There are novels that captivate you from the first page, that suck you into the characters and the storyline, that you keep saying “just one more chapter” even though you should have been in bed over an hour ago.
Then there are others that don’t grab you from the start, but grow on you. You may not stay up until the early hours to read it, but you’ll finish to know what happens in the story and to the characters.
Then there’s the third kind of novel, the one that you can’t get into no matter how many times you try. Regardless of how many people tell you it gets better, or that the story or character development is worth the investment of your time. These ones sit on your shelf, with a bookmark signaling you made it eight chapters in. Occasionally you’ll pick it back up and try to continue the thread of the story forward, but more often than not, it gets passed up for better, more entertaining stories.
Right now, the Dallas Stars feel a lot like that third kind of novel.
It started with the puck drop tonight, where the Stars won the opening faceoff and took the puck into the offensive zone. A turnover later and a high wrist shot from Adam Fox off an Artemi Panarin pass put the New York Rangers up 1-0 just 19 seconds into the game. It was the fastest goal allowed to open a game by the Stars so far this season.
The Rangers kept on the attack, and the Stars barely kept on their heels. After pretty much dominating the first half of the game, the Blueshirts struck again when Mika Zibanejad drove to the front of the net with Blake Comeau. He managed to take a pass from Brendan Lemieux from behind the net and put it past Comeau and Ben Bishop.
Honestly, the Stars were lucky to be down only two goals as the first period ended.
The second period was a repeat of the first, and another in a line of seven-plus periods of hockey where Dallas hasn’t looked like the Stars of February. It felt like the team was just disjointed and not playing as a five-man unit in any of the three zones. Two goals by Kaapo Kakko, who hadn’t scored since early February, put the game all but out of reach for the Stars in the middle frame. The first came after four Stars players converged on the puck carriers.
This is not ideal defending. Look at all that puck watching.
Once Brett Howden broke out of this look, the Stars got caught too high in their zone to do anything of note to stop the goal-scoring play. Bishop getting caught on the side of his net left the cage wide open for Kakko to score into.
His second goal was much like that one. After turning the puck over in the neutral zone, the Stars get puck-watching again, this time with Esa Lindell forgetting about Kakko on the backdoor. A feed across the ice from Zibanejad after Bishop got caught playing high in his crease in anticipation of the shot from the slot gave Kakko an easy little dance to the net right around the sprawled stick of Bishop.
At least the Stars can take something good out of this one: they finally ended their goalless streak. It had gotten all the way up to 175:49 in the time between goals scored by a Dallas player, broken by Roope Hintz off a slick feed from Miro Heiskanen from behind the net on the power play the team opened the third period with. They then ended their even-strength goal scoring drought of 262:54 between the last and Andrew Cogliano’s tally. The Stars’ second goal was a diving shoveling effort by Cogliano, the kind of greasy goal scored when you’re in the crease area and you’ve generated some traffic around the net.
But the efforts in the third period were too little, too late. The hole they dug themselves was too much to overcome in just 20 short minutes of play, and the Stars extended their winless streak to six. It’s not quite the 1-7-1 stretch to start the season, but 0-4-2 isn’t much better, either.
With their win tonight, the Nashville Predators sit just four points behind the Stars in the standings now, as do the Winnipeg Jets (though Dallas has a game in hand on them). If they haven’t found a reason to feel the desperation of this time of year yet, that should be the dousing of ice water on their collective heads to wake up.
This team hasn’t done anything yet, and it’s time to start playing like it — before the rest of the regular season becomes like the novel fans cannot get into no matter how hard they try.