Tonight’s games in San Jose wasn’t technically a “must-win” for the Stars. But it was damned close.
The Stars began the night in 9th place and three points out of a playoff spot with 87 points and seven games remaining. With the high level of play in the Western Conference and the propensity for three-point games it looks like it is going to take 95 points to make the playoffs.
The game started with sustained pressure in the offensive end by both teams. That gave way to a more transitional game with some dashes of physicality. Remember: the last time these two teams played Shark Dany Heatley got suspended for two games for delivering The People’s Elbow to the side of Steve Ott’s head.
The Stars initial intensity seemed to wane as the period wore on. San Jose centerman Joe Pavelski’s spinning backhand on target was stopped by Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen but the rebound was left loose in front and was put into the net by Dan Boyle to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead with 3:48 to go.
The Sharks took a second bite out of the Stars hopes (shark puns?? Oh yeah!) on the powerplay just 4:30 into the second to make it 2-0 San Jose with the 31st goal by rookie Logan Couture, who should win the Calder Trophy this year. Dallas had three consecutive powerplay opportunities go to waste as they really only generated one primo chance. San Jose used the momentum gained by the penalty kill to generate a third goal to end the period up 3-0.
- What’s going on? The Sharks are dictating everything in the game.
- What can Dallas do? Win faceoffs. Generate a net drive. Score on the powerplay.
- Who is to blame? Some of it has to come back to head coach Marc Crawford. There’s no urgency in the Stars game right now. Jamie Langenbrunner does not belong on the powerplay the way he is playing right now. The loss of Adam Burish has hurt Dallas in faceoffs and on the penalty kill. The defense definitely needs to step up.
- Who isn’t to blame? The goaltending has been more than adequate. Jamie Benn, Mike Ribiero, Alex Goligoski and Brenden Morrow are playing like they care. Dallas needs more of that.
- Can the Stars figure it out in time to make the playoffs? If you’ve watched the last few games you realize this is not a playoff team. But they have a chance.They end the season with four games against non-playoff teams, so there are points to be had.
Early defensive stupidity led to a breakaway goal for a 4-0 Sharks lead and the end of the night for starting goalie Kari Lehtonen. The Stars basically killed the last 17 minutes of the game by resting players and playing damage control. It didn’t work as Dallas surrendered a second goal by Patrick Marleau to make the game 5-0 and a goal by depth forward Ben Eager made it 6-0.
It was a Sharks feeding-frenzy on goals and they outshot Dallas 51-29. Dallas’ formula for winning is hard working goals and not fishing the puck out of their net. They constantly get outshot and rely too often on a late flurry to tie games or win from behind. At this time of the year that’s not often successful, mistakes are magnified and each goal is tougher and tougher to score. Right now one goal is tough for the Stars to get.