It was a tough week for your Texas Stars (21-13-2-2, #4 West) to say the least. Coming into the week with a seven game point streak, expectations were high for the club. Winger Fabian Brunnstrom had a 3 game goal scoring streak going and two teams that were easily beatable were up next on the schedule.
Instead, Texas failed to gain points in either contest and has fallen from #2 in the West to #4 in the West in a matter of 7 days. The West Division of the AHL is the most competitive by far. For example, if you were to take any team, first through eighth, and place them in the North Division, they would all qualify for the playoffs. At one point this week, only five points separated the first place team from the fifth place team.
Rampage Halt Texas' Point Streak at 7, Beat Stars 5-1
(HDH blog link)
After a six day layoff, the Stars traveled to San Antonio to face off with their closest divisional rivals. The Rampage (Phoenix Coyotes) had struggled this year against the Stars (1-3-1-0). I say 'had' because Friday's game was no struggle.
Texas got the first goal off the stick of Fabian Brunnstrom, who extended his goal streak to four straight games. The unassisted tally for the winger would be Texas's only goal as they ceded the next five unanswered by the Rampage. I attended this game personally in San Antonio, and from what I saw the team appeared listless and lacked execution.
The game was what you would consider a "four-point game" and San Antonio's victory allowed them to open up a three point lead on the Stars in the standings, who could have leapfrogged the Rampage with the win. The loss halted Texas's point streak at seven games.
Stars Outmatched By Lake Erie, Lose 3-1
(HDH blog link)
After a tough loss to San Antonio, Texas had a big chance to get back on the horse against the worst team in the conference, the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche). With no hockey in Austin for the last three weeks, anxious fans sold out the Cedar Park Center and a capacity crowd was ready for some action.
The same problems as the night before plagued the Stars, who should have handily beat such a team. Missed passes, defensive and offensive zone turnovers, and a seeming lack of energy defeated the Stars more than the Lake Erie Monsters really did.
More about the week ahead and who is actually doing well despite the losses after the jump...
The Week Ahead
After not having a home game for 19 days, Texas gets just the one and strikes out on the road again, this time through all 3 Illinois-based teams. Wednesday will bring a rare day game in Chicago against the Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers). If you aren't doing anything and have access to a PC around 11 AM on Wednesday, I would listen to the feed at theahl.com.
The trip continues on Friday against the last-place Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks). On Saturday, Texas will then turn around and face the red hot Peoria Rivermen (St Louis Blues), who are #1 in the division.
It's hard to pick a 'hot' player when the team has only scored two goals in two games and lost both by a combined margin of 6 goals. I think that one of the energy lines was the only one really committed on Saturday night, so I'll give it to them. The combo of Colton Sceviour centering Mathieu Tousignant and Raymond Sawada gave a lot of energy to the arena and the game but was not rewarded on the scoresheet.
Brad Lukowich and Matt Stephenson were paired together this week in the absence of Philip Larsen. Lukowich was minus-4 in two games and Stephenson minus-5. Stephenson's defensive zone turnover late in the Lake Erie game led to the third goal, which put the game significantly out of reach. Is Philip Larsen that good? I don't know if that's the only factor, but it's a really good sign for the young defenseman that his absence is noticeable.