Some teams take success and run with it. Other teams take success and let it get in their own way. The former kind of team has consistency and get the results to back up their success and hype. The other kind are inconsistent, bordering-on-mediocre teams with inconsistent results.
You don’t have to do more than watch one 60-minute game by the Dallas Stars to know which kind they are.
“Our troubles come from when we have success,” Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery said after tonight’s inconsistent effort versus the Washington Capitals as he looks to another week-long road trip away from home ice. “We get way too comfortable and we have games like we did tonight. That’s the history of our season, and it’s really the history of the last three years. It’s not the road. It’s our mentality. We don’t change at the right times. Our shifts are too long. Anytime we face adversity, we don’t dig in. We take shortcuts. That’s why we’re an inconsistent hockey team.”
Montgomery said the bench tonight was very quiet without captain Jamie Benn there, and indicated that the guys wearing letters (Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg, and Jason Spezza tonight) need to be more vocal in those situations. He also said there’s work to do on identifying the secondary core of leaders to help in situations like this as well.
Tonight, the Stars had an inconsistent effort against a team that played last night. On home ice, they should have been able to have a better effort. Instead, they had a good first period and another 40 minutes in which the starting goaltender was spectacular and kept the team in it to be able to collect the extra point by forcing overtime.
Without Anton Khudobin tonight, the effort the Stars had would not have gotten them a win. Plain and simple. Now what the team does in response to these pointed, somber thoughts from their head coach is yet to be determined. But while a 3-0-1 home stand is nothing to sneeze at, the real test is whether they can continue to stick to their game plan when they go on the road again.
The best word I could come up with to describe the start of this one is “clunky”. It just looked a little disjointed and had two big moments of terror if you’re a Stars fan early on. Those were courtesy of some point-blank chances on Anton Khudobin.
It was one of those “oh, so this is how tonight is going to go” moments.
Luckily, Khudobin was more than on top of things to start even if the team in front of him was not. The amount of time that the team struggles to get going in games seems to be getting less in this stretch of games. However, I’m starting to wonder if they’re focusing so much on the start that they kind of forget about the rest of the 60 minutes.
Dallas did draw two power plays in the first period. The first attempt was nothing to write home about, as seems to be the case so often with the man advantage these days. (And no, that is not a result of missing Jamie Benn tonight either, though it certainly did not help.)
The second chance was the most dangerous of the two, not because of anything Dallas did but rather who was in the box for Washington. Alexander Ovechkin was sent to the box for boarding Esa Lindell. That is not the guy you want coming out on the back end of the penalty. Tyler Seguin made sure that wasn’t a concern as he shot a puck straight from the bottom of the circle to the right of Pheonix Copley into the back of the net, the only goal that would be scored in the first 20 minutes.
What led to that goal was the relentlessness the Stars showed on the puck leading into that power play chance. They had sticks in lanes, caused a lot of turnovers by breaking up passes, and were aggressive on the puck carriers to force turnovers that way as well. That really helped build the momentum for Dallas to that goal, and the Stars held the advantage in goals (1) and shots on goal (15-5) by the end of the first period.
Again, the Stars did not put together a full 60-minute effort. Surprisingly, they were dominated in the second period – something they usually own this season. The Capitals seemed to find their skating legs after the first 20 minutes, and the Stars couldn’t seem to find the offensive zone as a result.
The tying goal by Lars Eller was a direct result of the Stars getting hemmed into their own zone. He backhanded one right over Khudobin, a shot that was very difficult for the netminder to make a save on. It was made possible by a Andre Burakovsky screen in front of Khudobin, a screen that came from the fact that not a single Stars player had him covered on the ice during the development of the play.
Khudobin was the difference-maker in this period, though, as the score easily could have been 3-1 by the end of the second period. His most spectacular save might have ocme on a Chandler Stephenson shorthanded chance. It kept Dallas from allowing their first shorthanded goal of the season. Only them and the Vegas Golden Knights have not allowed one so far this year.
The third period seemed to continue the trend from the second period, though neither team was really dominant for the first half of the period. It almost looked as though both teams had played the night before, which if you’re Dallas, is an indictment on the way in which the team was skating. They did seem to get better as the period moved past the seven minute mark.
That is, until the parade to the penalty box started.
Dallas loaded up the Washington power play three full times in the latter half of the period. The penalty killing was quite strong, even spending some time in the offensive zone during one of them. While they never looked dangerous enough to have a true shorthanded chance, it was effective in the goal of keeping the Capitals’ shooters away from the offensive net.
Copley and Khudobin were monumental for their teams in this game, with Copley making 24 saves on 25 total shots in regulation and Khudobin coming up with 33 on 34 shots.
All I could think about as overtime got ready to get underway was how fast the last overtime the Stars played ended. On New Year’s Eve, the Stars lost the opening faceoff of the 3-on-3 extra time and just like that the game was over. With a deep Washington team on the other side, this overtime had the potential to end really quickly as well – or be really fun.
Khudobin opted for super fun.
The Stars netminder was a brick wall, making a snazzy glove save and glaring down the opposition on one save and coming up big on another. Radulov and Seguin made his great performance stand up by sealing the extra point after Radulov setup a backdoor chance by Seguin, who buried his second of the night.
Seguin must be liking 2019 already. After all, 19 was his number before coming to Dallas where it is retired. Maybe it portends a better second half for the top center in Big D.