Normally at this time, the NHL would have about one week remaining in its regular season and there would be a lot of teams franticly trying to position themselves for the playoffs. Not this year with a lockout-shortened season. Instead of one week, one month remains and there will be plenty of jockeying for the playoffs over the month of April. Things could and probably will change nightly. Teams like the Dallas Stars need to capitalize on such a pivotal month, or they could be going home to watch the playoffs.
Fortunately for the Stars, there was no travel required of them this week. In fact, they got a few much needed days to rest and get healthy after their 7-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild Monday night. That same Wild team returned to Dallas on Friday and this time, the Stars were ready. Dallas jumped out to a 2-0 lead with two first-period goals in the first ten minutes. Minnesota eventually tied it up 2-2 entering the third period, but the Stars put the pedal to the medal. They tallied three goals in the third period, two of which came on a power play against a Minnesota penalty kill unit ranked in the top five in the NHL. The Stars eventually won 5-3 with five different players scoring a goal. Perhaps it was because Minnesota left normal starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom in Minnesota to rest after twelve consecutive starts. Newly called up goalie Matt Hackett just didn’t have enough to stop the Stars attack. Whatever the reason, the Stars played great and it was a big and much needed win for Dallas.
Sunday, Dallas looked to keep momentum going against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. It did not start out well as the Kings Jeff Carter scored 25 seconds into the game, his 20th of the season. It didn’t get much better for Dallas. Tied 1-1 in the third period, LA scored two goals that proved to be enough to hold off the Stars 3-2. The score was a lot closer than the game would indicate. The Kings dominated this game. They outshot the Stars 40-15. They looked fresher. They looked more determined, sharper. This was not a great outing for Dallas. The Kings had just played an overtime game Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild so the Stars had no reason to be outplayed as bad as they did Sunday, especially against a division rival at home. The Kings appear to have the Stars’ number though in Dallas. They are now 11-1-2 in their last fourteen regular season games against the Stars at American Airlines Center.
Last night, the Stars took on the Pacific Division leading Anaheim Ducks, only the second best team in the western conference. The Ducks proved it, crushing the Stars 4-0. Three goals in the span of just under five minutes in the second period put the Ducks in full control of this one. Lehtonen started his fifteenth straight game in net and you have to wonder whether or not he is just gassed and maybe the Stars need to rest him a game or two. Unfortunately, with the Stars outside of the playoffs, they need Lehtonen in net and need him to play just like he did last year.
The Stars and Ducks will be well acquainted when all is said and done. Not only did the two teams Monday night, but they play each other the next two games, an oddity in this shortened NHL schedule. Quirky to say the least. The Ducks are the Pacific Division leaders, but they’ve struggled a little bit as of late. Dallas must find a way to earn some points and steal a road win or two here. The schedule for the Stars this week is as follows:
- Wednesday, April 3 @ Anaheim 10:00 PM ET/9 CT
- Friday, April 5 @ Anaheim 10:00 PM ET/9 CT
- Sunday, April 7 @ San Jose 4:00 PM ET/3 CT
This week is huge for the Stars. Three games on the road, all within the division. If the Stars want to make a run at the division and/or make the playoffs, they must find a way to earn some points on this crucial road trip. Dallas is 16-16-3, good for 35 points and 12th in the western conference. They need to get it together and quick or they will miss the playoffs. How it all goes is truly written in the stars.