Some may look at the Dallas Stars in their game against the Los Angeles Kings tonight and think it’s just about getting back into the battle mentality as the post-All-Star game schedule gets ramped up. Others will look at the flatness of the Stars in their loss before the All-Star break and in the loss tonight and see a terrifying trend emerging.
Yet the argument could be made that it’s just one of those stretches which every team goes through in the season and we’ve got to ride out the low after experiencing a pretty decent high when they outscored the competition 13-2 prior to these two games.
However you want to view it, the Stars find themselves with the slimmest of margins to hang onto a Wild Card playoff position after tonight, and other Central Division teams gaining ground on them too. That’ll be the fine point to every loss from here on out. We’ll bemoan what could have been, and in the Stars locker room they’ll be putting it behind them and trying to prepare for the next chance to collect two points.
There’s not much to truly analyze in this one, because honestly Dallas looked awful for most of the contest. Most of them looked like they hadn’t skated since that bad loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs last Thursday. With the All-Star break for Dallas lasting from Friday until their practice Monday, they shouldn’t have looked that rusty.
But I guess it just was one of those nights. As frustrating as they can be in the moment, there’s going to be games like this during the season. Unfortunately, the playoff picture in the Western Conference makes each game like this magnified as teams gain ground behind them.
So how’d they lose this one?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Stars allowed a goal in the first five minutes of the opening period. They spent the majority of the frame in their own zone, and honestly were lucky to be down just one goal by the end of the 20 minutes. They managed to make it look slightly more competitive on the shots on goal front, but there weren’t many chances on Darcy Kuemper that I would qualify as “dangerous.”
The first half of the second period was a lot of the same, with Dallas seemingly constantly hemmed into their own zone. They let in another goal with about five minutes gone in the first period, on a bit of a fluky rebound that popped over Ben Bishop. Stephen Johns was visibly frustrated that he couldn’t get behind Bishop in time to keep it from going into the net.
Dallas seemed to get a little bit of a momentum shift after they killed off a four-minute minor Tyler Pitlick received for hi-sticking a Kings player. The pace was a bit better for Dallas towards the end of the middle frame, and they had a few chances on the power play that looked semi-dangerous. But they still found themselves being outshot (27-19), outscored (2-0), and outchanced (11 unofficially counted quality scoring chances for the Kings vs the Stars’ 4, as reported by Owen Newkirk).
Surprise! Another goal allowed in the first two minutes of the opening frame to start the third period, and the Dallas Stars were basically done for the night. They didn’t get much in the way of actual scoring chances as the Kings continued what had been successful all night long and just smothered the Stars offense.
Even in losses, the Stars have managed to find some offense. This is only their third time getting shutout this season, the first two coming at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues. They’ve shoutout their opponents four times this season, so they’re still winning the differential in that category – for now.
Fun fact: Bishop was the goaltender of record in each of those four shutouts, and he’s tied for second-most shutouts in the NHL right now (with Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators). His former goaltending partner with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy, leads the league with seven shutouts.