Getting close to the ice to see various players have their faces smashed against the boards can be enjoyable. However, sitting up high occasionally has benefits. It’s nice to be able to see a play develop or crash and burn if you’re trying to figure out what in the world is going on.
Saturday night when the Dallas Stars hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets, sitting up high was preferable. The Stars were consistently outplayed for 45 minutes in a 3-0 loss. In the middle frame the Stars got a little bit of their game going, but throughout the game were a mess. From up in the rafters, it was pretty easy to see why.
Transition play has been killing the Stars lately. Outside of maybe five periods this season the Stars have seriously struggled to get the puck out of their own end of the rink. In the first and third periods the Stars couldn’t get out of their own way long enough to create anything. They made an adjustment coming out of the first intermission to send a forward up the middle on the breakouts, which helped for a while, but ultimately it was for naught.
It isn’t fair to single out one player in a game that was as poor as this one, but we need to start talking about defenseman John Klingberg. Teams are openly attacking him with little blowback. Saturday night, there were several instances where Blue Jackets skated all the way across the ice to come into the Stars offensive zone right at him.
Teams know that Klingberg isn’t going to keep a tight gap at the blueline and they are taking advantage of it. He’s a mess right now. Columbus attempted 32 shots against the Stars at even strength with him on the ice and the Stars only got 16 off. They aren’t likely to go very far without Klingberg on his game. If a team like Columbus can take advantage of it then anyone can.
On the plus side, Kari Lehtonen looked solid. He only allowed two goals on 25 shots and stopped several quality chances. Neither goal he allowed was even remotely his fault. On one, the entire Stars defensive unit got diced up. One the other the Stars’ coverage was so poor that the shot was taken uncovered from within 10 feet. Without Kari, this game isn’t even close.
What’s remarkable to me is that despite all of this the Stars really aren’t that far from competing. Transition issues make everything look awful because it gets a team bottled up defensively and kills any chance of offense. Injuries probably play a big part here too. So many regulars are out of the lineup that it’s really difficult to judge what’s going on. They’re just struggling right now, and players who have been a big part of the Stars overwhelming depth are really being missed.
On Tuesday the Stars hit the ice against the lowly Winnipeg Jets and rookie sensation Patrik Laine. The number two pick in the last draft behind American hero Auston Matthews has had a good start to his season and presents an interesting challenge for a Stars defensive group in need of a rebound.