By Martin Iheke
As 2013 came to a close last week, your Dallas Stars wanted to end on a high. That is exactly what they did in their annual New Year’s Eve home game by defeating the Los Angeles Kings, 3-2. The Stars took advantage of a tired Kings team that played the night before in Chicago by pushing the tempo and keeping them off balance. They scored two goals on the power play, which was the first time they have done that at home this season. Forward Erik Cole continued his successful play with another two-goal performance in the victory. After the game, he talked about why he has been terrific as of late. “I’m getting some good looks and opportunities from the guys that I’m playing with,” Cole said. Another player that was very good in the game was forward Rich Peverley. He had an assist and was a +1 for the game. He was especially tremendous on the faceoff circle winning 12 of 14 faceoffs including winning some key ones in the defensive zone at the end of the game to preserve the victory.
The Stars closed out 2013 on a good note. Could they start off 2014 with a win at home against the Montreal Canadiens? The answer to that would be no. They would lose the game last Thursday, 6-4, despite outshooting the Canadiens 32-28 and winning the faceoff battle 42-21. The problem in this game was the constant breakdowns in defensive coverage and turning the puck over. The Stars also did not have an answer for Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban who was a beast on both ends of the ice. He had a goal, three assists and was a +4. After the game, forward Tyler Seguin was not too pleased about his team’s performance. “To be honest, I didn’t think we deserved to win that game,” Seguin said. “They were faster than us tonight, they competed harder than us and maybe we got a little complacent after having a solid few games in a row. We have to regroup tomorrow at practice and get ready for a heck of a team in Detroit on Saturday,” as he continued.
As Seguin said, the Stars next opponent at home was the Detroit Red Wings last Saturday. This game would conclude a five-game home stand and I am sure the Stars did not want to the end the home stand with another loss. Much like the game against the Canadiens, the Stars were plagued with the same issues. They outshot the Wings, 45-27, and won the faceoff battle 37-22. They had the first 12 shots in the game but could not get any past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard before Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg scored on Detroit’s first shot putting them up, 1-0. The Stars tied it on forward Shawn Horcoff’s goal later in the first period but after that, they could not cash in on anymore opportunities as Detroit counterattacked winning the game, 5-1. This was a strange one and not one of the better officiated ones either. Rich Peverley had what appeared to be a goal in the second period but for some reason, referee Justin St. Pierre blew the whistle as the puck crossed the goal line. The score would have been, 3-2, in favor of the Wings at that time but was not. Still, the Stars had other opportunities including seven power plays but they did not score on any of them.
Not only was that the final game of the home stand, but it was the 41st game of the season which means the Stars are currently at the halfway mark with 41 more games to go. Their record currently is at 20-14-7 with 47 points and are two points back of both the Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Head coach Lindy Ruff talks about what his team needs to do to be better in the 2nd half. “We need to get the D healthy,” Ruff said. “Right now, it looks like we’re a step away from getting them healthy and then get back to playing just good consistent hockey,” as he continued. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar could rejoin the team on their three-game road trip to New York and Trevor Daley appears close to coming back from his injury as well. No matter what, the Stars have to better in their own end because they were not in their last two home games giving up 11 goals combined. This has to change in the second half if they want to make the playoffs.
The Stars will begin the second half of the season by trying to get their first win of 2014 when they travel to play at the New York Islanders on Monday night and then they will enjoy two days off before playing at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night before wrapping up their New York road trip at the New York Rangers on Friday night. They return home next Sunday to play the Islanders again.
1/6 @Islanders 6:00 PM
1/9 @Devils 6:00 PM
1/10 @Rangers 6:00 PM
1/12 vs Islanders 5:00 PM