The Dallas Stars needed a good start to tonight's divisional match up against the Minnesota Wild after playing last night in Winnipeg.
Getting scored on twelve seconds into the game is about the opposite of that.
Brenden Dillon's miscue on his first shift of the game leading to that goal was just the first in a long line of misplay of the puck from the entire team. Hands down, this game was the worst we've seen so far from the Stars this season when it came to puck possession and passing.
The team had a very difficult time getting through the neutral zone. They were turning pucks over at their own blue line that would lead to an odd man rush against. Passes were sent out of the reach of teammates, often winding up too short or way over shot of the positioning of the intended recipient. Drop passes were left for teammates that weren't in position and therefore able to be easily picked off by Minnesota forwards.
It was a far cry from the sharp outlet passes and puck movement Dallas showed against the Jets and Washington Capitals in the previous wins.
Another strength the team has had so far in the young season was their penalty killing. It was able to keep the Capitals' quite dangerous power play from converting more than once on the man advantage. The penalty kill tonight looked lethargic at times, with the team having the most trouble clearing the zone cleanly -- clearing attempts would end up at the feet of Wild players in the zone.
Jamie Benn did get a bid at a shorthanded chance early in the third, but as was the case with much offensive punch tonight, it wasn't very effective. There was little sustained offensive zone time, with many chances ending as a 'one and done' chance. Rebounds were not there to be taken advantage of -- Josh Harding has a tendency to play lights out against Dallas recently it seems, and that didn't change tonight.
Dallas' goaltending tonight wasn't the whole problem, though many may find it easy to blame Dan Ellis for the loss. He had at least one that was a goal he should have stopped; Ellis didn't seal the space between the pipe and the ice and Matt Cooke was able to stuff a wraparound home in that gap that was open to him.
Ellis was the reason this game wasn't 8-0 after the second period. He stood on his head for a lot of the game, and he faced a lot of shots that shouldn't have gotten through because defensive assignments were missed by the team in front of him.
I've now watched this team through four games, and I feel like I've yet to see the same look twice. Who are the Dallas Stars? I'm not sure I can tell their identity yet. It's something we will explore in greater detail in the coming days.
A few other observations on tonight's loss:
- Jordie Benn scored the lone goal for the Stars on the power play. While it's nice to finally capitalize on the power play, the team had a rough looking play during the man advantage. There were two very good breakaway shorthanded chances that Ellis had to shut down. It was very unimpressive to say the least.
- Tyler Seguin and Alex Chiasson had assists on the Benn goal, so at least Chiasson's point streak continues. Chiasson anchoring down in front of Harding was instrumental to Benn being able to get off the shot that he did to beat the Wild goaltender on the short side.
- Erik Cole struggled mightily tonight. He looked a step behind the rest of the team (that already looked a step slow) and he was one of the worst with the puck.
- Apparently Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin are roommates on the road. Collective "awww" at the cuteness of that.
- The top line of Benn - Seguin - Rich Peverley got torched defensively tonight, and unfortunately they didn't get much in the way of offense to offset those problems.
- On the bright side, the Stars as a team improved greatly on their faceoffs, winning about 51%. It's a far cry from the 30ish winning percentage from last night's game.