A weekend of frustration continued for the Dallas Stars as the team failed to pick up two points in its fourth consecutive game. The Minnesota Wild won the special teams contest and the game as they silenced the Stars offense in a 4-1 victory at the XCel Enegry Center.
Where the Stars really had their opportunity was midway through the first, when a marginal obstruction call followed by an obvious elbowing call gave the team more than a minute of 5-on-3 time. But the Wild ended up with more scoring chances than the Stars in that span, as the power play spent too much time looking for a perfect play rather than just putting the puck on net.
The teams got out of the first period in a scoreless draw, and the Wild opened the scoring midway into the second when Mikael Granlund picked off a bad Jordie Benn outlet pass right up the gut of the defensive zone and picked the corner on Kari Lehtonen.
The Wild doubled their lead a few minutes later when, in the midst of technical television difficulties, Matt Dumba stepped over the blueline and set a shot through a Zach Parise screen that was just this side of legal. Vernon Fiddler gave some life back to the Stars less than 10 seconds later when he galloped into the zone off the faceoff and picked a corner of his own.
But a marginal holding call against Jamie Benn gave the Wild a power play late in the period, and Tomas Vanek found the soft spot in the slot for his first goal of the season and a 3-1 Wild lead heading to the second intermission.
Benn took another penalty early in the third, this time a well-deserved frustration slash, and the Wild converted yet again, this time when Nino Niederreiter was left all alone in front for a tip.
More thoughts from my sofa...
- Jamie Benn is a fabulous hockey player and has been a great captain over his short tenure, but tonight was not his brightest shining moment. The first penalty was a bad call, but the other two were frustration penalties of the most preventable kind. He does this every once in a while, but you'd still like to see better from him.
- Frustration can be a productive thing when channeled well - frustration can lead to better effort, to more aggressive decisions. But frustration channeled poorly leads to games like tonight, where players start going off on solo adventures, where the defense doesn't act as a unit and where a few individuals take multiple bad penalties. The Stars got frustrated after the unsuccessful 5-on-3 and never snapped out of it.
- This has not been a very good stretch for the Stars, and if you want to look at one thing in particular tonight, it's probably the special teams. With more than a minute of 5-on-3 early and a full power play to open the third, the Stars combined for just one shot on goal. I get that with a high-skill unit, they are looking for great passes, but there has to be some volume shooting in there as well.
- The Stars don't cover the slot particularly well, particularly in transition but even on the penalty kill. There seems to be a lot of confusion about who picks up the trailer who comes cutting in and who is responsible for the guy in the soft spot. The Wild were looking for that pass all night.
- Ales Hemsky left the game with an upper body injury and did not return, though the official word was "questionable." The Stars are just about to get Valeri Nichushkin back from the IR, and losing Hemsky would be a blow to the idea of creating a more legitimate second line.
- Colton Sceviour also just does not look like himself, at least the version that was up at the end of last year. I don't know if it's his shoulder or his conditioning or his linemates or what, but he doesn't have the puck strength or even general strength that made him an asset low in the zone last season.
- On the plus side, Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak had, at least by the eye test, a much more successful game than their misadventure together against the New York Islanders. Oleksiak would probably like his coverage back on the second power play goal, but in all it was as decent a night as you'd want out of two kids with little experience.
- Also, the good thing about poor play is that it can foster necessary change. There's no reason to break up the three amigos when they're scoring three goals and helping the team pull points out of every game, but after two bad games and consecutive skunkings, there is definitely incentive. If the unit is not going to play well, it provides incentive for chance rather than status quo.