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The panic button has officially been pressed in Dallas. Losers of five consecutive, the Dallas Stars are now on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. A position the Stars have not been in since the first month of the season.
Ken Hitchcock’s group is 38-27-8 with 84 points, two points behind the Anaheim Ducks in the second Wild Card position. And in the midst of a grueling stretch of games to end the season, it is going to a tough climb to get back in the playoffs.
The numbers would suggest the Stars missing out on postseason play. They are playing a man down too frequently spending 38 minutes penalty kill in their past five games. That has resulted in five opponent power play goals in their last five games.
The offense is not scoring with the same potency. The Stars have scored more than three goals just once in their past five games. Most of those goals come on power play chances as even strength goals become fewer and far between.
On top of that, the team is dealing with some impactful injuries. The biggest being Ben Bishop. The Stars goaltender left the game against Winnipeg and is will be out at least two weeks with a lower body injury. With only three weeks remaining, the bulk of the goaltending duties falls on Kari Lehtonen.
Then there is the challenge of the schedule. The Stars are playing playoff competition with most of the games on the road. Seven of their final nine games are against playoff teams with just four home games remaining.
Giving this team hope to climb back in is their play. Hitchcock has said he is impressed with his team’s play of late. They are doing the small things right, getting to lose pucks, putting shots on goal, finishing checks and playing aggressive. The results have not been what they have wanted, but you got to think Hitch and the team believe this level of play will earn more wins.
The Stars began their six game road trip against the defending Stanley Cup champs. Kari Lehtonen kept his team in it with 27 saves, but the Stars did not get enough pucks on net. Alexander Radulov scored the lone goal and former Star Jamie Oleksiak scored the game winner in the Penguins 3-1 win against the Stars.
Surely the Stars could take care of business in Montreal. The Canadiens were coming of a back-to-back with several key players out and the well out of playoff contention. Yet it was not to be. The Stars took an early lead on a first period goal by Radek Faksa. But no third period goals after Montreal scored three consecutive and the Stars fell to the Canadiens, 4-2.
The game of the week occurred on Wednesday against the Maple Leafs. Toronto snagged an early two goal in the first that was quickly erased by Jamie Benn and Faksa before the period ended. Seguin and Ellie secured a two goal lead heading into the third period after a goal each in the second. But the Stars let this one get away from them in the third. The Maple Leafs scored three goals in the third, with just one for the Stars, and forced this one past regulation. The game would be decided in a shootout where the Maple Leafs scored a pair to take the extra point, 6-5 loss.
Another game believed to be a must-have win for the Stars as they headed to Ottawa. Unfortunately it did not work out that way. The Stars worked hard to earn a point as Tyler Pitlick tied it at 2-2 on a shot from his knees with under two minutes remaining. However, the Senators would steal the extra point on a Mike Hoffman game winner.
For the final time this year the Stars faced the Winnipeg Jets. And for the second straight year, the Jets swept the season series against the Stars. Patrick Laine opened the scoring in the first and never surrendered the lead. Mattias Janmark would get the game tied briefly in the first minute of the second period. But the Jets would take the lead right back less than two minutes later. Benn’s second period tally would be their last on the night, Jets win 4-2.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
3/20 @ Capitals 6:00 p.m.
3/23 vs Bruins 7:30 p.m.
3/25 vs Canucks 6:00 p.m.