A few years ago, Navy Seal Jocko Willink gave a talk at my company’s annual meeting. The theme was “Default Aggressive”, and he applied that phrase to the decisions leaders in companies make, how you approach new business, and things of that nature.
When watching this game, I had to wonder – did the Dallas Stars get a “Default Aggressive” talk from Willink between the road trip and this first of a three-game home stand?
They came out and played possibly the most aggressive period of hockey that we’ve witnessed in at least a month’s time. But it’s not like they haven’t played a good period and then completely fell flat the rest of the game, so it would be understandable if Stars fans were skeptical of whether the effort would continue for a full 60 minutes.
Dallas proved why that skepticism remains prevalent among Stars fans when they allowed a three goals in the third period to lose — again.
From the drop of the puck, Dallas played with aggression. On the puck, off the puck, on the body, at the goal mouth. They were rewarded early with a goal by Esa Lindell less than 2:30 into the period that seemed to absolutely freeze Tuukka Rask in net. The Stars continued playing the period as if they were down a goal, with nearly every member of the team being a puck hound at one point or another in the first 20 minutes.
On their two power play chances, the Stars put up eight total shots on goal. Unfortunately, they never found the second goal they worked so hard for in the first period. The Bruins penalty kill was allowing the shots, but Rask was more than up to the task to bail his team out and keep the game at 1-0 through one.
In total, Dallas put up 17 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes. That’s a rate of shooting I’d be hard pressed to remember seeing in a period lately, to be honest – at least in terms of the rate of quality shots they seemed to put up against Rask in that frame.
The kind of aggressive play didn’t show up right at the beginning of the period, as Dallas committed an infraction to put themselves on the penalty kill. But as the period went along, the two teams played one another quite evenly in the period.
Until the Jamie Benn shorthanded goal show came on in the last minute of the period, that is.
That goal was vintage Benn. It embodied the kind of aggressiveness the Stars had played the whole game with to that point. In a season in which the captain has scored 28 goals now, a lot of them were in a quiet manner, without the typical “Beast Mode Benn” Stars fans are used to seeing. For tonight, though, he was able to find that speed, and left Stars fans wishing for more.
The Bruins weren’t going to be held off the board forever, and they set a tone for the third period by scoring an early goal of their own. It was a little bit questionable based on the angles I saw in the arena – it seemed like the Stars could have had a solid case for goaltender interference. Kari Lehtonen’s stick seemed to get stuck in the skates of a Bruins player standing right on the top of his crease. However, the puck dropped quite fast after the goal was scored, and the game went on with the Bruins having cut the Stars’ lead in half.
Not to be outshone by the Stars tonight, the Bruins then called the Stars’ own playbook and scored a shorthanded goal on a power play half-way through the period.
It was the result of a weird bounce out to center ice off of Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg getting stuck having to defend a 2-on-1 against his goaltender. Klingberg took the shoot option away from Brad Marchand, forcing him to make a cross-ice pass to Tim Schaller. Lehtonen came aggressively out of his crease, and sprawled to the ground on his shot fake, leaving more than enough space for Schaller to carry the puck past his leg pad and slip it into the net for an easy shorthanded goal to tie the game.
Schaller goes to the backhand to tie the game. pic.twitter.com/VhWCBiNRhE— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) March 24, 2018
Just like that, the aggressive style the Stars had been playing had come back to bite them in the hind end.
After the tying goal, they continued to fight for the loose pucks and put shots towards the net every chance they had. But Lehtonen would get beat in nearly an identical way as the shorthanded goal with 11 seconds left to go in the game.
It was a punch to the throat of every Stars fan in the building. They had a two-goal lead heading into the last 20 minutes, and they couldn’t find a way to salvage even a single point from tonight’s contest when they desparately need them — and the teams in front of them playing tonight earned points to add to the separation in standings.
The Stars have a tough hill to climb now, steeper than it was this morning.