Entering the game, the Minnesota Wild had a 15% shooting percentage or something like that. That is high! They were also getting, like, .950 goaltending from Devan Dubnyk. That is also high! Given those numbers, the Stars fan figured that footsteps of statistical regression were a-comin’ down the hallway any minute now. It appears that the Stars fan will be a-waitin’ for a little while longer.
It’s hard not to look at a lot of these early games and imagine what they would look like with a couple of tweaks. For instance, tonight, if the Stars don’t surrender a shortie, and if either (or both!) of Oduya of Spezza finds the inside of the post, the Stars have a lead on the road after 20 minutes, and this game looks enormously different.
Instead, this happened:
The Jason Spezza pass misses Eaves, Seguin couldn’t get back in time, and Klingberg found himself alone, defending a staggered 2-on-1. Then, Klingberg was no longer defending it at all. It was a nice move by Koivu, but man, that rush never should have happened in the first place.
You know, of course, that the Stars dominated the 2nd period, outshooting Minnesota 13-1. You also know, of course, that the Stars didn’t score, so they had to settle for those participation trophies that are so popular nowadays. I think any trophy is nice. It is a symbol of accomplishment, even if the accomplishment was just to exist in a particular location in time and space. We all deserve trophies if you really think about it.
The Wild’s eighth shot of the game would come a few minutes into the third period, which is amazing considering that Winnipeg rang up 22 shots on goal in the first period the other night. Oh yeah, that shot would go in, too. In real time, I thought it ticked off a stick and changed directions, but looking again, I really think Kari Lehtonen just fanned on it.
You can totally look askance at Kari there and get all mad and...but...I mean, why on earth would you want to? Why? What is wrong with the entire world when it comes to goaltenders in every sport? Are we so shallow that, in our disappointment, we must always embrace anger, and in anger, pick the easiest rage-target we can find? We know what Kari Lehtonen is at this point in his career, and I just can’t—I cannot cannot cannot—muster anything other than a loud ol’ sigh at that goal. It’s like getting mad at your golden retriever for yanking the steering wheel to the left when you asked him to help your drive on the freeway for 20 seconds while you sent a Snapchat. Yes, bad Professor Bungles (bad!), but I mean, come on. The Stars’ defensive coverage there was at least distracted driving, if not outright abandonment of the wheel. Plenty of blame to go around instead of just lambasting the obvious target (which is a good term for what the Stars shooters were doing to Devan Dubnyk with the puck).
Speaking of abandonment issues, how are we feeling about a power play that, in general, is not getting pucks to the net with traffic or generating one-timers? Those are sorta “the thing to do” when up a man, and the Stars really just literally couldn’t even [kid phrase] tonight.
The penalty kill wasn’t terrible the first time around, but in the third, after Seguin skated himself out of room and took a bad high-sticking penalty, Roussel broke his stick on the kill, and the cross-ice seam opened up, and oh yeah, Eric Staal! I remember him. Thomas Vanek and Eric Staal are going to totally meld into a single, past-prime player wearing that weird shade of Wild-green as my memory deteriorates, aren’t they? Can you remember what Vanek even looks like? I believe he had eyebrows and was short.
Esa Lindell’s name came up in the “Be John Klingberg’s Defense Partner for a Day!” raffle, and he did, I think, fine. Lindell is still tentative, but his play (aside from one weak moment early on) doesn’t use that wariness to run out of time and space, creating problems. In general, the puck went the right direction, and Lindell feels like a guy who could score ten goals in a season if he’s out there with a line that can get it into the zone and bump it back to him. I may be optimistic about Lindell at this point, but what else do we have other than hope, today? I mean, aside from love. We always have love. I love you.
And, in that vein, I did love seeing the Real Top Line finally looking good (though Benn’s shot still isn’t there). All three skaters looked a bit more in sync tonight, and given their overwhelming puck possession, you’d probably say they’re going to wind up with a couple of points most nights with that type of a performance.
Yeah, also, Dan Hamhuis was scratched, which I am 72% certain was just Lindy Ruff reading Mike Heika’s great piece on Jordie Benn and saying, “Oh yeah, I could totally scratch the new guy, couldn’t I, Mike? Come up with a philosopher for THAT.” Not sure how Dan will feel about it, but I’m sure that 1) He’s the consummate pro, and 2) He’ll get over it just in time for the expansion draft.
Further testing Lindy Ruff’s willingness to mash the SCRATCH HIM button was Johnny Oduya tonight, who had a couple of weak plays that resulted in loose pucks in the slot for Minnesota. If Oduya had threaded the needle a bit better and found the net, then we wouldn’t be mentioning that, but here we are at the end of a 4-0 defeat, feeling down. Who’s next up on the
chopping block scratching post? It might just be you, if you’re not careful. Yes, you, reading this. Be careful, is all I am saying. If not, you’ll be dead, figuratively speaking.
The Stars, at [the very, very] least, controlled most of the game like they did against Minnesota back in April. Unfortunately, the Stars are still missing a bunch of those April guys, and Minnesota finally hired a coach that does not bear a striking resemblance to the assistant manager at your local Best Buy (Boudreau is totally a Morton’s Steakhouse AGM, though). Things were tight, and the Stars weren’t quite sharp, and Devan Dubnyk is big and kind of all right at goaltending.
So, yeah. The special teams still need work. You probably feel like the Stars have been heavily scouted, and now they don’t know quite how to adjust. I am saying you probably feel like that because, man, I have sure felt like that a lot lately. Again, I know injuries are the biggest factor right now, but it’s hard not to feel sad and disappointed at a team that was so recently very good, and is now, ah, not playing “so very good.”
Cheer up, though! It’s always darkest before the dawn, and if that metaphorical light has the inverse relationship I suspect, we’re in for one heck of a dawn pretty soon. Right, Mark?
I believe this is the first time the Stars have been below .500 since December 2014.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) October 30, 2016