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Nabokov Repels 36 of 38 Shots as Stars Suffer 2nd Regulation Home Loss in December

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The position of goaltender in hockey is one that I can simultaneously respect and yet, loathe.

I respect Evgeni Nabokov as one of the game's top goaltenders. I respected him for the stops he was able to make when his defense allowed prime scoring chances to the Stars throughout the first and second periods.

And when he made those stops, I loathed him. To the point of wondering on Twitter whether or not he had sold his soul just to drive the Dallas Stars nuts.

38 shots came his way tonight and 36 were repelled. The only two that beat him were off a rebound he couldn't quite control 18 seconds into the third that Jamie Benn potted home to cut a 2-0 second intermission deficit to 2-1, and a deflected point shot off Loui Eriksson's skate.

So as a result, the San Jose Sharks skated off the American Airlines Center ice in much the same fashion they've grown a little too accustomed to in the last three years.

Winners.

4 in a row in Dallas and at least their 6th win in their last 8 trips.

But unlike most of those wins, the Stars can take some positives out of this one. I'll look at a few after the jump. As well as some other negatives.

For starters, Dallas did jump on San Jose to the tune of 38 shots. They did, admittedly, get some help in the form of 5 power plays to none.

But from where I sit, this marks two games against the Sharks where the Stars have had the territorial edge and been able to apply the hallmark of a Marc Crawford coached team.

Puck possession in the offensive zone with a lot of shots and quality scoring chances. That, I certainly liked. Every forward but one had at least one shot tonight.

But just as the ball don't lie in basketball, the puck don't lie in hockey. When you generate that many shots and scoring chances, you've got to bury them. And in the first, the Stars had plenty with nothing to show for it.

Perhaps if they had been able to jump on the Sharks early and forced them to chase the game instead of the other way around, we're talking about an honest to goodness winning streak. The kind the Stars really have yet to enjoy this year.

Instead, Nabokov was able to repel all the shots he had seen through 40 minutes and the Sharks converted on goals from Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski to take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after two. Unlike in their first meeting, the Stars just weren't able to find enough in the tank to come back tonight.

And while I'm on this Negative Nancy kick, that lone forward who didn't record a shot?

Fabian Brunnstrom.

We've made mention of Matt Niskanen's struggles and even contemplated the idea of either sending him down to the minors or trading him for fear he's hit a wall here. We do that, I think, because we've seen what Nisky's capable of in his previous two years in the NHL and believe that he can still progress as a solid NHL blue liner (I'll still have more thoughts on him later).

Sadly, I can't really say the same thing about Brunnstrom right now. When he puts out a performance like he did tonight and only sees 6:31 of ice time (only Krys Barch saw less ice time tonight), I can't say I'm surprised anymore.

Getting back to the fountain of positivity, I was very impressed with the play of Maxime Fortunus tonight. A lot of time, you'll see a young defenseman in the NHL allow panic to set into his game when the pressure gets turned up a notch.

I saw none of that tonight. Just strong steady play at both ends of the ice. The Stars were able to sustain pressure because he was positionally sound and made smart plays with the puck. If the shot wasn't there, he made sure it got back down deep so the forwards could outwork the San Jose D to continue to create scoring chances.

And when he got caught out on the ice for almost two minutes? Again, he didn't panic. Typically you worry about mental mistakes in those situations. But he stayed mentally sound throughout this shift, didn't get caught running around and expending more unnecessary injury.

And towards the end of his shift when he gained control of the puck on his own side of the red line, he was cognizant of the fact he couldn't ice the puck. Otherwise, of course, his two minute shift would have gotten a little longer. Instead, he found a forward to get the puck to who could fire it deep. And off to the bench Fortunus went.

On my drive home tonight, I heard one caller on the Dallas Stars Postgame Show on The Ticket suggest that Fortunus and Vish were brought up to put pressure on Robidas, Skrastins, and Grossman. I have no doubts that Niewuy and Crawford want these two young guys to put pressure on some current members of the Stars D corps.

But it's not the three the caller mentioned. Robidas is safe because he's generating more points offensively than even Jay Bouwmeester. Grossman's been solid for much of this first half of the season, and Skrastins has been doing exactly what he was brought here to do. Play solid stay at home defense and block shots.

No, these callups were meant to put Matt Niskanen on the hot seat. Again, this kid's got some talent and great potential. But he's got to show it now because there's a number of defensemen down in Cedar Park that are just itching to take that spot away from him on a full time basis.

Oh, and about that Ivan Vishnevskiy mishap with losing the puck right into his own net?

Nothing you can do but laugh about it. And seek to atone for that mistake on Wednesday night.

And on an unrelated note, do consider the cause(s) that The Chief is promoting over at A2Y. if you have a little extra cash laying around that wasn't spent on holiday shopping and you don't mind helping out a hockey fan from as far away as Brazil get to see our great game live in person.

Even if it'll be at a Red Wings game at JLA.

Whatever doesn't get spent will be donated to the Red Wings Wish Club with proceeds going to the Children's Hospital of Michigan.