If there was ever a night to scratch your head over a tale of two games, last night in Dallas was that night.
Perhaps even more noteworthy than yet another Devils road defeat is just how striking the difference was in the first half to the second half in the run of play and shots allowed. From the time Kyle Palmieri scored early in the game it was all Dallas after that for the first twenty-seven or so minutes. At one point, the Stars registered twenty-four straight shots on goal. That’s not a typo. For over an entire period’s worth of hockey the Devils didn’t register a single shot on net, and the Stars’ defense isn’t exactly what you’d compare to the ’76 Canadiens as the second half of the game proved.
Of course it was this first half, and the non-effort tacked on with a contreversial result-based major called on Miles Wood that led to the Devils finally getting in a deserved hole – despite heroic goaltending from Mackenzie Blackwood (again). The fact it was only 1-1 in the second period before Wood got into the act was remarkable enough. Unfortunately, it was at this juncture that Wood hit Jamie Benn late and got tagged with a five-minute major despite it not being with an elbow, to the head or against the boards. Likely it would have been a two-minute major if Benn didn’t have to leave the ice with a concussion. Or perhaps prior history was taken into account since it was these same two players that got in an old-fashioned scrap early in the season at the Rock.
Whatever the case, the resulting five-minute major led to two goals. Although only one of them actually dented our second-ranked PK, since a Dallas penalty did cancel out the first couple minutes of the major, leading to a four-on-four. Not that it helped our defensive coverage any. Can you tell what Damon Severson was doing on the game’s first goal earlier on? Or where either defensemen was on the second when Stars rookie sensation Miro Heiskanen danced through the middle of the ice to score? Heiskanen by the way, is also a defenseman.
Perhaps our ‘defensive’ core has visions of doing fancy stuff like that. Of course I benched Heiskanen in one of my fantasy leagues last night, not cause he was playing us but because his role had diminished lately with the return of John Klingberg. After Tyler Seguin added a third goal toward the end of the long power play it looked as if last night was about to get out of hand. Hell I wanted them to pull Blackwood right then, not for inefficiency on his part but a lack of effort and competence on everyone else’s. And because I didn’t really feel like having him get tagged with six or seven goals and dent his confidence.
For some reason it was only after we were down 3-1 that the Devils decided to start playing and immediately the tide turned swiftly and dramatically. Before the end of the period the Devils had scored three goals to eventually tie the game, although not without further defensive incompetence from Severson and Will Butcher on the Stars’ fourth goal (yes this is becoming a pattern), with Butcher getting caught trying to push the play up ice and Severson being slow to recognize the danger in front.
Yet none of that was as bad as what happened in the third period when Sami Vatanen provided the coup de grace of bad defense on the night, for reasons known only to him trying to push forward off a lost faceoff and leaving the front of the net wide open for that man Heiskanen again. His goal wound up sealing our fate, despite the fact the Devils wound up outshooting the Stars 32-13 in the latter part of the game after the disgraceful opening. It was a result Blackwood didn’t deserve, but the rest of the team – particularly this joke of a defense – did. It wasn’t a result this team could afford if they have any delusions of grandeur of getting back into the playoff hunt before the trade deadline.