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Afterwords: Stars Kill Four Penalties, Are Killed by Penalties

NHL: Dallas Stars at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Referees Brad Meier and Justin St. Pierre had their hands full Saturday night, which was more than Ben Bishop could say in overtime when the Flyers scored. Bishop’s stick was lost (he either dropped it to swat a puck away that was going over his head, or it was knocked out of his hands by Wayne Simmonds, I’m not certain) and in the ensuing fracas, the puck was smartly shot through his undefended five hole by Shayne Gostisbehere (his second of the game).

The reason the officials had their hands full, of course, is because they were picking up everything that looked like a Dallas penalty the minute it wandered past their windshields. A 6-1 penalty differential is pretty unusual, even for a Stars team that has been out-drawn for much of this year. Call this karma for the 3-0 penalty game the Stars had against the Rangers the other night (which also went past 60 minutes). Tight games magnify these things.

Look, these calls usually even out over the course of time, but the Stars do have a legitimate problem right now. They’re taking way too many penalties, they aren’t killing them well enough, and they aren’t scoring when they do draw penalties...which is likewise not often enough. The Stars are taking about 3.5 penalties per game, and only drawing about 3.1. That’s an extra power play for the other side every two or so games.

Looking at it another way, Stars have a -18 penalty differential on the season (that’s penalties drawn versus committed), which is bottom-five in the league as of this writing. With a now-mediocre penalty kill and power play, the Stars either need to clean up their act or up their acting. They’ve done neither, and with possibly two uncalled high sticks tonight on Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin, they’re paying the price for bad luck at an alarming rate.

(Penalty stats via Corsica.)

Still, at least the Stars outscored the Flyers at 5v5, right?

Well, okay, see, the Stars were on the second half of a back-to-back, and teams don’t usually feel fresh, except for, say, the Devils yesterday. Or, like a few other teams recently against Dallas. Other than those teams, usually it’s tough to win in that situation, yes.

Jamie Benn, to his credit(?) tried to set a tone for this game early, collaring his counterpart and taking him to the box with him, much to Ken Hitchcock’s delight (assuming that’s what he was laughing about on the bench).

Incidentally, last year’s top two picks didn’t really make a huge impression on me these past two nights. Nico Hischier was good, and Nolan Patrick is fine, but you can see why folks put Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine in another class. You can also see how it wouldn’t be outlandish for the #3 overall pick in that draft last summer turn out to be the best of the bunch. Here’s hoping.

On those penalties, one of the questionable calls on Tyler Pitlick led to two things: a gorgeous Bishop save on Wayne Simmonds, and an overload of power play chances for Philly that culminated in a Gostisbehere rebound off the back wall that tricked through Bishop’s glove to tie the game. It was a shame, considering how good Bishop had been, but the Stars were getting consistently hemmed in the zone on the power play and getting beaten to rebounds. Their legs were not there, and it showed. Three games in four nights and all that.

Still, the point Dallas did get tonight was one they earned. Remi Elie and Gemel Smith combined for one of those “got your nose” goals on a too-slow Philly defense off a nice, methodical play where each skater on the ice played the puck in succession. The Stars were starting to continue pressuring the Flyers, but (stop me if you’ve heard this one) penalties showed up and derailed their momentum, and their transition game all but disappeared the rest of the way. The second period was all Flyers, as the Stars’ legs seemed almost gone outside of a couple one-and-dones in the offensive zone, and they were fortunate to limp to the third as it was.

Some highlights:

  • The Jakub Voracek partial breakaway that he put wide with Lindell pressuring from the other side.
  • Martin Hanzal had a decent game, for Martin Hanzal. His acumen on the penalty kill was noticeable, and the broadcast was delighted at his ability to be large and helpful. The Stars could use a healthy Martin Hanzal, which I’m not convinced they’ve really had yet this season; let’s hope this begins a better trend for Hanzal than was established earlier this year.
  • Later in the second, Klingberg couldn’t break up a stretch pass, and Konecny was denied by Bishop on a clean chance in all alone. The Stars bailed themselves out a few times tonight, and again, that at least means they earned the point they did get. Bishop was very good tonight.
  • All six penalties were taken by forwards tonight for Dallas, which at least reinforces the fact that the defense was, for the most part, pretty good at keeping things tidy. Give Ken Hitchcock and Rick Wilson credit: they have stabilized things a bit, or they at least they are present as things have become more stable, which amounts to the same thing for most coaching praise.
  • The Stars’ team save percentage continues to linger in the bottom third of the league. Should the goalies get truly hot, one would think Dallas could put together another little 5-1 or even a 8-2 sort of run, which would be helpful in clambering over the dogpile of wild card hopefuls.
  • Tyler Seguin’s hard luck continued early in the third, when he got a shot between the circles off the rush that die in Elliott’s pads. Seguin’s hard luck would show up again, though. Ken Hitchcock called out the “impact players” after the game, and Tyler Seguin is pretty clearly one of the player he’s talking about (though not the only one, certainly).
  • After another pretty marginal call on Gemel Smith and a solid kill by Dallas, Tyler Pitlick’s breakaway backhand shot went wide. If you want to steal points on the road, those are the chances you have to bury, and the Stars didn’t do that.

Most painful of all was Tyler Seguin’s post in overtime, which echoed literally and figuratively the Stephen Johns post in New Jersey. Tyler Seguin is officially in a scoring drought, by his standards, and Devin Shore doesn’t appear to be able to help him out of it. The Shore-Benn-Seguin reunion line tonight offered little hope for more scoring, but then again, this is a tough game to judge anything off of, what with the weird flow (or lack of it) and penalty parade.

Here’s a bright spot for you: this is the Stars’ first overtime loss of the year, after beating both Vancouver and Chicago in the 3v3 format. I guess if you have to give away an overtime out of those three, Philly is the team I’d want to kick it to. Congratulations to the noble citizens of Philadelphia on their hockey team’s recent success. And may I just say, to those fine people, that-

/an old nine volt battery flies past my head

Keep it real, folks.