By Martin Iheke
After an embarrassing 4-1 loss at the Nashville Predators last Monday night, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff called a team meeting the next morning before the game against the Minnesota Wild later that evening to discuss how this team needs to get back to detail in trying to break a 1-8-1 slump. “I called the meeting. It was good,” Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said according to dallasnews.com. “I’ve been through stretches like this and it’s believing in your system, trusting in your system, it’s being able to trust the guy next to you. The two words I look for and I want the players to dig down and grab are energy and emotion. I want to see energy and emotion tonight. And when the game’s over, I want them to be proud of the effort they put in and we’ll take the result after that,” as he continued.
Since the meeting, the Dallas Stars have responded by reeling off three wins in a row and appear to have regained their identity. The Stars started on the right track by blasting the Minnesota Wild, 4-0, last Tuesday night in front of a nationally-televised audience (U.S. and Canada). Four different players for the Stars scored a goal while goalie Kari Lehtonen notched his second shutout of the season with only 18 saves. After the game, Jamie Benn talked about his team bouncing back from an ugly game the previous night against the Predators. “We were willing to come out with a lot of energy and leave everything out on the ice,” Benn said. “We really had nothing to lose and I thought we played a great team game,” as he continued. The Stars were terrific in all three zones and on special teams. They also did not turn the puck over as much like they have been doing during their 10-game slump.
The Stars continued their success at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs two nights later by destroying them, 7-1. The Maple Leafs went into the game with a six-game winning streak so it was even more impressive how the Stars dismantled them the way they did. Six different Stars players scored a goal with rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin scoring two. Even defenseman Trevor Daley scored a goal and he talked about that after the game. “I think it was two forwards Eakin and Roussel were just down deep working hard and created a turnover,” Daley said. “It came out to Goligoski and he put it on the tee. I closed my eyes and shot,” as he continued. It was his third goal of the season as the Stars also snapped a seven-game losing streak against Eastern Conference opponents.
In perhaps the best overall performance of the season to date, the Stars would shutout the best team in the East in forward Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, 3-0, last Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd at home. The Stars controlled the entire game with their ability to keep the Penguins off balance with their speed. They shutdown the Crosby line as well as forward Evgeni Malkin by not giving them much room to work with when they had the puck. The Stars were also terrific on special teams going 2 for 3 on the power play and killing all four penalties against them. Lehtonen was awesome especially in the third period when he had to be, stopping all 24 shots to notch his third shutout of the season. “It was obviously a solid game,” Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said. “Special teams were great especially against that team. They are number one in both the power play and penalty kill in the league so it is a big part of their team. These last three games have been really good from top to bottom with complete effort so we have to keep it going,” as he continued.
No question they have to keep it going if they have any hopes of making the playoffs this season. It is also good to see everyone on the team contributing in some way. Not just two or three players carrying the load. As Forrest Gump would say, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” I think that describes your Dallas Stars for most of this season. I would hope the team we are seeing right now that has won three in a row is the team we will see for the rest of the season. They may not dominate every game but play well enough to pick up points needed to move up in the standings and grab one of the last two playoff spots in the West.
The Stars will try to do that when the Colorado Avalanche come to town on Monday night before enjoying two days off. They will wrap up their five-game home stand against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night before traveling to play at the best team in the league, the Anaheim Ducks, on Saturday night.
1/27 vs Avalanche 7:30 PM
1/30 vs Devils 7:30 PM
2/1 @Ducks 9:00 PM