This is just how the season has gone.
The Stars returned, somewhat, to their big goalscoring lines from earlier in the season and were shutout for the second time in four games while allowing 41 shots on goal. A lot of credit must go to Mathieu Garon, who made several electrifying saves, yet once again the Stars were unable to capitalize on the scoring chances they did have.
Marty Turco actually had one hell of a great game, stopping 39 of 40 shots and not once resorting to the flailing, panicky goaltender we've seen the past few games. He was calm, mechanically sound (pretty much) and controlled his rebounds perfectly.
The Stars put forth a good effort, but like so many other times this season it was wasted. A lack of ability to maintain pressure in the offensive zone or put together any sort of sustained forecheck once again led to a disappointing offensive game.
This game can be simply defined - Marty Turco was great, the Stars played well, Mathieu Garon was better - but we have some notes and thoughts after the jump.
- There's no doubt that the Dallas Stars missed Mike Ribeiro tonight, much more so than the game against New York on Friday. We've seen Ribeiro struggle at times this season when the Stars try and amp things up and play an up-tempo style that plays to the strengths of Crawford's system; but Ribeiro is perfect for when things get slowed down.
Tonight, Columbus was intent on slowing down the Stars through the neutral zone and focused on forcing the Stars to create chances off the forecheck. The Stars were able to get some rushes at times, but it was far from the wide open stuff we've seen in the past as evidenced by the low shot total compared to their season average. This sort of approach plays directly to Ribeiro's strengths; he loves to slow down the rush, allow his wingers to get into position and then create chances with pinpoint accurate passes.
So when you think of why the Stars were unable to really put together any good chances, and were unable to sustain pressure, look no further than the hole that Ribeiro's absence has created among the centers. Warren Peters (and Tom Wandell especially) have a great chance to prove their value, but both are going to have amp up the scoring production. Wandell had some trouble tonight hanging on to the puck as he entered the offensive zone and looked shaky at times with his increased role, but he now has the chance to really take the next step with the Stars.
- Warren Peters basically played the role of Ribeiro's replacement, and I thought he was fine. He's a much more physical presence at center and is far, far, far from the offensive talent that Ribs is (of course), but he played fairly well on the penalty kill. Technically the Blue Jackets had a power play goal (it was an empty net goal) but the Stars did a great job of negating one of the best power play units in the NHL.
- Mathieu Garon gets the shutout and he certainly made a couple of incredible saves, but this is another instance of the Stars not generating enough tough chances and getting most of their shots from afar. This was a game when the Stars essentially needed a strong presence in front of the net and failed to cash in the few rebound chances they did have. Eventually they did have some great chances (once again in the final minutes), but as has happened so many times in the past the best chances rang off the crossbar.
- When a team is getting choked in the neutral zone and is unable to sustain a forecheck, the defensemen can circumvent that by joining the rush and creating chances from the blueline. Perhaps they were focused on being safe defensively, but I rarely saw any of the Stars defensemen anywhere near the offensive rush. Trevor Daley, we are STILL waiting for you to show the offensive production we've been promised each and every season.
- James Neal had a great game, and now you have to question whether he's only effective playing next to Brad Richards. Crawford reverted back to his previous lineup (with Wandell taking Ribeiro's spot on the second line), and Neal had his best game in weeks. Problem is, the rest of the lines were unable to generate much offense - Morrow and Benn each zero shots on goal - and the Stars allowed 41 shots on goal. So....is it better for the Stars to have Neal generating chances, or for the Stars to play sound defensively?
- Finally, Mike Heika has mentioned that one big issue for the Stars on the road is that opposing coaches have the favorable matchups. That was pretty apparent against the Blue Jackets as well.