In this NHL lockout shortened season, teams can ill-afford to go on a long losing streak. It’s even worse if those games are lost at home. This season, a winless streak will be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home. The Dallas Stars were in the midst of one of those streaks prior to Monday’s win over the Calgary Flames that has them on the outside looking in at making the playoffs in the Western Conference.
The Stars had to be looking forward to last week. No travel, four home games, and a chance to climb right back in the playoff hunt. Not only did the Stars lose their first three games of the home stand, they lost two of them badly. It all started Tuesday March 12 with a 4-0 beatdown against Nashville. The penalty killing was subpar to say the least, allowing two power play goals. It doesn’t help when goalie Kari Lehtonen gives up four goals on only 21 shots. He was not good at all between the pipes. The Stars peppered Predators goalie Pekka Rinne with 32 shots, but he stood tough in net. Not a good way to start out the week.
Thursday, the Stars rebounded and played much more competitively against the top team in the Pacific Division, and second best team in the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks. Dallas had plenty of opportunities to get by the Ducks with five power plays, but couldn’t score on any of them. The game was tied 1-1 headed into the shootout and Anaheim scored first. The Stars’ first two chances were no good and they never got a third shot because Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf scored to put the game away. The Stars got a point in the process, but earning one point at home will not get them into the playoffs.
Whether it was a hangover off of a tough loss to a division opponent or just an off night, the Stars were thoroughly shellacked by the Chicago Blackhawks 8-1 Saturday night. This wasn’t just a loss, this was an embarrassment. The Blackhawks scored three goals in each the first and second periods. They were up 7-0 before the Stars scored. Both goalies Kari Lehtonen and Richard Bachman gave up four goals on 17 shots. That’s 13 saves each! They were dreadful. The Stars were absolutely awful. To be fair, the Blackhawks are the best team in the NHL, but an 8-1 loss at home is inexcusable. There is no other way around this. The Stars’ performance was terrible.
Would there be a bounce back against the Calgary Flames Monday night? Yes! Finally, the Stars ended the losing streak with a 4-3 win. Dallas burst out of the gates, scoring three goals in the first period in a span of five minutes. The Flames kept battling back, making it a one goal game after two periods. Loui Erikkson scored his second goal of the game (ninth overall) in the third period to push the Stars lead to 4-2 before the Flames cut it to 4-3 with under five minutes to go. The Stars hung on though for a crucial win. Make no mistake about it, this is a big win for the Stars, ending the losing streak and helping create some positive momentum headed into this week.
So the Stars, coming off of a terrible week, but ending on a win, sit at 13-12-3 for 29 points. That puts them tenth in the western conference. They are not out of the playoff conversation, but had they not won Monday night, they would have been in some trouble. Four more games this week, a chance to rebound and recover…
- Wednesday, March 20: @ Colorado 9:30 PM ET/8:30 CT
- Thursday, March 21: @ Los Angeles 10:30 PM ET/9:30 CT
- Saturday, March 23: VS Colorado 8:00 PM ET/7 CT
- Monday, March 25: VS Minnesota 8:30 PM ET/7:30 CT
This is perhaps the most important week of the season for the Stars. They must do well to have any chance at the playoffs. Colorado provides a couple of wins and a win against the Stanley Cup defending Kings and suddenly streaking Minnesota Wild would definitely make a statement. How they all do is written in the stars.
On another note, the NHL Board of Governor’s officially passed the new NHL realignment plan meaning that next year the Dallas Stars will be in the Mid-West division along with the following teams:
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Colorado Avalanche
- Minnesota Wild
- Nashville Predators
- St. Louis Blues
- Winnipeg Jets
This promises to be an exciting move not only for the Dallas Stars, but the NHL in general. It’s more geographically friendly. This is great for all parties.