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Stark Reminders: Pivots and Pucks Galore

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Well, that was — something.

Dallas Stars v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Look, we all knew it couldn’t last forever. And yet, it was still a shock when the Dallas Stars’ win streak came to a sudden, screeching halt. To be honest, I didn’t expect the loss to be quite that bad whenever it did eventually happen. Then again, when the Dallas Stars decide to crash down from Mount Olympus to join us mere mortals, they really crash down.

Unlike my previous “Stark Reminders” for the season, this isn’t a happy one. This is a truly stark set of reminders where the Stars absolutely have to improve before facing Carolina again later tonight.

Reminder No. 1: Pivot!

I’ve written about it before during the playoffs, but the Stars absolutely cannot get sucked into “puck vision” in their own end. Both of Carolina’s goals early in the first period were aided or wholly produced by the Stars losing sight of the full field of play. During the last season (and longer, if we’re being completely honest), the Stars have developed the habit of focusing on the puck almost exclusively to the point that they forget about the other opposing forwards on the ice not currently handling the puck. This becomes especially dangerous when trying to defend off a transition rush into the zone (Vincent Trocheck’s first goal of the game), or try to dig the puck out in front of the net (his second goal).

For example, let’s break down the first goal by Trocheck. The play begins on a rush into the zone as the puck gets passed to Martin Necas. The Stars then focus on Necas as he skates for the back of the net, looking for all intents to be planning a wraparound shot. Necas spots Trocheck in a transition lane across the front of the net and snaps the puck to him. Trocheck fires and the puck goes in while the Stars are still tracking Necas’ path as he slings around behind the net and out the other side.

By that point, it’s too late to do anything about Trocheck and the Stars are down 1-0 early in the game. The Stars can’t afford to get so focused on the puck that they forget to track incoming players with wide-open lanes. To do so courts disaster. This puck vision cost them games in the Edmonton playoff bubble, and it cost them several goals in this game against Carolina.

Thankfully, it’s a relatively easy fix. The Stars need to remember to keep their heads on a swivel — or pivot, if we want to go with the Friends reference — and track not just the puck, but players in dangerous positions in their own end. Doing so will prevent future gaps that can be exploited by the opposing team.

Reminder to the Stars to pivot.

Reminder No. 2: No, Seriously, Pivot!

What was I just saying about pivoting? The Stars appear not to have learned from the errors that led to Trocheck’s first goal.

Let’s break down the second Trocheck goal. Dallas was already down a player due to a penalty called on Klingberg. So it was even more critical that they pay attention to where every Carolina player was when the puck popped loose in front of the Dallas net. Jordan Staal banked a shot at Khudobin’s right side and he blocked the initial attempt, sliding out to try to cover the puck. Instead, the puck was swallowed in a scramble of Dallas and Carolina players in front of him, with every player in a Dallas jersey focused, head down, on finding the puck. Meanwhile, several of the Carolina players set up shop in prime shooting lanes around the net and when the puck finally squeezed free of the huddle, Trocheck was there to bury it.

Again, keeping your head up on a swivel — excuse me, pivoting to keep your eye on who’s setting up around you is going to prevent a lot of misery on the scoresheet. If at least one of the Dallas players had kept his eyes not on the puck, he would have been able to clock Trocheck’s actions and shored up Khudobin’s weak spot to prevent the goal.

Reminder to the Stars to pivot, seriously.

Reminder No. 3: Stop! Taking! Penalties!

Before the game against Carolina, Dallas had been pretty good at staying out of the penalty box for the most part. However, in the first two periods against Carolina, Dallas took four penalties. Carolina scored on three of those. Not ideal. While a few penalties in each game can usually be attributed to clumsy execution, poor timing, or pure fluke, most of the penalties called on Dallas in this game were the result of exhaustion (five games in eight days), questionable execution, and well, some good old-fashioned choices by the officials.

The first goal for Carolina on a power play was the result of Justin Dowling slashing Morgan Geekie. Trocheck scored less than a minute later. The next penalty called on Dallas was on Radek Faksa for hooking Andrei Svechnikov. While this penalty didn’t result in a goal for Carolina, the next one did. Mark Pysyk tripped Necas and Svechnikov (with the help of Sebastian Aho) recorded the goal that sent Khudobin to the bench and prompted Jake Oettinger to enter the crease. After that, Dallas had to kill off Ty Dellandrea’s hooking of Trocheck before the end of the period. In the final quarter of the third period, the Stars went on their final penalty kill of the night after John Klingberg was called for interference on Jake Bean.

Five penalties. Three goals allowed.

Not good. And absolutely should not be repeated in the second game.

Reminder to the Stars to stop taking penalties (and especially tripping penalties).

The Stars wrap up the Carolina series later today with puck drop at 4 p.m. CST.