Well…you didn’t really expect the Stars to go 82-0-0, did you? A 3-0-1 start is still pretty impressive, though. The Toronto boys showed up and showed out as Tyler Seguin was the Stars best forward and backup goalie Scott Wedgewood had another outstanding performance stopping 40 of 43 Maple Leafs shots. There is a lot to feel good about for Dallas Stars fans. The team is playing an exciting, aggressive brand of hockey. For a franchise known for slow starts, getting 7 of 8 possible points so far this season is pretty impressive. The players seem energized and have bought into Pete DeBoer’s brand of hockey. However, there is one major area of concern and it’s becoming a bigger problem with each passing game— too many penalties.
Coming into the four-game road trip, Dallas had taken too many penalties. Fourteen times shorthanded in the first 3 games is a recipe for disaster. Yet somehow, Dallas had allowed only one goal while shorthanded (5 on 3) and had a Roope Hintz shorty for a net of 0. There were discussions about the Stars’ recklessness and what needed to be cleaned up as the team went north. Instead of fixing the problem, the Stars marched to the beat of their own drum and marched right to the penalty box, that is. Eight power plays given to the Maple Leafs, a total of nearly 14 minutes shorthanded. Not enough self-restraint for a team that needed to add discipline to a strong 5 on 5 game.
“The bottom line was, the penalties are the story of the game for me,” said Dallas Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer. “We found a way to get out of here with a point on a night where you shot yourself in the foot by taking too many.”
Aside from the obvious, giving a talented Toronto team several opportunities to break the game wide open, there are further residual effects from constant shorthandedness. Players who looked like they might be effective, lost their edge by disruption of lines. Denis Gurianov had a strong first period with several quality chances but remained glued to the bench when penalties hit. Gurianov skated barely more than 7 minutes of TOI for the first two periods, ending his chance to be a difference maker. Nils Lundkvist assisted on the first Stars goal but also remained inactive for long stretches, as did Colin Miller, Dallas’ two speedy blueliners, ending with fewest minutes of any of the Stars defensemen.
Conversely, two parts of the Finnish Mafia had way too much ice time as Esa Lindell and Jani Hakanpaa combined for more than 18 minutes of defending the high-powered Maple Leaf power play. The saying goes, “Your goalie has to be your best penalty killer,” and Scott Wedgewood was best on the PK. The Brampton, Ontario native standing on his head in front of his hometown crowd, stopping 16-17 power play volleys.
DeBoer says he considers the recent massive amounts of penalties a concern but not yet a problem. The Stars do not want to get a reputation for taking infractions, as referees tend to watch highly-penalized teams more closely. Dallas is a team that wants to be aggressive in all situations and being under a microscope is not ideal.
Dallas is 4th in the NHL in penalty minutes given up per game. The three teams with more penalty time have won a combined 3 of their first 12 games. A daily parade to the box is asking for trouble. Too much time in the sin-bin has become the first on-ice issue DeBoer and his staff need to clean up. With a four-game point streak, this is a situation that can be easily overlooked as positives continue to outweigh any negatives for the new-look Stars. But like a pebble in your shoe, the situation is best remedied early before it becomes a major pain point.