Dallas Stars Captain Jamie Benn played a full 60 minutes of hockey last night against San Jose. That’s great news. The flip side is that not enough of his teammates did the same in a lackluster loss to a Sharks team that had been winless in the month of November. Not exactly a productive use of the only home game sandwiched between a pair of three-game road trips.
Let’s start with the positives—Jamie Benn. After going without a goal for the first ten games of the season, the captain is on a tear. Benn has six goals in the last four Stars games and looks like the offensive force he used to be. Ever since Karel Vejmelka served up a (veggie) pizza in The Mullett to gift wrap Benn’s first lamplighter of the season, the captain has been the Stars best offensive weapon. A hat trick in Edmonton and then two wrist shot lasers to the top shelf against James Reimer reminded fans of Art Ross vintage Benn. Nice to have this guy back. I hope he sticks around for a while.
Thank you for your efforts, Jamie you may leave the chat and go home. As for the rest of you…
There is no excuse for this loss. San Jose had only won three of their first fifteen games and was winless in their last five. The Sharks had played (and lost) on Thursday night in St. Louis while the Stars practiced after having a day off on Wednesday. Dallas welcomed back Jake Oettinger and added a spark to the lineup with rookie Matej Blumel making his NHL debut.
There were numerous puck possession issues in the defensive zone, breakdowns in coverage, and flatness that led to San Jose goals just 29 and 65 seconds into the second period and another tally 29 seconds into the third. Dallas did not play like a team looking to ease Oettinger back into NHL action. Turnovers led to goals. Dallas got beaten to the front of the net on other goals and allowed a power play score. Instead of making a tired team work to win a game, the Stars allowed San Jose to establish a sizable lead and then the ability to park the bus and absorb as many shots as necessary to win. Hockey Axiom: Chasing hockey is losing hockey. This fact has never been proven wrong.
While it is certainly not time to panic, there are some concerns. The Stars have given up 10 goals in two games. While you can make excuses for the Winnipeg loss (end of road trip, Jets played extra hard for Rick Bowness), those factors do not hold true for the loss to San Jose.
Leaving your goalie out to dry needs to be cleaned up. That is a team issue, not just on the defensemen. The second line is in a dry spell. Mason Marchment has not had a goal or an assist in six straight games while Tyler Seguin has dented the twine only once in his last ten outings. This line was clicking when Ty Dellandrea was playing on it but has struggled since Dellandrea was moved with Benn and Wyatt Johnston. If Dellandrea is moved back to the 2nd line, then what happens to the chemistry built with the 3rd line? A solution for a winger to play effectively is needed for Seguin and Marchment. Cloning another Dellandrea is not an option.
Former Dallas Stars Coach Ken Hitchcock used to say, “Every team goes in the ditch. How quickly you get out of the ditch determines how good your season will be.” For the first time in the Peter DeBoer era, the Stars are ditching. Losing two games in a row is not a big deal. However, with road games ahead in Philadelphia, Tampa, and Florida coming up this week, the Stars could easily see the two-game downturn turn into something larger.
DeBoer summed it up best:
“You look around the league, and the good teams stop the bleeding quickly. They don’t let one or two losses turn into six or seven, and you’re seeing that around the league that some teams fall into that hole. So we have to make sure we are not one of those teams.”
By this time next week, the Stars will either be out of the ditch or spinning wheels hard enough to make the ditch deeper. Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. The Stars are at their first fork in the road of a long 82-game season. Time to see which path is taken.