The Dallas Stars lost their first game of a back-to-back set in the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center tonight. The game was closer than it may seem, with the Avalanche taking down a 4-2 win off the back of an empty net goal at the end of the game.
Coming into tonight, Colorado had been fairly stingy in their goals against department. They’d only allowed two even strength goals against, a trend they continued tonight as Dallas was only able to put one even strength puck past Jonathan Bernier.
The thing is, Dallas seemed to be outplaying Colorado for a lot of the game. They put up 17 shots on goal in the second period alone on their way to a 36-24 advantage in that stat. Unfortunately, some defensive miscues and a bit of a soft goal by Ben Bishop just 30 seconds into the game sealed the game in as a loss. Bishop again looked rusty to start the game, but played better the more he played as the game moved along. It is promising in the sense that once he’s in a rhythm playing a starter’s schedule, that rust should knock off and it should be better for Dallas in net.
*Dallas played a pretty clean game. That, and the memo from the NHL to the refs to lighten up on the penalty calling helped keep the opponent’s power play opportunities quite limited tonight compared to the previous preseason games.
*Adam Cracknell had a forgettable game tonight. In general, he just never seemed to find a groove.
*The line of Devin Shore – Roope Hintz – Brett Ritchie seemed to have a good amount of possession tonight. Shore especially played well, I thought, drawing several penalties and showing that his speed could be an advantage this year.
*If I had to rank tonight’s performances of the four guys on the ice fighting for a roster spot on the blueline, I think it would go: Julius Honka, Stephen Johns, and a tie between Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth.
*Honka had a pretty good night away from the puck, and then added a goal to top off his play. He made a lot of the little plays you want to see, and he took calculated risks with stretch passes as the game wore on. Late in the game, he was the blueliner on the ice (along with John Klingberg) looking for the tying goal. I think that speaks volumes to how Ken Hitchcock saw his game tonight. I seriously thought he was out there for at least 1:25 of the last two minutes with the goalie pulled.
*Johns had several good plays along the boards to keep the Avalanche from entering the zone. He used his physicality to his advantage in a smart way tonight. He and Honka had some pretty good chemistry on the second power play unit, and seemed to balance each other nicely. They connected with nice crisp passes on the man advantage, making the puck movement on the power play better form the blueline in.
*Nemeth and Oleksiak both had moments in the game where they made a nice short outlet pass or made the safe read in their own zone. They both also had moments that did not look so nice, too. For Nemeth it was a few passes right onto opposing sticks. For Oleksiak, it was blowing his coverage of a guy in his own zone – the same guy that wound up scoring a goal. If I had to guess, I’d wager both of these guys might get another look in the lineup tomorrow night as Hitchcock and his team try to make decisions on their NHL roster for the last preseason game of the season.