By Martin Iheke
The Dallas Stars could not keep the momentum going into this past week after going 2-0-1 the previous week. They ended up going 1-2-0 and in the two losses looked very bad. We will start with their home game against the Chicago Blackhawks last Tuesday where the Stars got manhandled, 6-2. They did not look like they were ready to play from the start and the defending champs quickly took advantage jumping to a 5-0 lead by the middle of the second period. Goalie Kari Lehtonen was pulled from the game after letting in four goals on 19 shots. In pretty much every facet of the game, the Stars were outplayed. After the game, head coach Lindy Ruff was not shy about telling us how he really felt about his team’s play. “That was a good old-fashion ***kicking. You can’t hide that,” Ruff said. “Mentally, I did not like our preparation. We took the early penalties and some of those I thought were ones we could have avoided and it put us in a hole. Even to kill the 5-on-3 off and then have the lack of coverage that gave Kane the breakaway, that’s inexcusable,” as he continued.
This game was really disappointing from the standpoint of how far the Stars have come as of late in not completely getting outworked in a game. They will lose some games but show some effort. In this case, they were not ready at all mentally or physically and you have to be if you want to beat teams like the Blackhawks. The good news in this one is that it was just one game. Unfortunately, the Stars could not shake off the bad taste in their mouth from the Chicago game as they would lose at the Nashville Predators, 3-1, last Thursday. Special teams were the difference in this game as the Predators would score all three goals with the man-advantage (Predators third goal came on a delayed penalty on the Stars which resulted in an extra-man advantage after they pulled their goalie) while the Stars could not score on any of theirs. The woeful power play continues to haunt this team and there does not seem to be any answer on how to fix it. “We’re getting chances, it’s not like we can’t get the puck in the zone,” Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said according to dallasnews.com. “We’re getting in positions where we’re getting good looks, we just need to find a way to get pucks around guys and hit the net. We haven’t been so good at blocking pucks these days. We need to find a way to get that extra pass, or fake and step around a guy, and get pucks at that net,” as he continued.
That is all well and good but at the end of the day, it is all about results and the Stars have not been getting the results they need on the man-advantage which puts them dead last in the NHL. Could they finally get their power play going and avoid a three-game losing streak for the first time this season at the Winnipeg Jets two days later? Yes to both questions as the Stars would win, 6-4, thanks to a pair of goals from their captain Jamie Benn who had not scored a goal in eleven games. His linemate Tyler Seguin was terrific as well with two goals and two assists. However, the most important factor in this game was that the Stars scored two goals on the power play on five chances. They have only done that twice this season with both coming against the Jets. “We said it before the game – [special-teams play] was going to make the difference,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said according to NHL.com. “Our power play got a couple [of goals], and it made a difference,” as he continued.
No question it can make a difference. It did in the Nashville game and recently against the Jets. The Stars are hoping that can continue when they travel to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche Monday night before returning home the next night to take on the same team. They will host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night before going back out road to play the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
12/16 @ Avalanche 8:00 PM
12/17 vs Avalanche 7:30 PM
12/19 vs Canucks 7:30 PM
12/21 @ Sharks 9:30 PM