Stargazing: Lehtonen Takes Over as Stars Fall to Blues 6-1

Stars fans have been waiting for the proverbial page to turn on the goaltending situation for almost a month now. As Marty Turco stood in his crease, watching Kari Lehtonen spill over the bench and skate toward him, I couldn't help but wonder: "Is this it"? Evidently the rest of the AAC was thinking the same thing, and people had one of two very different reactions. Many actually stood up (and this is Dallas now. People don't stand up for much of anything) and applauded, cheering with a kind of fervent enthusiasm that suggested a relishing of the demise of Marty Turco, rather than a cheer of encouragement for their new netminder.

The other half, of which I was a part, sat quietly and regarded the exchange on the ice as well as the reaction of our fellow patrons with great unease. Not even two hours earlier, this same crowd applauded a ceremony celebrating Turco's 500th game.

A bit dramatic? Sure it is. Turco would have been pulled in a game like that no matter who the backup was. Plus, we'll still see Marty plenty of times this season. Kari Lehtonen, by all accounts, is not yet conditioned for a heavy work load and the two will share time to close out the year.

Even still, there was an intangible weight to the moment that's not part of your garden variety backup/starter swap. Marty Turco's absence from the bench the remainder of the game did nothing to subtract from that feeling either, unrelated though it may have been.

As for the game itself, I'll let Stargazing do the talking. It was a complete failure from top to bottom. After the jump we'll see what the coach had to say about his teams performance, and we'll get reaction from all over the interwebs...

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Mike Heika starts us off, and hints at something we touched on in the recap thread last night...

You can slice it any way you want, but I think the last two games show a lack of leadership and preparation.

Marty Turco was bad tonight, and that does make it difficult to read this game, but you can't play two games like that and expect to make the playoffs. You could feel the want in both the Kings and Blues. You got no such sensation from watching the Stars. That goes to coaches and the leadership group.

I'm not sure what they do now.

They aren't out of it, but if the pace is for 95 points (as the Stars themselves are projecting), they need 27 points in 19 games or about a 13-5-1 run down the stretch. This road trip will be a big one. Here's what the players had to say:

Leadership and preparation. Coaching. It smacks of coaching. Hold the players accountable as well, by all means, but when the exact same group of humans plays like they did for 6 games in February, and then play like they have the last two games in March...it's maddening, and Mike is right. It's leadership and coaching.

We've seen what they can do when they're "on". It wasn't just Marty Turco that was hot before the break. Their game oozed confidence. Last night it steamed with the stench of confusion and hesitance.

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Please head over to Mark Stepneski's blog, where he offers thought's on last night's game and has audio from the post game:

I am at a loss right now. The Stars’ play in these two games has been disturbing. They’ve been a mess in both of them and the scores (5-1 and 6-1) reflect that.

Those two St. Louis goals 17 seconds apart late in the first period that made it 3-1 were the turning point. The second one - Paul Kariya’s slap shot from the left circle that ripped through Marty Turco’s glove and into the net - was a killer. Alex Steen scores early in the second to make it 4-1 and it was starting to look like Tuesday all over again.

Turco had a rough night against the Blues. The players in front of him weren’t much better. The team defense was sloppy again at times.

 

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St. Louis Game Time revels in their newly found offensive prowess:

Put a guy on notice that he's being actively shopped to other teams at the NHL trade deadline, decide to keep him and then watch him resurrect his season. I'm not saying that's a guarantee for Brad Boyes and Paul Kariya, but it sure looks like it this week.

The under-performing forwards sparked the Blues' offense Thursday night in Dallas. They scored the first three goals of the game for St. Louis on the way to a 6-1 rout of the Stars. Instead of asking where the hell this offense has been this season (five straight games with at least four goals -- if you count the skills competition), let's do a little compare and contrast for the two offensive sparks tonight.

Brad Boyes has scored a goal in each of the last two Blues games. By scoring on his only shot on goal Thursday night, Boyes increased his shooting percentage to 7.5 percent on the season after seeing it fall to 6.5 percent before the Olympic break. Before Tuesday's game, Boyes went 0 for the month of February with no points in his last eight games and 12 games without a goal. This decade he still only has three goals. Finally, this is only the third time all season he's scored goals in consecutive games.

Glad we could help.

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Richard Durrett at ESPN Dallas has Joe Nieuwendyk quotes, and much more from last night:

"It's desperation time and we need to play like it," Nieuwendyk said. "I don't think Marty Turco's focus is what it needs to be, but he's not the only one. There are some guys on this team that haven't figured out we're back to playing again."

Nieuwendyk hopes that a three-game road trip might be well-timed to help get the team focused again and free of distractions.

"In some ways, going on the road is good," Nieuwendyk said. "We are playing three teams that can embarrass you in a hurry. We've had two tough losses, but we're still two points out of the playoffs. We have to play better."

He also has a very early mock draft. Ugh. Is it time to start thinking about the draft?

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Stars PR had the quotage after the game:

Marc Crawford:

"I'm concerned, for sure. Percentage-wise, it's as high as it's been with the group. I do think that when things go bad like they have the last couple of games, you need to stay tight and come back to the core of what you do well. We've obviously gotten a long way away from our core. It that's with our play in our defensive zone. Our defensive play has usually been the hallmark of what we do. We're not playing great in that area right now. It's been exposed a little bit by some goals that have gone in that haven't been the greatest goals. We've been very lax in some areas of our coverage, and they exposed us tonight."

"I thought he was fine (Lehtonen). One goal went in off of Stephane Robidas' skate. I thought he looked good. I the third he had to face some really good chances . He's a big goaltender, butterfly guy, fills up a lot of the net. I think it's positive that he got those important minutes for him."

Stephane Robidas:

"There's not a lot of good things happening for us right now. We're beating ourselves. The work ethic is not there, and we're not sticking with the program, and once we get down, we get down on ourselves. When you get down by a goal, you can't let that affect the team, and we've just got to go back to basics, and keep it simple, and play hard and go from there"

"We've been playing the game for a long time, and it shouldn't affect us. Obviously, it's disappointing to give up two goals late in the first like that. We've got to be stronger mentally. We've got to play hard and we've got to be ready for a challenge. It doesn't matter what's going on in a game - if we're down by a goal, or two or three, we've got to keep playing, keep doing our job and keep doing the right things. Once we get down by one, sometimes we try to do too much, or we're not doing enough, and we're not sticking with our program."

Brad Richards:

"We're definitely not in the position we thought we'd be in going into the break. We were on a high and playing well. But obviously, we've let that slip. That's our job, no one else's, especially our leadership group here to grab it now before it's too late. We got some help the other night. We're not out of it, but it's going to be a tougher road every day that goes by."

"It has to. There's no magic formula right now to refocus. If we can't do that, then we're done. Whether it's on the road or anywhere, we're down under 20 games. These outings can't happen anymore."

Kari Lehtonen:

"It was exciting. It was not the way I'd like things to start, but it felt fine, and I kind of got into it. Now I feel a lot more comfortable, but it wasn't too much fun there after 4-1."

"For sure, I'm going to be more comfortable next time when I get out there. Of course, the other team started not playing that hard anymore when they had a good lead."

"It was fine [the back]. That part felt good. We were worried about that, but it turned out good. I try every five minutes anyway to get up from the seat and do a little stretching and move around, so I think that helped."

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The St. Louis Post Dispatch has remarks from the the Blues coach...

"We're not in a situation where we can look for each star to line up and wake up two days from now and see where the dust has settled," said Payne, who has a 13-8-3 mark as Blues mentor. "There's a lot of hockey still to be played. The importance of that hockey is elevated. Again, I have a hard time believing we can run the table on 19 straight.

"We've got to take care of the kind of game we play and expect the results from that. If we put together 19 great performances, then I like our chances."

One might debate whether Thursday night falls into the "great performance" category, but...

...

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If I'm not mistaken, the Stars haven't suffered a defeat at home this lopsided since November 2nd, 2007 when they lost 5-0 to the Phoenix Coyotes.

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