Not since the third game of the season in Detroit has Dallas won a game in regulation. In fact, in their previous 6 games, they only have one win, and that was a shootout victory over division rival, Phoenix Coyotes. So, even when they win, they still are giving their divisional foes points. In a shortened 48-game season, giving up points to conference opponents, let alone divisional enemies will make for a short spring.
So, last night’s victory against the Colorado Avalanche, though a team decimated by injuries and holdouts (leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly continues to miss games with a contract dispute) should still warrant some momentum as Dallas heads up to Edmonton to face the Oilers tomorrow night for the first of three meetings this month.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still areas of concern, most notably the 2nd period. Through last night, the Stars are tied for 3rd to last in the league in 2nd period scoring with 6 goals. On the flip side of the coin, Dallas is tied for giving up the 2nd most goals in the middle frame with 13. That’s a -7 in goal differential. The 3rd period is slightly better at -3 (4GF/7GA) and the first period is what has kept the Stars in games so far. Dallas has started off relatively strong, having a +5 goal differential.
A wise hockey player once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” That guy took a lot of shots. He also scored more than any player in the NHL. The Stars would benefit from employing that philosophy. In regards to shots, Dallas is 2nd to last in the league with an average of 24.6 shots for per game (ahead of Nashville) and are giving up the 3rd most shots against with 33.8. You wouldn’t know it, but Kari Lehtonen’s blocker is white…at least it started off that way.
So, again, last night may have seen a turnaround in philosophy. Though they were still outshot for the game, Dallas kept the margin close (with the exception of that 2nd period) by trailing Colorado, 26 shots to 31. The margin was not as wide as the previous games, but most of all, Kari wasn’t forced to make 40+ saves. Much of the shot differential could stem from the outrageous number of penalties this team is still taking. Despite moves to add more skill and take away some of the brut penalties that Dallas has become accustomed to the last few years, this team is actually leading the league in minor penalties taken. In major penalties, Dallas sits 3rd from the bottom with 3.
Well, that’s a good thing, right? Dallas isn’t taking a lot of severe penalties or getting into fights. Well, maybe that’s not a good thing. Of the 3 majors, rookie defenseman, Brenden Dillon has 2 of them (Eric Nystrom has the other). The Stars are taking more “out of position” penalties like hooking, holding and interference infractions. Perhaps a couple of more fights might not be such a bad thing. Maybe the other teams in the West need to be sent a message that you can’t just camp in front of the net and light Lehtonen up with shots all night.
I think as time goes on, Dallas will gel together and build a deeper chemistry with one another where those “out of position” penalties will start to decrease as players start having a feel where everyone is on the ice. We started seeing that last night. Jamie Benn’s first goal was just simply a product of him being a badass. Benn forced a turnover at the Avalanche blue line and then carried it in by himself and went blocker low on Varlamov. It was the Brendan Morrow goal and Benn’s 2nd goal in which puck movement created scoring chances. There’s no doubt this team can pass, all you have to do is look at the shot differential. But now that this team has a month under its belt, perhaps our scorers will start firing the puck more and the grinders will be there for the rebounds.
If it doesn’t start happening more consistently like last night, then don’t plan on hockey in May.