Far be it from me to sound like a tired broken record, but all things considered this was an ok night for the Dallas Stars. Not ideal obviously as they lose 1-0 to the red hot New Jersey Devils, but still... It could have been worse right? At least they only gave up just one goal so the defense was better at the very least.
And even then that one goal came on a broken play - quite literary as it was a shot from Ilya Kovalchuk's broken stick which was enough to fool Kari Lehtonen as it was, but then deflected Nick Palmieri which threw off both Trevor Daley - the one defending Palmieri as much as humanly possible without actually sitting onto of him and Lehtonen and trickled past him for the first, last and only goal of the game.
That was it. One kinda fluke-ish power play goal scored at the 14:23 mark of the third period by the Devils and it was game over.
It doesn't seem fair does it? Yet when one looks back on this game I suppose the end result is more than fair, for while the Stars defense was better overall the offense continues to struggle badly. Heck, saying it's struggling badly feels like I am not doing the state of the Stars offense proper justice but this is a family blog and I can't express some of the words that would probably be more appropriate at this time.
Oh the Stars had their chances to score. They went 0 for 4 on the power play and that included a four minute long power play where they did manage some chances that maybe could have been called legitimate scoring chances if they even got the puck on net. They didn't though and that four minute stretch was pretty much a microcosm of their entire game offensively for this game and the last five games they haven't won.
In the end like I said at the start, I want to take positives away from this game and they are there to be had. The defense was better, Kari had a very good game, the penalty kill looked pretty darn good, they went toe-to-toe with one the the NHL's hottest teams and didn't look too out of place against them.
At this rate though, these moral victories are starting to wear thin on the fan base - which I think was obvious based on the reaction of the crowd at the AAC tonight as the final horn sounded. The Stars need to start getting on the W side of the standings and in a hurry.
More thoughts and three stars after the leap...
- So about the new guy... Alex Goligoski looked well enough out there when you consider he hadn't been afforded a single practice with his new team. He did display some nice, crisp passing and as advertised he did make some nice plays to get the puck out of his zone. On the flip side however he took two penalties and was caught out of position a couple of times - again, maybe a product of not knowing exactly where to be in Crawford's system.
- Jamie Benn made his return and if he had any rust on him, he shoot it off quickly and played very well and even co-led the team in shots-on-goal with three (which when you think about that is kinda sad, but we'll get to that in a moment). Overall he didn't look like he had missed a game - but then we love the kid so we could be very biased. He does play better on the wing though and was out-matched often in the face off dot.
- The Stars penalty kill allowed one goal on four chances against which isn't good obviously, but again it was on a very broken play that I think any team in the NHL would have had trouble defending. Beyond that the PK I felt continued to improve tonight for Dallas.
- Jamie Benn co-led the team in shots as I said with three, the person he co-led with was Stephane Robidas. Are you kidding me? On any given typical night the best Stars offensive players should be leading with five or more shots on goal. Tonight Loui Eriksson had one shot on goal. Mike Ribeiro had zero shots on goal as did Brenden Morrow. Bottom line, the Stars top offensive players are no where to be found and that is one of your biggest reasons why this team is in the slump they are in. Yes this team misses Brad Richards, and yes they went up against a tough defensive minded team in the form of New Jersey tonight, but when your team's top three scorers manage one lousy shot between all three of them then you simply won't win hockey games EVER no matter how good the goaltending is or how improved the defensive play has been.
- Until they score three or more goals in a game - something they haven't done in this five game losing streak - I'm going to close every recap from here on out with the same thought: You can't game plan and expect to win games by a score of 1-0 or 2-1.
Defending Big D Three Stars:
1 - Johan Hedberg (NJ)
2 - Brian Rolston (NJ)
3 - Jamie Benn (DAL)