Well, it was at least a little bit better tonight for the Dallas Stars. Now granted it's not like it could get much worse right? Watching tonight's 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers felt less like a kick in the groin and more like just a smack upside the head. Not something you'd want to go through over and over, but if someone said to you "hey it's either this or a kick in the groin.." then you gladly take five fingers on the side of the noggin.
The Stars maybe had all of fifteen minutes in that entire game where you could argue they were playing better than the opposing side, but even then that would possibly be stretching it. This game was pretty much all Flyers all the time as they hounded the Stars with a relentless forecheck and forced a large amount of turnovers. When the Stars did manage to gain some entry into the Flyers zone, Philly made sure to collapse in front of their net and sweep away any second chances that Flyers goalie Bryan Boucher may have given up.
What other issues do the Stars have right now you might ask? The team yet again started out of the gate slow in the first period, Brad Richards looks very fatigued on the ice and is going through the motions it would appear, James Neal is fighting the puck so much that they are at war with each other at this point and the puck is winning, Mark Fistric and Karlis Skrastins had a horrible night as a defensive pair and the Stars power play is in such a mess right now that Marc Crawford should seriously be asking refs if they can decline penalties.
After that though we do have positives. Brenden Morrow kept up his terrific play with the Stars lone goal in the second period, Kari Lehtonen was better in tonight's game (although we'll talk more about his game in a moment), the Stars penalty kill went a perfect 3 for 3, Steve Ott continues to do fantastic work in the faceoff dot, they limited the opposition to under four goals, no one walked away from this game needing a hospital trip (that we know of) and the call up kids of Travis Morin, Colton Sceviour and Aaron Gagnon all had solid efforts and didn't look too out of place on NHL ice.
And overall the effort on the ice was better. Yes it's a loss and there are still a ton of issues this team faces as they head home for a much needed four day break. But tonight was a small step in the right direction.
- Kari's night was a mixed bag. On one hand he made some spectacular saves in the first period and early in the third and kept the Stars in this game. On the other though he took a needless penalty with a punch to the grill of Dan Carcillo that put more undue pressure on the Stars to come out with a strong start in the game and that third goal against was again a shot that got past him high over his glove on the short side. Achilles had his heel, Kari apparently has his shoulder. He is now 0-10-1 in his career against the Flyers.
- Also scoring points for the Stars (better known as who assisted on Morrow's goal): Mike Ribeiro and Trevor Daley.
- Stars have now allowed nine short handed goals against which pretty much leads the league - or is last in the NHL depending on how you look at it. That fact alone perfectly sums up how much disarray the Stars power play is at this rate and personally to me would be a bigger concern than the team's penalty kill. We could (and probably will soon) go into all the reasons with the man advantage seems to be anything but for the Stars, but safe to say two of the biggest reasons it's struggling as bad as it is seemingly is a lack of confidence in making plays down low in the offensive zone and lack of hustle on the defense's part when a turnover is made. The Stars are doing well to play even with these teams for the most part when playing even strength, so it's on the power play where work needs to be done. Right now it isn't and thus you have the Stars losing more than winning.
Defending Big D Three Stars:
1 - Jeff Carter (PHI)
2 - Bryan Boucher (PHI)
3 - Brenden Morrow (DAL)