What, collectively, have the Dallas Stars been doing to garner so much poor luck from the hockey gods these days?
In three round robin games and an exhibition game since the season resumed, the Stars have been shut out in 10 of 12 periods. They’ve scored just four goals, and it’s only that high thanks to a five-minute stretch in the game in which the team played the Vegas Golden Knights — and subsequently coughed up a 3-1 lead to lose 5-3.
There are a couple of positives the team can take into the opening game of their first round matchup with the Vancouver Canucks from today’s game, which saw the team get back to their usual defensive stoutness and solid penalty killing abilities.
The Stars actually had arguably their best start to a game today, seemingly playing with the puck on their sticks for the first three-plus minutes of play and dictating the tempo early. Good feelings that result from a start like that were not long for this world, however, when the St. Louis Blues executed on a 3-on-2 to score a goal early.
It was the eighth time in the last eight games played by the Stars that they allowed the first goal to the opponent. They have lost all eight of those.
Dallas nearly ended the period down 2-0 when Vince Dunn was able to walk right into the middle of the ice and get Anton Khudobin to open his fivehole just enough to slip the puck right through. However, video coach Kelly Forbes was on the case and the team immediately challenged that the goal was offside.
Upon further review, it was indeed offside by nearly an entire stride. Kelly Forbes continues to be the real GOAT of the Stars organization.
The last time Kelly Forbes got an offside challenge wrong? Jan. 16, 2016. Today was the ninth correct one in a row.— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) August 9, 2020
The middle frame was full of special teams work. While the first couple of Stars power play chances left a lot to be desired, the team started to give themselves some momentum on the man advantage as the period wore on. However, they still went 0-for-6, which is completely awful results-wise.
On the flip side of special teams, the Stars killed off a number of Blues chances as well. At times in the game today, the Stars actually looked better playing down a man than they did at any other point of the game. The kill was aggressive and actually generated a chance or two shorthanded. They also limited the Blues’ chances on the power play, a positive the team can take with them heading into the first round.
In the second period, Sammy Blais got a two-minute boarding penalty as a result of a hit he threw on Andrej Sekera by his own bench. It was initially called a five-minute major on the ice, which allowed the referees to determine whether the major should remain. After reviewing the play, the referees reduced the penalty to a two-minute major.
For what it’s worth, I think the right call was made. Blais made a dangerous hit and it deserved to be a penalty. However, Sekera also appeared to turn his body at the last second, which likely made the hit worse than it maybe could have been. I think it also helped that Sekera popped right back up and wasn’t injured on the play in determining not to uphold the major called on the ice. Blais was injured on the hit, and he went down the tunnel to be examined. He was not on the ice or Blues bench when the third period began.
The Stars continued to look for a tying goal, but got nothing until 30 seconds remaining in the game. After the near-misses, it was nice to see Joe Pavelski give the Stars the tying goal to force overtime. It was made possible by Jamie Benn providing a big screen for Jake Allen to look through. Pavelski’s shot picked the corner right over Allen’s shoulder.
What was really frustrating about the sequence, though, was how still the Stars were on the ice with the extra attacker as a result of having pulled Khudobin. They didn’t really move much even within their set positions, which didn’t force the Blues to have to work hard to close down lanes and keep seams from opening up. It’s not unlike how they looked on some of the power play looks as well. Benn was singled out specifically by the broadcast crew for how stationary he was.
Especially with an extra man advantage, moving gives the team a better chance of being able to take advantage of defensive breakdowns. That’s how goal scoring occurs more times than not in a league that is so talented.
To be honest, it felt like the Stars pretty much dominated the overtime. They had a couple of good looks at Allen, but the five minutes of 3-on-3 wasn’t enough for either team to find the game winner. Unlike traditional playoff games, round robin games that were tied at the end of regulation followed regular season overtime rules. Which means....
The Blues, as the home team this game, got to choose whether they shot first or last in the shootout. They elected to go first, with David Perron taking the first shot which Khudobin stopped. Dallas put Joe Pavelski (the only goal scorer of the game) as the first shooter, and Allen stopped him. Vladimir Tarasenko, who returned from his major injury for the postseason as a result of the long pause (he wouldn’t have been ready most likely under normal circumstances), was also stopped by Khudobin. Denis Gurianov became the eventual winner of this one when he deposited the puck fivehole on Allen on the second round of the shootout. Khudobin’s stop of Ryan O’Reilly means we’ll never know who would have been the shooter in the three spot.
As a result of their win today, the Stars move up to the third seed in the West and will draw the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs. St. Louis, who entered the seeding round as the first seed, drops to fourth and will get the Vancouver Canucks in round one.
Even with this piece of fun trivia, there’s still something to be said for the Stars ending their 10-game tailspin with a win today (and even if it doesn’t really impact them all that much in terms of outcomes):