New season, same story.
[This season, for games I actually attend, I will just be putting up brief opinion points along with breaking down the roster and special teams.]
What bothers me the most about this game, is that I truly believe the Stars are better than how they played and definitely better than the Panthers overall. They were extremely sloppy and all over the place the game. The Stars had a decent start to the season on faceoffs as they won 38 of 71 draws, and they doled out more hits (26-12), but they could never establish an offensive rhythm. The Panthers took more shots (39-27), blocked more shots (24-10) and gave the puck away less (5-8).
The defense had the same exact problems it did last season: sloppiness with the puck, dumb turnovers in their own zone, ill-advised pinched in the offensive zone leading to break the other way and risky passes out of the zone. They seemed to allow Florida a lot of healthy real estate in the slot. The few times the Stars kept the Panthers to the outside, they would give up a centering pass off the wraparound or a wide open shot from the point.
On offense, the Stars simply weren’t clicking. They weren’t aggressive. They weren’t attacking the net often enough. Shot selection was bad. Rebounds were there to be had, but the Stars were constantly out of position. Centering feeds were constantly attempted and rarely succeeded. Drop passes failed most of the night. Shots from the point struggled to get through the first defender.
The Stars seemed very hesitant when it came to passing. Most passes seemed off either in delivery or reception, especially in the neutral zone. Entry into the Florida zone was ugly. Simply ugly. The stars either lost the puck on a dump in, waited too long until players were stacked at the line or they attempted a pass through two defenders to get it to someone along the wing.
The veterans were disappointing tonight.
Fiddler was the best of the veterans. He was constantly in on the action whether as a shot, a pass or simply attacking the net.
Horcoff was invisible most of the game other than on the PK.
Gonchar was the worst defender of the night. A couple of terrible pinches along the offensive blue line ended up in a breakaway or 2-on-1 for the Panthers. He had several chances to shoot from the point (full strength and power play), but simply couldn’t get it at the net, let alone on net.
Goligoski made a couple of bad plays in the defensive end (one leading directly to a goal against), and Daley was relatively invisible.
Whitney didn’t show much of his wizardry with or without the puck, and he seemed far removed from a lot of plays.
Seguin was OK, but not much more in my opinion. He shows some great bursts of speed and took some shots at the net when the Stars were in need of it.
Jamie Benn made some great plays with his stick-handling in all three zones, but there were several lapses in his game. There was a single shift where I counted three failed opportunities to clear by him alone. He turned over a couple of drop passes and a couple more near the blue line on a zone entry.
Cole was good in that he crashed the net repeatedly (even flipping over Thomas once) and pushed forward strongly on rushes. His penalty to negate the one decent power play the Stars had in the third period was a definite buzz kill and momentary brain lapse.
Eakin was OK, maybe even below average, but he was clearly not playing to the level we are used to seeing him play. He struggled controlling the puck and wasn't very effective on the forecheck. Even on defense he seemed overpowered and out of position.
Roussel and Chiasson had strong games, Chiasson more-so offensively. He just has a nose for the net that is undeniable. Chiasson's best play was when hustled back and broke up a short-handed Florida breakaway on an early Stars power play. Roussel again hustled all over the ice, stirred the pot a bit and won a fight.
Mueller was a non-factor except one pass he made across the slot that resulted in a shot barely stopped by Tim Thomas’ right shoulder.
Jordie Benn was quiet, but steady tonight. Compared to last season, his play seemed stronger and smarter.
Nichushkin definitely seemed like he will need time to adjust to the NHL. He had his moments where he gathered steam and skated up quickly with the puck as he made a few moves through players. However, he seemed to try to do things himself too often, and every time he did, he never made it further than 5 feet into the offensive zone before he knocked off the puck or it was poked away. He used his frame decently and did position himself well a few times on defense. It is clear he has size, speed and talent, it’s just a matter of time before he gets acclimated and really takes off.
Lehtonen was solid in net for the most part. He can’t be counted on to be the complete hero every game. He is great, but there is only so much he can do when there are defensive lapses all around him, turnovers in close and nearly 40 shots coming at him.
The penalty kill was pretty good. There was a lot of movement and a lot of crossing up near the point in comparison to last season. Clearing still seemed to be a bit of an issue, and I still miss Eric Nystrom.
The power play was atrocious. I never felt the Stars power play had a real advantage and a grip on the situation the whole game. The first power play was the worst. They barely had possession of the puck and were nearly scored on if Lehtonen didn’t come up huge.
Overall it was a disppaointing game for the Stars, but this is just the first game. It’s going to take a while to get the chemistry going, to clean up the defensive zone and be a more cohesive unit in general. There is still a lot to look forward to and a lot of time to get things going. The season is still young.