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Dallas Stars Lose Special Teams, Lead in 4-1 Loss to Nashville Predators

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The Stars couldn’t buy a power play as their offensive woes continued at even strength.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Bridgestone Arena in Nashville has been the home of many terrors for the Dallas Stars over the years, and while Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators couldn’t be called a horror show, it was definitely another piece in the mounting frustration the team is facing early this season.

It all started off so well too. Some nice pressure on the penalty kill forced Pekka Rinne to try and handle the puck quickly behind his own net, ending in a delay of game penalty against the Predators. The Stars maintained possession through a brief 4-on-4 and then never gave it up, working a masterful power play set from the first unit that ended with Jamie Benn banging home the rebound of a John Klingberg shot.

The good mood didn’t last long as soon after, Martin Hanzal ran over Yannick Weber just after Weber had the puck dribble off his stick, sending Weber to the quiet room and Hanzal to the box for a five minute major for interference. It looked awful real time though less egregious on replay.

It was a scenario the Stars folded in often last season, but this year’s special teams continued to be up to the task, registering two shorthanded shots to Nashville’s two power play shots in the successful five-minute kill.

The Predators tied things up early in the second when Samuel Girard scored his first career goal (of course) on a point shot through a few screens. The play happened quickly off the faceoff, and the Stars weren’t able to shut down the point passing on a delay’d cross-ice pass.

Filip Forsberg’s face-first fall behind the net soon after drew a tripping call on Jason Spezza, and the Stars first pair wasn’t able to respond well to a scramble, allowing the Preds an open net after Ben Bishop gave up a rebound.

The third became a maddening affair for Dallas, where periods of pressure were interspersed with periods they couldn’t get out of their own way or generate shots despite possession. A highlight, or lowlight, was Antoine Roussel’s miss of an essentially empty net.

And despite strong possession, they couldn’t buy a power play even though there were several blatant examples, most notably a clean-out interference of John Klingberg at center ice that was essentially the same hit thrown by Hanzal (except Klingberg’s head was up).

In fact, it was one of those uncalled penalties that led to the insurance for the Predators, as Viktor Arvidsson grabbed Alex Radulov’s jersey and pulled him off balance, turning the puck over to a teammate who found him for the 3-1 goal. A late empty netter from P.K. Subban led to the final score.

Thoughts from my sofa:

  • This game is aggravating because it started so well and was to a large extent out of the hands of the Stars. You can only play with the referees you’re given, and while all of the penalties against the Stars were at least dependable (even the major at real speed), the non-calls were blatant and tilted the ice in the Predators direction. I want to support referees, but there is no excuse to not call this interference:
  • Or this a hold:
  • In a game they controlled early and stayed in late, the Stars had a single measly power play. It seems like this happens every time they go to Nashville (and Chicago, for that matter). I joked on Twitter that they needed to follow Filip Forsberg’s lead and just fall down more easily, but there is some truth to the fact that their large size and skill-players’ tendencies mean they often don’t fall when they could. Falls draw attention, attention draws penalties and the Stars seem to be trying to avoid the first part. It’s noble to try and play “the right way,” but in a league that rewards those who walk a fall-down line, the Stars end up too often at a disadvantage because of it.
  • From a “what the Stars could control” perspective, the transition game out of the back is lacking aside from Klingberg and Honka. The inability to move the puck through neutral with defensive possession, allowing the forwards to do something other than have to work it in themselves, slows the team down, especially when someone like the Predators sits back on the lead.
  • The lack of even-strength scoring is becoming concerning (though the prospect grumbler in me says that’s what happens when your drafting and development is sub-par). That all said, hockey is stupid. The Stars once again won the possession metrics in this game (and were doing so throughout, so it never really became score effects). They are doing good things, just not the ultimate good thing of scoring. So the question becomes is that luckdragons are back for “You thought our run was over” part two or a talent deficit, particularly in the lower forward lines? On paper you wouldn’t think talent, but talent has to perform eventually to keep that designation.
  • 1-3 is not the start anyone wanted. It is not the end of the world. There are concerning issues but not whole reams of them (just a giant, goal-scoring one). Where you fall on the panic scale probably depends on what you think of the potential for Remi Elie and Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and Martin Hanzal to start chipping in occasionally offensively and when Radulov, who has looked so good, gets the monkey off his back.
  • I mean, a 3.6 team shooting percentage can’t last all season, can it?