Thursday; 3-5, Regulation Loss vs. Hurricanes
While I am still
nearly as bullish as I was on Tuesday of the need to not panic for the Dallas Stars, this one stung. When Carolina Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele putted in the empty netter with under one minute left to ice the victory, the first thing I thought was; at least they did not lose by one. Having done so in four of the previous five contests. That is not a healthy mindset.
Dallas is 1-3-3 in their last seven contests and playing dangerously streaky hockey, nightly. We saw it for 12 minutes, give or take, in the second period on Thursday. On Tuesday it was the first 15 minutes. In a shortened season where each game is a conference opponent, there is little place in any divisions Top-4 for extended, uncertain ice hockey.
Head coach Rick Bowness followed this one up with the below.
"Our record could be a whole lot better than it is right now,” Bowness said. “That’ll even itself out. We’ve got 45 more games to go. It’ll even out. We keep playing like that, we’ll win more than we lose."
As I said and linked above, I do believe it’ll even out. I really do.
However, the Central Division is shaping up to be unpredictable this season. There are teams, namely the Florida Panthers playing above their pay-grade, so to speak, and large disparities between total games served. Neither of which aids a team as streaky as the Dallas Stars thus far.
Dallas continued their tepid first period showings on Thursday, leaving the opening frame down 0-1 off a Hurricanes Sebastian Aho power play tally. While the subsequent hooking penalty on Stars forward Radek Faksa was marginal; the Carolina goal was an exercise in defensive zone penetration. Three Hurricanes would touch the puck four times right down the pipe before Aho found the back of the net. In an unrelated note, that Carolina PP1 line of Trocheck-Staal-Aho with Dougie Hamilton trailing is scary.
Dallas has scored just four goals in the first period this season. While seven allowed over the same time is not overly dissimilar, Dallas has feasted to a 4-0-1 record when scoring first this season. That number becomes 1-3-2 in games where their opponent is on the scoreboard first.
Rick Bowness, purveyor of period ending/beginning pep-talks, breathed life into Dallas at the break as the second period was the Robertson-Hintz-Gurianov game show hour for the Stars.
Following the first tally of the season for defenseman Mark Pysyk, the Stars second line trio totaled five points in the middle frame, having a third goal pulled off the board on a successful offside challenge by Carolina.
Dallas also welcomed back the return of power play extraordinaire Joe Pavelski in the second, as Captain American tallied his NHL leading sixth PP goal of the season to give Dallas a 3-2 lead in the latter portion of the period.
However, in fitting fashion of their present-day play and far from the first time in recent seasons, the Stars allowed a goal with under one minute left to the end the second, tying the score at 3. After Dallas failed to clear the puck from behind the net, Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce threw a prayer net-front through the pairing of Esa Lindell and Jon Klingberg, off Khudobin’s pads and into the arms of teammate Brock McGinn far-side.
This break in action appears to have been missing the Rick Bowness pep-talk mentioned above as Dallas would finish this one flat in the final twenty minutes.
In the third period, it was familiar foe Nino Niederreieter with the game winning tally just four minutes into the final set. He skated in off the bench behind the defensive pairing of Esa Lindell and Miro Heiskanen, netting the breakaway winner. You may remember the Hurricanes forward from his game tying and overtime inducing rocket, glove side on Khudobin to finish out January in a game that the Dallas Stars eventually dropped in overtime.
Facing little ice-wide resistance, the Hurricanes would net an insurance goal on a Warren Foegele tap in to send this one to the books late in the final set.
After this contest, defenseman Mark Pysyk had the following to add.
"In our eyes, we’re definitely, definitely not where we want to be,” defenseman Mark Pysyk said. “I think everybody knows that there just needs to be a little bit extra from everybody."
Dallas will see Carolina one more time during this eight game home-stand, thus far the Hurricanes have earned the maximum six points in their three contests opposite one another.
Jason Robertson – Offensive Prodigy
Making a run this night for my favorite Jason in Dallas. Just kidding, Dicky.
Blackout Dallas was here for this performance before the game even began.
Robertson doubled his point total for the season in this one, handing out helpers to defenseman Mark Pysyk and line mate Roope Hintz. Additionally, he had a third assist to Roope Hintz disallowed on an offside ruling..
Expect to see this Robertson-Hintz-Gurianov line on Saturday in Columbus, one of the few aspects of the Dallas Stars game Thursday that transcended outside the fifteen minutes of productive hockey in the second period for Dallas.
On serious note, does this mean I can no longer refer to Robertson as the ‘rookie with the rear-end goal’ in my writing moving forward?
Esa Lindell – He Is Human
Defenseman Esa Lindell logged 18:22 of ice time in this contest. His least on the ice dating to February 21, 2018 vs. the Anaheim Ducks.
This had little to do with his shift totals or ice staffing by head coach Rick Bowness but due to Lindells’ presence for the first four goals of the games, cutting his shifts short.
He got caught in the middle of the ice by a few precision passes by the Hurricanes but did not look overly worse for wear overall, do not expect this to hamper his performance moving forward.
Roope Hintz – It’s a bird, It’s a plane
Rick Bowness would liken Hintz performance post-game to that of an aircraft or airborne in nature.
"Flying out there, and he’s creating a lot of offense,” Bowness said."
After being denied his first tally on an offside charge, Hintz answered only thirteen seconds later in the second period with a goal that stayed on the board.
Hintz’ unique ability set to drive the net has only been aided by what appears to be a higher level of confidence this season, spending more time in front of the net. Not only using his speed to get there, draw penalties; but create from the slot.
He also created a +6 margin from the face-off circle.
Anton Khudobin – GAA Not Average
It has not been the best of weeks for the Dallas Stars goalkeeper. Following a two-game absence in part to a ‘suspension’ from Rick Bowness for violating team rules, his record over his last four starts is 0-3-1.
"I’m sure he’s not happy with his numbers,” Bowness said. “We know what he’s capable of doing. He’s just going to have to keep working and get back on top of his game."
Logging an .866 save percentage over his last four starts, one has to return to November/December of 2018, while Khudobin was with the Boston Bruins, to find another four game data set with a comparable or lower save percentage.
With Ben Bishop out until late season and a first-year back up in Jake Oettinger, last seasons NHL save percentage leader is far from finished and is in no way on the chopping block for Dallas Stars net minder duties.
Denis Gurianov – 1 goal in last 7 games
Outside two helpers of his own Thursday night, Gurianov appears to be having an identity crisis on the ice over recent contests. Dating back to the previous Carolina Hurricanes series at the end of January, last seasons leading goal scorer in Dallas has seemed reluctant to get physical on both ends of the ice.
Rocking a +/- of -5 over his past five games, Gurianov has recorded just three hits. In his previous five, he served up twelve hits. While his shot totals, shifts and ice time have remained steady, his positioning on the ice seems reluctant in finality.
Here is hoping the Dallas Stars can get on the power play Saturday and feed some Denis Gurianov missiles on net from the right face-off circle. Flipping the switch on the young Russian winger.