The game last night between the Anaheim Ducks and the Dallas Stars was a fun one to watch -- the only problem is that the end result was not one that we would have preferred to see.
There were a lot of things that the Stars did right last night in order to give them a chance to win. They generated a number of high quality scoring chances, the defense made smart plays, and Kari Lehtonen was spectacular in mopping up any messes left behind.
Unfortunately, things did not go their way last night. There were a number of crazy calls on the ice, including four goal reviews and an early whistle. That's a lot more than you would usually see in a single game, and because of it, it may be what the majority of fans take away from this one.
But the reality is that the refs were not the ones that kept the Stars from getting the win.
Okay, sure, that early whistle was a hard one to take. But if you look at the play itself, the ref is positioned in just the right spot to not see the puck get loose. And in 99.99% of all cases, it was an easy dump in that the goalie gloves down without punching it directly back to an opposing player.
The rest of the calls though, no matter how frustrating, were spot on. Full credit goes to the refs for being in the proper position in order to see that those pucks did not cross the line, and to make the right call immediately. It isn't their fault if the fans (and even some of the players) were ready to celebrate prematurely.
With the amount of waved-off goals last night, it is easy to chalk the loss up to bad luck. But the players refuse to do that. Instead, according to Mike Heika, they are accepting responsibility for their loss. And that is something a playoff caliber team does.
Worst of all, the Stars appeared to have the go-ahead goal when Derek Roy crashed the net in the second period, flipped in a puck that was laying front of Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller, and had the goal called off. Referee Marc Joanette was behind the goal, lost sight of the puck, and blew his whistle. That's the rule, it's there to protect the goalie, and Joanette truly believed Hiller had the puck covered.
So despite the Stars doing everything right, there was no goal and the game remained tied.
And Dallas could have said that's why it lost Thursday, but neither the coaches nor players would fall on excuses.
"Those things are unfortunate. They happen. People make mistakes,'' said captain Brenden Morrow. "Marc made a mistake on that one. He was a little quick on his whistle. But we needed to step up and our power play needed to step up. We had plenty of opportunities to find one. We didn't. It's on us."
And that might be the best thing heard all season.
The Stars could have whined or complained or simply rationalized, but they didn't. They took the blame, they took the criticism, they took the responsibility because responsibility is what good teams embrace.
While it's easy to point the finger at the refs, the players know that they blew many of their own chances too.
The Stars outshot the Ducks 16-4 in the final period and in overtime, yet failed to cash in. The opportunities were there, but they just couldn't capitalize on those chances.
What's worse, they were once again scoreless on the power play, a disturbing trend over the last several games, especially considering how well things were clicking before. And that may be one of the biggest pieces of blame for the loss last night, at least according to Glen Gulutzan.
Too many times on this road to uncertainty, the Stars wanted to blame bad luck or bad officiating or bad circumstances. Heck, just recently, they couldn't really own up to foolish decisions in losses to Nashville and Edmonton. They gave cursory lip service, but they didn't really embrace the mistakes.
But that wasn't the case in a 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim.
No, the Stars were actually harder on themselves than anyone else.
Here's Stars coach Glen Gulutzan: "My first take is it was a little sloppy. Turnovers in the first caused a few chances for them. Specialty teams, they created more when we were on the power play than we did, and I know that after the second period they had 10 shots on goal on their power play. We need to look at our specialty teams to see why we are giving up chances when we are on the power play."
The Stars went 0-for-5 with the man advantage, and failed to cash in late with the game on the line. Never mind that Jaromir Jagr hit a post in the final three minutes, a shot that could have changed the whole night, Gulutzan wanted more.
When it's all said and done, this game was a vast improvement over the previous loss to the Predators. The Stars were strong in a lot of areas in their game. But they still have to be better -- If they want to make the playoffs, it is required that they be better.
At this point in the season, no one knows that more than them. And that fact may be exactly what helps them improve enough to get there.
Coming up in today's links: More on last night's game, trade rumors and predictions,
- Mark Stepneski has his thoughts from last night's game as well. [Stars Inside Edge]
- The Stars may get the biggest benefit out of this realignment, but there are several other teams who are just as thankful as they are that it happened. [Star Telegram]
- Pierre LeBrun has the latest trade rumblings, including the Flames possibly sending Iginla to the Kings. [ESPN]
- Here's some more trade rumors, plus some second half of the season predictions. [NHL]
- Do suspensions, especially for headshots, need to be longer? If they want to send a message and truly eliminate them from the game, they probably do. [Sports Illustrated]
- The Stars' division rival (!!) Jets have a raucous crowd up there. They're quickly becoming famous for their chanting and mocking of the other team. They were up to it again last night, taunting John Totorella. [Puck Daddy]
- To stay up to date on some of the other games, and some great highlights, here's the three stars of last night. Make sure you check out the Patrick Kane shootout goal. If only the Stars could have done something like that last night... [Puck Daddy]
- Speaking of Tortorella, he is your video of the day. Sports Center threw together the top 10 highlights of things he has said to the media. I couldn't stop laughing/grimacing throughout the whole thing. (While there is some strong language, it's all bleeped out, so take that for what you will.)