The Stars got unlucky a bit on Sunday, but one or two bad breaks only sink your ship when you don’t row hard enough to stay away from the obstacles in the first place.
Not a lot to say here, really. I was at a wedding all day and watched the majority of this one late Sunday night, but then again, writing this is better than dwelling on the latest Boston championship, right?
The Stars could have won this game, for sure. Jamie Benn hit a crossbar from distance, they didn’t get even a full minute on the power play, and the Detroit boards let it be known that even the newest hockey rinks still incorporate a Zamboni corner in every way. This game could’ve gone either way, for sure.
Really, that’s the biggest indictment of all, though. This game shouldn’t have been able to go either way. Not after the Stars played their most complete game of the season against Anaheim, and not against a team just as flawed as those Ducks, but with a markedly less talented goaltender.
The Stars, though, looked slow. They looked off. Jim Montgomery said in his postgame press conference that he’s reconsidering the off day he gave the team in between the two games, and whether that’s a punishment for the Stars’ dreadful performance Sunday or just an honest thought by a coach staring at an 0-3 road record, you can see his logic. Something has to change, and that’s something he can change. Why not?
The Stars have scored three goals total in trips to Ottawa, Detroit, and New Jersey. You absolutely have to drag at least a loser point or two out of that stretch at any point of the year. With a murderous road stretch of 16-in-23 coming up, the Stars are basically staring last year’s eight-game losing streak in the face. They had a waterbed first ten games of the season, and they’re on an 82-point pace. That’s a failure to execute, no matter how you slice it.
Some of the mistakes were unforced errors, and you hope those are just mental flubs that won’t continue for the entire road trip. Roman Polák and Jamie Benn both took bad penalties before a bad change for Too Much Mans completed the trespass trilogy about as well as Episode III: Revenge of the Sith completed its own, which is to say insufficiently.
Blake Comeau looked about as confident on his breakaway (and most of the game) as Jason Dickinson did for most of last year, but Comeau has got to come around before long, right? The Stars can find eight goals a season for a lot less dough with a lot more potential than Comeau, so he knows his job. Veterans do tend to come around, even if he is solidly on the wrong side of 30. Dude seems like a 14-goal scorer when all is said and done, which is probably just enough to kick the can down the road. That’s what the Stars’ entire effort was in this game, really.
Ben Bishop wasn’t good enough, even if that second goal was some obscure karmic retribution for him failing to compost his yard waste for the last three years. He lost his net on the first goal and the Stars were out of sorts, and there you go. That’s all it took, tonight. Bishop had a great save on Frans Nielsen at the end of the first Stars’ PK, but he wasn’t quite as sharp as he’s been. When you have no margin for error, the little things will kill you.
The Stars did have some jump, at first. After Anthony Matha’s Futsal play was stricken from the record, the Stars woke up for a bit, throwing the next five shots at Detroit. They finally broke through with, and I double-checked this, Gemel Smith’s goal. I don’t know what Gemel Smith did to literally everyone on the Stars’ management and coaching staff to lose their favor and trust, but goals like that are going to help his future salary a lot more than arbitration can do. Players have so little control for much of their careers, so it’s now or never for Smith, who might well be first in line to hit waivers when Stephen Johns gets back online. One might also say that it’s been “now” for Smith for the last year+, but clearly his coaches haven’t agreed, so here we are. Still, he had some ferocity Sunday, which was more than most of the Stars could consistently muster.
But when your team’s 24th-ranked player is the mover and shaker, you have bigger problems. Like Jamie Benn, on pace to score as many 5v5 goals as Blake Comeau this season, for one thing. Or Radek Faksa’s being unable to score without one of the goalies pulled, for another.
The Stars unequivocally played down to their competition, just like Bishop said in the postgame. The Stars have shown this year that they can be otherworldly, but they’ve also shown some all-too-frequent lapses in their approach and execution, as coaches would say. They didn’t fluke their way to this 5-5-0 record.
One thing I’m not going to bother to GIF: whether Connor Carrick actually lost the icing race to 34-year-old Thomas Vanek right before the Wings’ third goal. It was a tough in-between spot for Carrick, who was both trying to milk the icing and stay ahead of Vanek at the same time. In the end, the linesman waved off the icing with Carrick coasting, and the puck just did cross the red line before the pair got there.
I don’t think that was a bad effort by Carrick; more like a bad read (which is easy for us to say in retrospect). But hey, wasn’t that this game in a nutshell? The Stars racing for a puck they know they can get to, but unsure if they want to get to? Honestly, Carrick was right in line with most of his defense partners in this one: some good, some bad (though Miro Heiskanen’s “bad” is so beautifully mitigated that it would be just as recognizable as other depth defender’s “good” at times). Julius Honka made a sweet move to get a high-quality shot from the slot, but he couldn’t beat Jonathan Bernier, who is surely charting a career path for Jack Campbell if anyone is. Tyler Seguin got two fantastic chances in the slot himself while playing with his line (which was good in spurts, but nowhere near as dominant as Seguin/Benn/[literally anyone] should be against the worst team in hockey). Jamie Benn hits a post, Blake Comeau misses the net, and Tyler Seguin and Julius Honka can’t beat Jonathan Bernier. That’s a game summary in a couple dozen words if I’ve ever seen it, eh?
You don’t want to think about this game anymore. I don’t want to think about this game anymore. That’d be fine, if the Stars had a wealth of other games from which to draw contradictory memories. Instead, they’re imperfectly mediocre.
Credit to Jim Montgomery: he gamely tried to jolt the boys, but even the run of play was against him in Detroit, with a good five minutes or so of running time that never really saw the Stars get offensive zone possession to set up an early goalie pull. That lack of possession came against Detroit’s mighty men, players who include Dennis Cholowski, Nick Jensen, and Marcus Johansson. One of those guys doesn’t even play for the Wings, but you aren’t even positive which one, are you? That’s the team that just beat the Stars 4-2. A team of ghosts, Niklas Kronwall’s kid and the wonderful Trevor Daley....and I am now being told that that actually was just the same Niklas Kronwall from like thirty years ago, not his kid. Haha, good one, fellas. Buncha kidders, lololo
So, eh, I wouldn’t panic yet. The Stars have themselves some multifaceted road demons to slay, and just because they haven’t done it yet doesn’t mean they won’t. Teams lose to bad ones and beat the good ones all the time! Well, some teams do. At least, I’ve heard it can happen. I’ll let you know when the Stars show they can beat someone besides the dregs of the Pacific or the Jets, once.
But vitriol and grumpypantness won’t solve everything, even if catharsis seems like a solution in the moment. Gemel Smith and Justin Dowling are tied with Brett Ritchie and Mattias Janmark in points while playing in only three games so far! That has to be good, or else I am an idiot, and what are the odds of that.
But yeah. Something something, uh, the lows help you appreciate the highs, and Alex Radulov is coming back. Ah, yes, there it is. Alex Radulov! He’s coming back! Well now, ain’t that the stuff. And hey, Stephen Johns is working his way back in the nearish future. The depth scoring is sort of there, and I’d much rather be waiting for the superstars to wake up than hoping for the depth to save everyone’s bacon, yeah? If it’s a matter of “More Try,” then I am fairly certain the world-class athletes can muster that. We’ve seen it from some of them a whole lot, and all of them some. I mean, even somewhat bad teams can’t stumble their way into losses all the time, right? Okay, cool, good talk. Glad we’re all cheered up again. Pip pip and all that. At least you’re not a Dodgers fan, 30 years and counting from your team’s last championship. Wouldn’t that be miserable.