It definitely wasn’t the prettiest Game 1 in the history of the Dallas Stars franchise and whether they lost by three goals or one goal, all it counts as is just one loss. After their 3-2 loss to open the series against the Calgary Flames there is work to do and they have the right group to do it.
The Flames looked like a team that played a hard-fought series last week against the Winnipeg Jets to advance to this matchup and the Stars looked like a team that sashayed its way through one exhibition game and three round-robin games. So what we saw last week is mostly what we got in Game 1.
“We have to be ready to play right when that puck drops,” said Corey Perry following the loss. “We’ve gotta be ready right away when the game starts, and I think that’s the reason we lost today,” added Miro Heiskanen.
1. Dube Does Dallas
Calgary forward Dillon Dube could have been playing for the Dallas Stars in an alternate timeline. The pick that the Flames used to draft him was acquired in a deal with the Stars for defenseman Kris Russell on Feb. 29, 2016. Calgary took him in the second round (56th overall) at the 2016 NHL Draft and the 22-year-old was the Game 1 villain for the Stars after potting two goals on three shots in the first period. It sucks, but those things happen.
Here’s the good news: Dallas played excellent defense against all of the Flames top forwards. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Matthew Tkachuk had a grand total of one shot on goal each and zero points. It was Dube and Lucic who fired three shots on goal each and that is fixable. Some minor tweaks and finding themselves in the midst of a real series should do the trick.
2. Bad Start, Fantastic Response
Despite trailing 2-0 at the end of the first period and halfway through the game, the Stars showed what they are made of when they responded with two goals in nine seconds. That is a franchise record – topping the two goals scored by Jon Sim and Kirk Muller in Game 1 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final.
The first goal, a deflection by Denis Gurianov, was the result of a great sequence of puck possession in the offensive zone. Sure the shot went in off of Calgary defenseman Troy Brodie’s butt or hip, but a goal, is a goal, is a goal – and that goal gave the Stars life.
So much so that they scored on the next shift, erasing the two-goal deficit in the blink of an eye. This time it was the captain Jamie Benn rising to the occasion as he snapped a puck through a maze of players and past Flames goalie Cam Talbot from just inside the blueline.
Talbot isn’t George Vezina and the Stars have the firepower on their roster to expose him. They need to get more pucks to the net, make him move side-to-side more often, and get more bodies in front of him.
3. Silver Linings
The Stars took only one penalty, surrendered only 26 shots on goal, and won the battle in the face-off circle (53%). They lost a game by one goal without their number one netminder playing. With Ben Bishop unfit to play, it was Anton Khudobin in goal again and after a shaky start, he did a nice job. With all due respect, it would be nice to have Bishop (and all of his playoff experience) back at some point in the series.
Defenseman Stephen Johns left the game and didn’t return after playing only 10:02. The Stars will need him back too if they want to advance past the Flames. Hopefully, it’s nothing major. If Bishop and Johns are unfit to play for the entirety of the series – the Stars could be in trouble, but let’s wait and see before we jump off that cliff.
Dallas will need to shoot more in Game 2 and beyond because they only had 26 shots on goal themselves, but their structure was very good aside from a few correctable breakdowns, and to be honest, some high-skilled plays made by their opponents. Only four players on the Stars didn’t record a shot on goal.
On the game-winning goal, there was a slightly bad line change that allowed defenseman Rasmus Andersson to weave his way through the neutral zone. Give him credit on the shot too – perfectly placed after ramping up off of a defender’s stick. This is correctable though, no need to fret.
The Stars will likely want to make Talbot work a little harder. He is not an unbeatable goaltender, he has flaws. Expose them. They were also given a gift power play (puck over the glass) in the dying minutes and had some decent chances to send the game to overtime. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But again, this was their first ‘real’ game in quite some time. This was the first time they had played Calgary since Dec. 22. Now they have a real feel for how the Flames will try to play against them.
Dallas can easily regroup, fine-tune their game, evaluate what they liked and didn’t like that they did, and apply it for the rematch in Game 2 on Thursday night. And yeah, it would obviously help if Bishop and Johns are in the lineup.
This is probably going to be a six or seven-game series. Continue to play against the Flames’ top players the way you did, and get some offensive production from someone like Perry, Joe Pavelski, Andrew Cogliano, or Roope Hintz.
Losing Game 1 doesn’t mean as much this postseason as it would in others. There is no home-ice advantage, no rabid visiting arena, or late travel nights. Take a breath, regroup, and start Game 2 like someone is trying to stick a red-hot poker up your butt.