More of the same for Stars vs. Canucks
By Steve Hunt
February 2, 2011
Back on December 31, the Stars closed out 2010 at the American Airlines Center with a 4-1 loss to Vancouver. It was a game that like many in the National Hockey League do, comes down to special teams and on that final night of the calendar year, the Canucks were 3-for-6 on the power play as the Sedin twins each had a goal and an assist in the win.
The same two clubs met again on January 24 in Vancouver and like the previous meeting, this one delivered a less than stellar ending for Dallas. A goal by the Canucks' Alexandre Burrows just over a minute into this one set an ominous tone for the evening and by the time this one was over, the Stars limped home with a 7-1 defeat and had been outscored 14-5 in their last two games.
So, when the Stars and Canucks squared off yet again on Tuesday night at the AAC to kick off the mythical second half of the season, Marc Crawford's group liked their chances against the current Western Conference leaders.
After 20 minutes, this one was scoreless. On one hand, the few fans in attendance and those watching at home had to be encouraged at this one being tied 0-0. Then again, the Stars had been on the power play three times in the first frame and had five shots and no goals to show for their efforts. Three of those shots came on their first power play of the night.
Looking back, Dallas head coach Marc Crawford knows that not converting on any of those opportunities set an unfavorable tone for the rest of the evening.
"Well, we had our opportunities tonight. Whenever you lose it's never fun. But we had our opportunities tonight and we've got to take responsibility for not jumping on the opportunities that we had," Crawford said. "The first period looked like a game with two teams coming off a break. We had three power play chances and we didn't generate a lot with those three. They got the opportunity and then they capitalized on it."
And while the Stars kept the Canucks out of the scoring column in the first period, Vancouver wasted little time in finding the back of the net after the first intermission. Just 26 seconds into the period, Mikael Samuelsson scored on the power play less than 30 seconds into the second frame.
Vancouver added a second power play tally by Christian Ehrhoff before the Stars answered with a Loui Eriksson goal made it 2-1. However, a shorthanded goal by Ryan Kessler with about 5 minutes left in the frame was a near fatal blow in a game that finished in a 4-1 final.
Tonight, the Canucks were 2-of-3 on the power play. That makes them 7-for-16 in their three games against the Stars this year, a total that every player on the Dallas roster knows must improve if they are to break through against what has become their nemesis in 2010-11. On the flipside, Dallas is just 1-for-15 on the power play this year against Vancouver, including an 0-for-5 performance on Tuesday evening.
"It makes a big difference in games. We've been on the good side of it a few times but against this team, it's recurring," Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. "This is three games in a row that our penalty kill hasn't been strong. Tonight we gave up a shorthanded goal. The power play could have gotten us in the game and it fell short."
In tonight's loss, the Sedin twins were again big for the visitors. Daniel had a pair of assists while brother Henrik had one helper. In the three games against Dallas so far this year, the Sedin brothers have truly been a force to be reckoned with as they have 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 points in those contests.
For Stars winger Adam Burish, the speedy twins of Swedish descent epitomize the Canucks' biggest weapon, one of the league's most potent power plays.
"Yeah, they're about as good as they get in the league. They've got the two Sedin brothers. They just find each other," Burish said. "Our biggest thing going into this game was to not give them a lot of power play chances. We took some silly ones myself included. That makes it hard to play against them."
Dallas will face the Canucks once more in the regular season and that will be on Saturday, February 19 in Vancouver. If there is a silver lining in their struggles against the Sedins and company this year, it's fairly simple.
Until a 2-1 win over Los Angeles at the AAC back on January 17, the Stars had dropped five straight to the Kings in their own barn. And that victory came after the boys from LA had outscored Crawford's bunch a combined 8-3 in their first two meetings of the year.
And there are some similarities between the Kings and Canucks as in they both teams that have a good mix of speed and solid, bruising players. But while LA is a team that has underachieved for much of the year, Vancouver is not. There might still be a lot of hockey left to play but this is a team that has already established itself as a legitimate contender not just to win the West but also to bring home Lord Stanley's trophy once this whole thing is said and done.
But the season is just 51 games old and there are some 30 contests remaining until the end of the regular season, so Dallas has some time to right the ship. And it's not like their special teams have been an issue against the entire league. It just seems like the Canucks have their number.
Enough about Vancouver, that's because on Wednesday afternoon, the Stars head out east for a tough two-game swing against current Northeast Division-leading Boston on Thursday. They then travel to Philadelphia to face the Atlantic-leading Flyers who are tied with the Canucks for the best record in the league with 71 points.
Both games figure to be hotly contested affairs against a pair of talented clubs. If the Stars can either split this twin bill out East or even do the almost unthinkable and come away with a pair of huge wins, that would go a long way toward erasing any consternation that Stars fans have about this team going forward, especially after watching tonight's latest loss to their season-long nemesis, the Canucks.