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Game 30 Afterwords: It’s Bad

It’s bad. How bad? This Bad.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks
Dallas can’t get out of its own way on offense.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The thing about bad seasons is that you can use them to validate almost any preexisting criticism you might have brought into the year with you. Not a fan of Dallas’ special teams despite a good season? This year seems to prove you right. Were you confident that Dallas needed major changes to their structure despite keeping most of the same offensive components from last year’s dynamite squad? Dallas is sitting 19th in goals for and dead least in goals against. And if you didn’t like the goaltending, tonight was just a picture-perfect example of everything you’ve been preaching about.

It would be easy if it were the same problem every night, but each game has been its own frustrating snowflake lately. That said, it kind of is the same problem every night: the offense.

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Devin Shore scored, again. It was a nice rush, and John Klingberg was instrumental in its result. Dallas played a great first period, and Kari Lehtonen made a nice save at the end of 20 minutes to give Dallas the clean slate that Shore would build upon with his tally. The Stars, for the second time in two days, had a lead in a good opponent’s barn, and they had to find a way to build on and defend the lead. For the second time in two days, Dallas did not do that, well.

Shore’s goal was it. The power play had nothing against a Chicago PK that I’m pretty sure gave up five goals in only three penalty kills a couple of times early this season. It’s the worst PK in the league, and Dallas couldn’t find a power play goal when they needed it.

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Dallas is scoring 23% fewer goals than last year’s offense (which scored 3.23 goals per game), and they are surrendering 3.20 goals per game. In terms of comparable teams, the Stars have become last year’s Arizona Coyotes on offense who are facing last year’s Dallas Stars every night.

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In letting a world-class player score a beer-league goal to surrender the lead, Kari Lehtonen did not validate Ruff’s decision to start him in back-to-back games tonight.

Stephen Johns just got flat outplayed on the second goal. He’s still something of a rookie, and he got embarrassed right there. It happens to the best of them, but it also seems to happen to the Dallas Stars, lately.

The third goal was a nice shot on the power play. Turns out teams really benefit from having their top players score nice goals on the power play.

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Part of it has been the injuries, but December was the time for things to start changing. Dallas is 2-4-0 in December. They’re just about as healthy as they’re going to get. The overall play is trending up, yes; but will the results follow? So far, Dallas is asking its fourth line to do all of the scoring. That probably won’t work, most nights.

Ruff sent a message with a mild benching of the top guys tonight. Faksa/Eaves/Roussel were the top three forwards in 5v5 ice time, while Jason Spezza had the third-fewest minutes at even strength of any Dallas forward.

That said, Jason Spezza actually had a decent night in terms of scoring chances, coming out roughly even. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin both got caved in tonight. Yes, you’re playing the Hawks, which means your top line will face heavy competition in Hjalmarsson and Toews and them, but again: you can’t have your best players playing the worst of anyone on your team.

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Dallas was tired. This whole teams looks tired. But it’s hard for everyone not to get tired of watching this team lose games. They’ve done it so very much this season.

Last year, the top guys pushed the puck in the right direction for Dallas, and they had a lot of help. You can see for yourself. But this year?

WOWY

This year, Patrick Sharp hasn’t been himself, or even a bad version of himself. Korpikoski has been dead weight when he’s not scoring the odd goal on a rush, and Dan Hamhuis is the only defenseman who’s managed to figure out how to do what Julius Honka did so well during those halcyon days of three right-handed defenders. But honestly, those aren’t the big problems. The even-strength offense is the problem, and Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza don’t have the likes of Ales Hemsky, Mattias Janmark and Jamie Benn to pick up their goal-scoring slack while they carry the puck the right direction. Why that goal-scoring has disappeared is, of course, the Big Question.

Adam Cracknell has been great in his role. That’s a win! Roussel is having one of his best seasons to date. That’s also a win! Those two wins are far too close to the total number of wins Dallas has. We are 30 games into the season.

You can pick a player/coach/system/deity/mindset to blame, but the nasty thing about hockey is, in better times, also the great thing about hockey: it’s never just about one person.