Dallas Stars Begin Home Stand On Wrong Skate


Coming off a wildly successful road trip, the Dallas Stars let some of last year’s old habits creep in during a blowout loss to the Florida Panthers.

There was plenty to be excited about after an east coast swing that saw the Dallas Stars take all possible points in sweeping Florida and Pennsylvania. Goals were plentiful, defense was sound, goaltending sparkled.

Granted, given the torrid start the Stars have gotten off to, it’s way too early to panic over a 6-2 drubbing at home to the Panthers on Saturday night. For coaches and players alike, though, there is certainly enough to harp on.

Jaromir Jagr’s first period game-tying goal was a quintessential case of Stars’ goalie Kari Lehtonen committing too early. Granted, a defensive lapse by John Klingberg led to a two-on-one Panther rush, but Jagr fumbled the puck upon entering the zone. His shot then came from a severe angle, but Lehtonen had already dropped to his knees. Jagr calmly deposited the puck top-shelf to even the game.

Lehtonen also did a poor job seeing through traffic on the go-ahead goal by Panther centerman Nick Bjugstad later in the first. The ill wind was already blowing when another Florida goal in the early stages of the 2nd period sent Kari to the bench in favor of Antti Niemi. Niemi couldn’t stop the bleeding, either, as the Panthers galloped away as the game moved along.

Poor defense and bad net minding will never win a lot of games in the NHL. But for the negativity surrounding Saturday’s loss, the long view must still be taken. The Stars possess 12 points, which is good for second place in the NHL Central Division.

More from Dallas Stars

Their goals-against looks bad, especially within their division, as they’re tied for last in the central with 21 against. The silver lining is apparent, however, when 12 of those 21 against came in their only two losses this year. When the Stars lose, they lose big. But when they win, they typically win big and give up far fewer goals. Thus far, it’s been much more of the latter than the former.

The loss of defenseman Jason Demers can’t be overlooked in Saturday’s hiccup, either. Demers was suspended for two games after elbowing Penguins’ forward Nick Bonino late in the Stars’ 4-1 victory on October 22nd. In losing Demers, Stars’ coach Lindy Ruff gave Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak their first ice time of the season.

While I’ve always been ambivalent about Nemeth, I’ve never been sold on Oleksiak. Neither seemed to commit any glaring errors on Saturday night, but the continuity of the first seven games was broken. The differences were subtle, but they were definitely askew on the back end. It will be interesting to see how–or if–that changes when the Anaheim Ducks fly into town on Tuesday night.

And despite only notching two Jamie Benn goals on Saturday, the top line is still producing well. Pucks bounced off pipes, crossbars, and elbows. A bounce here or there might have made all the difference in the world between a win or a loss.

But that’s the loser’s lament.

A stern test awaits this week, as the aforementioned Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, and San Jose Sharks all skate into American Airlines Center looking to humble the early season darlings the Dallas Stars have become.

Next: Mavericks: Why Dallas Is Better Than You Think

More from Sports Dallas Fort-Worth