The Dallas Stars kept themselves in the playoff race conversation again Tuesday night after a 3-0 win in Montreal against the
habless hapless Canadiens. Like too many other times this side of the break, the Stars had lost significant ground and needed a victory to avoid slipping too far back. They got it against the Habs, like they got them previously against the Flames, the Blue Jackets and the Wild.
They kept hope alive again, but they're faced with the same question repeatedly: Can they do anything with it? Can they take the next step? Can they go on a run? In the last 30 games the Stars have managed back to back wins only two times. Never three in a row in that span.
This win in Montreal offers some lessons for the Stars to follow as they move forward. They went into a very tough building (throw out the Canadiens home record this year, that's still a tough building for a bunch of guys who literally never go there) and they dictated. They dictated for the first time since the game in Columbus (which also saw penalty trouble in the second threaten to let an opponent off the mat, by the way).
More after the jump...
"Those first 10 minutes in a game to set the tone is what you're really looking for and we've concentrated on that here a little of late," said Glen Gulutzan. "I thought we played a full 60. We got into some penalty trouble in the second, but we got some kills and some saves and we found a way to win in the third."
Mike Heika got the quote of the game from Vernon Fiddler when he said "We all played the same way. We all played hard, and that's what we can do when we play hard. We just have to do it every game now."
That is what they can do when they play hard. They've given themselves another shot to string something together and carry some confidence into the next one. Another shot to go on that elusive run.
It may not affect what Joe Nieuwendyk is thinking at the trade deadline one way or the other (and probably shouldn't) but it would give fans and players alike an enormous shot in the arm if they're able to, as he said, "do it every game" and at least just see where it takes them.
A couple of additional thoughts after this win...
The 3-0 win over the Canadiens was just the 11th time this year the Stars have won a game by two or more goals, and that's excluding games in which an empty netter put them ahead by a margin of two, of course.
Because winning one goal games is considered to be, by some, a product of at least some luck that has no season to season correlation statistically, measuring a club's number of "clear victories" is one way of trying to size up who the truly good teams are.
Measuring a team in 10th place's clear victories might then be a pretty poor exercise, I admit, but this was just their second true multi-goal victory in their last 20 games! Confirming what you, the Stars fan already knows: When they do manage to win, it's a nail biter.
The Pesky Penalty Problem Persists in Popping Up
What? You don't like alliteration?
The Stars escaped a sticky situation last night in the second period, largely on their own merit and penalty killing, even without Nick Grossman, but also because their opponent was no exactly the caliber we're used to seeing lately (i.e. teams in the West competing for playoff spots). Taking four minor penalties in 17 minutes will be a ticket to a loss nine times out of ten.
You can argue that a couple of those calls were suspect at best and that the Stars probably deserved another power play or two themselves, but the results show that they were -3 on advantages last night, and that's the bottom line. Even a first period in which they supposedly dominated the Canadiens (29-9 in shot opportunities, 1-0 on the scoreboard) the Stars played with the puck for 20 minutes and couldn't coax their chasing opponent into a foul?
Eight times since the break the Stars have been on the short end of the stick where power play opportunities are concerned (out of 12 games). They've been at a negative balance, in fact, in 12 of their last 19 games overall. The power play may not be all that great but they're right back where they were early in the season: Taking way too many minors in relation to the opponent.
There's still time, but that's one of those things that once again must be cleaned up and focused on down the stretch. Give the Blackhawks four power plays in the second period on Thursday and see what that gets you. No bueno.
The Playoff Race
The Coyotes caught the Sharks last night at 69 points. The Sharks got blown out in Columbus. The entire Pacific Division is separated by a measly nine points now, with PHX and SJS at the top and the Ducks down at the bottom.
- Anaheim lost to the Lightning - Good for the Stars
- The Predators beat the Canucks, somehow - Indifferent, really for Dallas
- Chicago beat the Red Wings and now waits for Dallas and Richard Bachman - Not what we'd prefer after there was hope of the Hawks sliding. No more.
- The Flames got absolutely man-handled by the Oilers - Excellent
- Phoenix and Los Angeles went to a shootout. Shocker. Tied at 4, even. So it doesn't matter if it's a 1-1 staring contest or a 4-4 bonanza, these teams are hell bent on spread it around with their style of game that goes nowhere in the post-season. The Coyotes won. - We hate everything about this one.The Kings now perilously hold the 8 spot, just two points ahead of Dallas with no head to head matchups remaining. That loss to LAK on home ice recently hurts this morning.