The 2013-2014 NHL season is now half over the Dallas Stars, and like most C-students who have brought home some real nice A+'s during the semester you have to shake your head and wonder why they also bring home the D's and the F's.
The Stars scored well on section-one tonight, leading 12-0 in the shots on goal department while dominating early play. 11 minutes later they trailed 3-1 and the Red Wings, participating in the proceedings but certainly never dictating, never looked back.
The loss was their third in a five game home stand that now ends in disappointment after such an encouraging beginning.
It's not easy to pour 20 shots on an opposing netminder and find time to allow three goals in a single period. It's pretty hard to be out-shooting a team by a TWO to ONE ratio (35-18) through two periods, yet trail 4-1.
When a football team scores 21 points on about 50 yards of offense, which is the equivalent of what happened in the first period tonight, it's not necessarily because they're very good. The Wings certainly weren't. It's about the mistakes that you yourself made that allowed it to happen.
Taking Ellis out and putting Lehtonen in was more about timing and the ability to change the game early enough to make a difference. Or at least attempt to. Certainly it did not help Ellis' game when he didn't have to make a save until 7:04 in, and when he finally did the puck bounced to a place he couldn't get.
In the second Kari Lehtonen did make a spectacular save in the early-going, and that made you feel a little better, overlooking the obvious questions of why you need spectacular saves in the first place.
The game settled down significantly until the officials, or those in Toronto, threw gasoline on it. Dallas poked a puck through Howard after a whistle, and the teams prepared for a faceoff to Howard's right. Open and shut case, it looked, from the press box.
Except that there was a conference, perhaps initiated by Toronto, who probably wanted an explanation. The ensuing three or four minute interlude allowed for replays, an irate Lindy Ruff, and eventually a building frustration among fans and players alike precipitated completely unnecessarily by officials. That was never a goal or close to one.
On the goal that broke their back there looked to be an uncalled Detroit hook at the other end just before Tatar took off and the two defenders and a goaltender all managed to get out of his way in time.
That's just the way it was going. The way it went on Thursday. No bounces. No puck luck.
All because they couldn't finish their chances in the first that would have created an entirely different hockey game. Just like Thursday. Though, against Montreal they managed to stick with it and make a game of it. Tonight, against an only slightly better opponent, they couldn't get any to go.
Goaltender interference. Waived off goals. Penalty shots. Dillon colliding with Gaunce. Garbutt whacking Fiddler in the head- All the meanwhile the scoreboard is smiling down telling them they should be the ones with more goals, statistically speaking. Frustration all around.
In desperate grasping for positives: Rich Peverley played pretty well, even without the goal. I'll throw that in there. Nichushkin had the puck on his stick a lot. Lehtonen was great in relief.
So do you trust the math? Do you rest easy knowing that if they come out like they did in each of these last two games that more-often-than-not they're going to get up in games, then play with a different posture, lead in-pocket?
Or do you worry that it will have the opposite effect? That a couple of unlucky nights will turn into mounting frustration, mistakes and pressure that young players don't need playing up in the northeast next week?
Lindy Ruff and company have done a marvelous job of getting the defense, blue-liners and forwards all together, patched up in the face of as many as four of their desired seven opening night defensemen out at one time- And with this they have to re-rack and perform the same kind of duct-tape job to get things back on track.
Luckily the immediacy of a road trip and a plane ride across the country tomorrow will aid in the re-focusing.
And it will also aid in our ability to just forget this ever happened.
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