HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
Roope Hintz has been playing through an injury that the coaching staff has described as something that will make him a constant game-time decision. Because it reportedly cannot be made worse by playing on it, Hintz has been in the lineup when he’s able to go this season. When he’s in, Hintz provides a huge jolt to the team through big plays and big goals.
He did it again tonight, slipping a puck through Andrei Vasilevskiy’s five hole on a great rush at the net. It was the opening goal of the game, giving Dallas a lead over Tampa for the first time since Game 5 of last fall’s Stanley Cup Final.
“WE HAVE THE GAME PLAN.”
Or so said Andrew Cogliano after the game. Unfortunately, the Stars didn’t follow it for the full 60 minutes tonight — a not uncommon refrain, if you’ve been paying attention this year. Esa Lindell said after the game that the team sat back in the middle frame, something that plays into the opponent’s game plan a lot more than the Stars’.
It showed, with the Stars registering just one shot on goal in the middle frame.
Though they had been up thanks to an early lead from Roope Hintz, the penalty kill got punctured by one of the deadliest power plays in the league. The Steven Stamkos shot deflected off of Andrej Sekera’s leg and through Antoin Khudobin’s fivehole to tie the game.
Rick Bowness said the two big things you don’t do against the Lightning are turn the puck over in the neutral zone and sit back. He said they did both of those things tonight, and that’s how they lost the game. The second goal against came on a turnover by Radek Faksa at his own blueline which put John Klingberg in an awkward coverage position with Esa Lindell getting caught up the ice. He made an initial block, which appeared to sting his hand, and then got beat in the rebound that spit right back out to Yanni Gourde.
The Stars earned a 1:29 stint of 5-on-3 man advantage late in the third period, down a goal in the contest. The Stars could not find a tying goal if they had a map and a flashlight tonight, with many of the point shots easily blocked by the Tampa defenders.
It was also easy to guess what they were looking for: a one-timer from Joe Pavelski or a tipped Klingberg shot. Neither of those came to fruition, and the Stars missed a key opportunity to secure a point in the game.
Bowness said that the power play lacked creativity, and they didn’t create anything. He “didn’t like it at all.” Regardless of who is and isn’t in the lineup right now, the Stars’ special teams have been atrocious for a lot of the year — and a lot of that is structure-related. The penalty kill box collapses too easily, the power play is too tentative when it needs to be bold and get those goals in the key moments of the game.
Because of the hole the Stars have dug themselves early in the season, and now that the team has played half of their games, it’s not too early to start getting fearful of what impact the result of other games could have on the Stars’ playoff chances. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Florida Panthers. With four games in hand, Dallas now finds themselves five points out of that fourth spot in the Central. The Nashville Predators also picked up a win, putting them three points ahead of the Stars with four more games played.