of a back-to-back series this season, the team gets caught looking for the perfect pass instead of just skating the puck in themselves. This could be a function of having played the night before, but it's obvious that the best chances the Stars are getting is when they're skating the puck in and allowing their teammates to get set up.
Alex Goligoski had perhaps his worst game in a Stars uniform. He had several moments in the game where he misread a pass and would cough the puck up right onto a Flames stick. His attempts at generating offense mostly floundered with really no prime chances. He was only part of the overall defensive miscues in the Stars defensive end, however. There were times where the team left wide open passing lanes for Calgary to shoot through at will. They did it on the power play, allowing the cross ice passes right in front of the crease, and that bit them for a few goals against. The team also got caught chasing the puck around, instead of playing their zone, which opened up a lot of ice for the Flames to manuever in as well.
Richard Bachman played in just his second game of the season, and he did not have a very good game. He allowed four goals on ten shots, but it wasn't all on Bachman either. The team in front of the net were not clearing lanes for him to be able to see the ice clearly. After the fourth goal against, Bachman did look shaky through the first two periods every time a shot came his way. He seemed to settle down in the third and allowed the team a chance to tie it up by not allowing any goals in the last frame.
One bright spot to tonight's game was the play of the Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Ryan Garbutt line. They chipped in for offense for their second game in a row, and seem to be clicking as a good energy line. Cody Eakin finally got rewarded for his stellar offensive play, netting his first goal of the season. It was also really heartening to see the Stars' captain Brenden Morrow net a pair of goals. He got them both in his signature place on the ice -- right in front of the goaltender at the top of the crease. He seems to have established some good chemistry with Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr.
There were two main takeaways from tonight's game that I can see. First, the importance of Kari Lehtonen to this hockey club cannot be stated enough. He mops up a lot of the Stars' defensive lapses in front of him. He has a calming effect on the team because of his play. This is not to say that Bachman played terribly tonight -- the team in front of him sure wasn't doing him any favors -- but Lehtonen is playing on a whole different level from most goaltenders in the league right now. It's very easy to take advantage of that fact. Second, the team showed great fight after going down by three goals early. They continued to play aggressively, and they did seem to get better as the game progressed from the awful start they had.