The Stars come in off a decisive victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night, shellacking the Ducks goalie with 30 shots in the second period alone. The Stars are currently 3-1-0 this season, but this is their first time on the road, which in the last few years has not been their best showing. Not to mention that the Stars have dropped four games in a row to the Senators over the last two seasons; their last win came in March 2016. Still, new coach, new system, hopefully new results?
The Senators are having the season you’d expect after losing their franchise defenseman in a trade with the San Jose Sharks this summer. They’ve won two of their games and are currently 2-2-1 for the season, but getting 5 goals on 22 shots while holding the Los Angeles Kings to 1 goal on 37 shots isn’t what any team should count on in the long run. In short? They're missing Erik Karlsson.
So, two such fun teams facing off on a cold (no really, it’s 40 degrees (Fahrenheit, for our Canadian visitors) in Texas today) and dreary Monday could only serve to liven things up, right?
There’s some back and forth to talk about here, there’s the fact that the Stars had a dominant first ten minutes or so, but let’s skip that and talk about the best power play in the NHL (at this moment). Let’s also talk about John Klingberg and his franchise leading (tied for leading) five game point streak to start the season. Let’s talk about his four goals in six games. Let’s talk about John Klingberg.
The first power play unit is pretty terrifying, the second unit had some trouble getting started on the first opportunity the Stars had tonight. When the Senators showed up midway through the first, Ben Bishop had to make some quick saves, especially on a penalty kill on another Alexander Radulov penalty.
And then there was Klingberg and his perfectly timed and placed goal on the second power play.
All of the momentum in the first period swung the Stars way. They lead in shots, quality shots (as counted by Owen Newkirk), face off wins.
Unfortunately for the Stars, someone reminded the Senators during the first intermission that they were, in fact, playing a hockey game tonight. While the Stars did still lead in shots on goal, possession, and quality shots after the second, most of that work had been done in the first period. The Senators creeped up on their face off wins and, more importantly, the score board.
A lot of early possession and some disastrous shifts from the Stars early in the period. Miro Heiskanen took his first penalty in the NHL on a pretty iffy interference call against Mikkel Boedker. However, the Stars penalty kill kept the Senators to zero shots on goal for those two minutes.
The Stars outshot the Senators through two, but the Senators had more flurries in front of the net. Many of the Stars shots were one and done, and Craig Anderson has been able to handle his rebounds.
The Senators goal, from Maxime Lajoie, came with 19 seconds left in the second, and caught Julius Honka and Marc Methot flat footed. Lajoie skated straight down the middle with little to no challenge, and ended up banking his shot off of Honka. Period ending goals like that have the potential to be huge momentum changers.
The third period was disappointing from a defensive standpoint. Two out of the three goals (the third was an empty netter) were basically the result of the Stars blue line allowing the Senators to waltz straight up into their net.
Brady Tkachuk, fourth overall pick in the spring, was given all the space and time necessary to skate right into the paint in front of Bishop, who had already bitten hard on a Matt Duchene wrap around goal. All credit to Duchene here for stopping on a dime behind the net and passing it to Tkachuk instead. About 9 minutes later, after a full ice press from Tyler Seguin that ended up going wide of the Senators net, Mikkel Boedker was allowed to skate right in on Bishop with no challenge from the defense.
Jim Montgomery pulled Bishop for the extra attacker with 7 minutes left in the game. A bold strategy, but it did lead to a new flurry of shots on goal for the Stars. The empty netter at the end of the game was just demoralizing.
The Stars finished the game with more shots, better possession, and more quality scoring chances. There’s no way the Senators are going to be able to sustain a winning record while allowing more than 30 shots on goal each night, if only because at some point Craig Anderson will collapse from exhaustion from the sheer weight of carrying his team on his shoulders.
This was a frustrating game for the Stars in many ways. Defensively, they didn’t have it together. They missed a lot of passes and generally looked like they struggled, for all that they dominated a lot of aspects of the game.
Hopefully they’ll pull it together before they take on Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night.