With an entire 60 minutes of regular season action to digest it's time to start making sweeping conclusions and generalizations about the Dallas Stars' season trajectory.
Well, probably not.
There were some things that stuck out like a sore thumb last night, however, and the film projector (iPad?) figures to get quite the workout as Ruff's bunch gets prepared for the Washington Capitals tomorrow night. As for what he didn't like last night, Ruff was pretty clear.
"I thought our workers gave us the best games,'' he said after the game. "The worker end was good. The skill end, from the power play on down, wasn't good enough.''
Here are even strength shot attempt differentials for each Stars forward last night, and they paint a possession picture congruent with the head coach's assessment:
(For explanations about Corsi and Fenwick, which are just ways to express shots directed at the net as a proxy for "possession", read more at Behindthenet.ca)
Chris Mueller didn't figure into this much at all, was even on the night, and won five of his six faceoffs. So he had a fine night in six minutes, but I'll leave him out of this mess when trying to figure out what went wrong.
The defensemen could come later, when I find an infinite amount of time to do this sort of thing all day. This is about how the forward lines played and dictated play, and the findings are nicely aligned with what our eyeballs told us last night:
The Cody Eakin line got out-possessed.
Taking blocked shots out of it, which Fenwick does, the picture does not look good for Dallas. Florida artfully threw themselves in the way of the Stars' shots from distance, and would not allow rebounds or second chances because of it. Outside of the Dillon goal the Stars had no odd-man rushes of which to speak. The Panthers played a smart road game and packed it in, protecting their goaltender.
And when Thomas needed to be good, he was. So was Kari Lehtonen, but three times Panthers were left unmolested within 10 feet of his net and three times they beat him, as NHL players should.
The top trio fared better than the Eakin line, but Ruff was not shy in expressing his apathy toward their overall game.
"OK," he called their play. "They didn't finish a number of their opportunities, I thought Benn had a couple of really good ones. He hit a cross-bar late. Tyler... just OK. I didn't notice his speed as much tonight, so I think you're looking for more [from the first line]."
It's just one game. The coaching staff will take Saturday's game as well and then have five days to either work on the critical breakdowns from a scheme standpoint, a line shuffle, or both. Rich Peverley is expected to be ready against the Capitals, or definitely for the game in Winnipeg next Thursday night.
There are plenty of options, and opportunities to teach and correct. It's just one game, after all.