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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' dominant shutout of Islanders

Dallas got just the jumpstart it needed on Friday en route to its most lopsided win of the season

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars concluded their three-game homestand in emphatic fashion Friday night, crushing the New York Islanders 5-0 as Ben Bishop earned his first shutout as a Star.

The team hits the road for three games next week including back-to-back contests in Raleigh and Florida on Monday and Tuesday before a Thursday date with Tampa Bay.

Here are some thoughts and ponderings on a night that saw the Stars run their home record to an impressive 6-2-0 and move to 9-7-0 overall.

 Video: Stars offense comes alive vs Isles

 

1. Guess that's why Hitch gets paid the big bucks

With the team struggling to find offensive balance and generate even-strength scoring (they were tied for 26th in the NHL in 5-on-5scoring prior to Friday's game), Hitchcock took a gamble and split up his most productive offensive unit, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, moving Benn to center with Radulov and Gemel Smith.

Seguin skated with Mattias Janmark and Devin Shore in the hopes of creating a one-two punch down the middle that would give the Islanders problems.

Mission accomplished as Smith scored one of three even-strength goals in the first period off a terrific pass from Radulov.

Overall, the Stars generated the most consistently dangerous attack of the season en route to their most lopsided win thus far, scoring once on the power play, once shorthanded, twice 5-on-5 and once 4-on-4.

Not a bad night's work.

"It was unreal," said Smith, who scored his first goal of the season. "It was a good feeling. Obviously playing on that line, you're playing with two magicians. It was good for me, and happy it worked out."

Don't expect Hitchcock to move away from having Benn and Seguin play on different forward units (they were on the ice together for the team's 4-on-4 goal in the first period and still play on the top power-play unit together).

"I think what happens is when you have one line that's doing everything the tendency is to let it do everything, and that's the feeling I had that was happening on our hockey club," Hitchcock said after the game.

Bigger picture, the idea that Benn and Seguin can be productive and help other players become productive is an enticing one -- and one that paid immediate dividends on Friday.

"With Benn and Seguin, the next level of leadership is they've got to take on the responsibility of helping other people, and they did that tonight," Hitchcock said.

Video: NYI@DAL: Spezza wrists in PPG for his first of season

 

2. Monkey off his back

We sat down with Jason Spezza prior to Friday's game to talk about dealing with the longest goal-scoring drought from the start of the season in his career.

He was candid and introspective, admitting that he's been carrying the burden of not scoring home with him. And so, you could sense the relief from Spezza all the way up in the rafters of the American Airlines Center when he ripped a wrist shot past Jaroslav Halak with four minutes to go in the second period and the Stars on the power play.

It's been a challenging transition for Spezza under Hitchcock, who has moved to the right side away from his normal position at center and his ice time is down more than three minutes a night over two seasons ago, and his power play time is also down dramatically.

If you watched the reaction of Spezza's teammates, you could see that they felt his pain at not being able to contribute in the manner to which he's used to.

"Obviously, when you're not scoring it's tough," Smith said. "It's good to see when he scored, a lot of the guys were giving him high-fives and excited, and I know it's just more to come."

Defenseman John Klingberg echoed those sentiments.

"For sure, he's a real big part of our team, and to see him score tonight was huge for us -- and probably even bigger for him, Klingberg said. "So I'm really happy for him finally got that first one out of the way, so probably, he's going to score a couple now for sure."

Spezza admitted to having felt some relief and is likewise hopeful this is the start of a positive offensive trend. "

It's nice to score a goal and contribute offensively," the veteran forward said. "Obviously, it's been a long time for me. Hopefully it's something I can build off of."

Video: NYI@DAL: Klingberg beats Halak on give-and-go for PPG

 

3. Klinger time

Klingberg has been a force all season, and along with the aforementioned Benn/Seguin/Radulov unit, a consistent offensive contributor.

Playing without usual defense partner Marc Methot, who was out of action Friday with a lower-body injury, Klingberg was dominant.

He scored the opening goal of the game off a nice Benn pass, added a secondary assist on the second goal by Smith, and the primary assist on the team's third goal by fellow defenseman Esa Lindell.

He also saved a goal by clearing a loose puck away from the Stars net after a scramble in front of Ben Bishop in the second period and was, in general, the best player on the ice for either team.

His three-point effort vaulted him into first place among all defensemen with 18 points.

What is so impressive is that the confident play follows a difficult season for the third-year player.

"For sure, part of my game is points, but that's nothing I'm looking at too far ahead," Klingberg said. "I just feel like I play a really good all-around game right now, and obviously today was a great win."

As for whether this is as well as he's played, Klingberg figures it might be.

"I think so," he said. "Today, I really felt like I was back in my first year just playing hockey. I felt really good confidence is good right now."

Hitchcock has noticed a calmness about Klingberg that hasn't always been there.

"He's really learning when to fight another day with the puck, and I think that's putting him in a good spot," the coach said. "He's not trying to make the perfect play all the time. I think he's playing very calm."

There's an old axiom that you don't win a championship without a stud defenseman -- a la Drew Doughty, Kris Letang or Duncan Keith.

It's not always true, but regardless, the Stars appear to have theirs.

"I see a young guy maturing," Hitchcock said. "He doesn't have a lot of games in the league to be a go-to guy, but I see his game maturing."

Video: NYI@DAL: Smith taps home Radulov's 100th NHL assist

 

4. Islander letdown

Just to put things in perspective, the Islanders weren't very good.

Actually, that's probably understating how poorly they played.

Netminder Jaroslav Halak was only average allowing five goals on 29 shots. The Stars' third goal, a routine wrist shot from Esa Lindell with 3:02 left in the first period, should have been stopped. It wasn't.

But it's not all on Halak.

Josh Bailey's no-look pass in his own zone found Mattias Janmark alone in the slot, and he blasted home the Stars' first shorthanded goal of the season early in the second period. And not long after the Islanders had generated a couple of decent scoring chances.

For a team that had been lighting it up offensively -- they'd scored six times in three of their previous five games heading into Friday -- they did not resemble that team registering only 14 shots on goal.

"We just did not really have it going," Bailey said. "They were a desperate team and came out and played hard, we just were not good enough. We did not respond well enough, did not create enough, there was a lot of things we could have done better, so that's probably the frustrating part." 

Still, we'd be remiss if we did not mention the gutsy play of Anthony Beauvillier who blocked a Jason Spezza shot on a third-period power play, and gamely tried to help his teammates only to be hit by a Dan Hamhuis shot moments later before being ultimately helped off the ice by his teammates.

Video: NYI@DAL: Bishop makes amazing save as Janmark clears

 

5. This and that

We chose the three stars of the game and did waffle a little bit on whether to give Bishop a star, given that he did earn his first shutout in Dallas.

But the fact he faced only 14 shots sent us in another direction.

Sorry. But Hitchcock had praise for Bishop, and his compete level especially early in the second period when the Islanders did mount their only real sustained pressure of the game. Once again, the Stars' special teams were an integral part of victory.

In their eight victories, Dallas has allowed just two power-play goals in total. That includes a perfect 4-for-4 night on the PK.

On the power-play side of things, the team has failed to produce a man-advantage goal in just four games this season. Pretty incredible.

They were 1-for-4 Friday and have scored a power-play goal in three straight games.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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