The Dallas Stars have dropped below the .500 mark on their 2021 season, dropping to 6-7-4 after being shutout by the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second game in a row. But unlike the 5-0 shellacking the team took on Saturday, they played well enough tonight at even strength to “not walk away with nothing”, as Joe Pavelski told the media after the game.
Here’s why he said that (all courtesy of Natural Stat Trick):
At even strength the Stars:
*Out-chanced the Lightning 25-14
*Had the advantage in high-danger scoring chances 13-4
*Had an expected goals for of 2.31 with an expected goals against of 0.89
The negative side for tonight’s game is that the penalty kill is ultimately what cost them the game. Otherwise, we’d likely be looking at a 0-0 shutout duel based on how successful Dallas was at keeping Tampa out of the offensive zone at even strength. On the game’s first power play for the Lightning, they scored just 10 seconds in to put them up 1-0 early in the first period.
But there are some positives that can be taken from the penalty kill tonight, unlike the last game played between these two.
Dallas seemed to gain some confidence on the second penalty kill opportunity, when the Lightning did not extend their lead. Unfortunately, the issue with a game like the one played tonight is that the Stars should not have continued to put themselves into a position to kill penalties. It was especially damaging when Nicholas Caamano got a double minor with about 8:30 left in the third period. Though they were able to kill both penalties, it sucked up half of the time needed to find a tying goal in the game.
The other side of the special teams equation was also MIA in yet another game, given opportunities to turn the tides of another contest. One positive to take from the man advantage is that the Stars were able to get some decent zone entries and penetrate the Tampa structure. However, Andrei Vasilevskiywas there to clean up the rare times the team in front of him broke down on the penalty kill.
At the end of the day, the moral victories ring hollow when the Stars are on streak of one win over the past month. The players are frustrated, the coaching staff is frustrated, and the fans are frustrated. As the pace picks up on the Stars’ schedule, the games in hand that the team has to make up ground and get back into the playoff picture are only worthwhile if they actually put some points in the bank.
But if they can continue playing like tonight at 5-on-5, they’ll set themselves up to do that — and give them a chance to get their special teams back on track.