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Dallas Opens Traverse City Play with 6-2 Loss to Leafs

After promising start, Stars wilt under Toronto pressure.

Vegas Golden Knights v Dallas Stars Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

The Dallas Stars came into the 2022 Traverse City Prospects Tournament with tremendous offensive talent, but quite a few question marks on defense. If the teams opening game is any indication, the Stars are just as advertised.

Opening Lines

Antonio Stranges (71) - Mavrik Bourque (45) - Riley Damiani (13)
Matej Blumel (22) - Wyatt Johnston (53) - Logan Stankoven (57)
Fredrik Karlstrom (51) - Oskar Back (37) - Connor Roulette (52)
Francesco Arcuri (54) - Logan Morrison (73) - Justin Ertel (62)

Michael Karow (81) - Christian Kyrou (61)
Artem Grushnikov (59) - Gavin White (74)
Jacob Holmes (60) - Dawson Barteaux (65)

Matt Murray (32)

Power Play 1 - Kyrou, Stankoven, Karlstrom, Johnston, Bourque
Power Play 2 - White, Strangis, Blumel, Damiani, Back

First Period

From opening puck drop, Dallas ran an aggressive forecheck and pinned the Leafs in their defensive zone. The Stars opened with Fredrik Karlstom and Oskar Back (Captain and Alternate Captains, along with Riley Damiani), with Connor Roulette on the right wing.

Dallas committed two up front, which creates more pressure than the one man attack that Dallas ran last year. The Stars were able to generate chances, but it was the Leafs who struck first on the rush, with Pavel Gogolev burying a weakside rebound off a Max Ellis shot at 15:11.

Dallas tied it up at 10:46 off a steal, with Blumel finishing it off after a feed from Johnston. Momentum was on the Stars side when Gogolev was called for a high stick a minute later, putting the team on their first power play. Both units were able to establish themselves in the Leafs zone, but neither could generate any high danger chances.

Stankoven put the Stars in the lead at 4:10 on the rush, scoring off his own rebound. The goal was announced as unassisted, but Johnston deserved an assist after an aggressive check at the blue line freed the puck and he was able to push it to the streaking Stankoven.

Dallas got a second power play at the end of the period on an interference call, but Kyrou gave it right back when he slashed the stick out of a defenders hands on a zone entry.

Stars 2 - Leafs 1
Shots - 12-9 Stars

Second Period

The Maple Leafs came out with energy to start the second period, and they pinned Dallas in their own zone. Dallas couldn’t clear the puck, got stuck on the ice, chased puck carriers and in general had trouble sorting out assignments.

The result was somewhat predictable. Toronto scored four goals, either from failed clears or wingers pealing down the slot, basically unopposed. A Robertson scored, but it was Jason’s brother Nick.

Dallas did have a few chances, the first off a Grushnikov floater that Arcuri couldn’t quite put home and the second on a breakaway by Stankoven. Keith Petruzzelli came up big on the Stankoven chance, making an acrobatic glove save from point blank range.

The period ended fittingly with the Stars blowing up on a puck retrieval behind the net, where Pontus Holmberg was able to find Semyon Der-Arguchintsi following up down the slot. Murray couldn’t get the five hole closed in time and the puck leaked into the net.

Stars 2 - Leafs 5
Shots - 17-2 Maple Leafs

Third Period

Lines went into the blender, with a few promotions/demotions.

Karlsrom - Stankoven - Blumel
Johnston - Bourque - Damiani
Arcuri - Back - Strangis
Roulette - Morrison - Ertel

As you might expect, the Stars were able to generate a few more chances as the game loosened up. Dallas picked up a third power play after a Max Ellis interference call, and the first unit generated quite a few quality chances, but none of them found the back of the net.

Once again, the Stars couldn’t sort out assignments in their defensive zone, and Graham Slaggert finished off a nice backhand from inside the left dot to complete the scoring.

Stars 2 - Maple Leafs 6
Shots - 13-9 Stars

Final Thoughts

Defensively, this team is a mess. On Thursday, the Grushnikov-White pairing was probably the best and Holmes-Barteaux the worst, but frankly nobody was all that good. The Leafs forecheck threw them off their game and they never recovered. Slow decisions turned into forced turnovers and fast decisions became passes to open space, where Toronto was quicker to the puck.

Matt Murray didn’t have a bad game. The last goal is probably one that he wants back, and he gave up a juicy rebound for the first goal, but overall he kept the team in the game for most of the second period and made some pretty spectacular saves. That period easily could have ended with Dallas down six or seven.

Offensively, the talent level is high end. Johnston looked particularly good as did Blumel and Stankoven. Karlstrom’s experience showed and he ended up in the middle of the action on both ends - what you would expect from a team leader. When a team spends the majority of their time on ice in the defensive zone, there isn’t much more to say (unless that situation continues, in which case we may end up with a deep dive into the hidden talents of Karlstom and Back).

Toronto brought a team with perhaps less talent than the Stars, but quite a bit more experience. Winning isn’t necessarily the primary objective here and the team should be able to take some lessons from the game. The team has Friday off, and they don’t play again until they face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. Plenty of time repairs.