The playoff window is closing quickly for the Texas Stars (24-27-2-2, 52 pts, #15 Western Conference), as the club collected only two of a possible six points this week. All three games this weekend were against divisional opponents, who need the points just as much. Texas had accomplished a streak of four home game wins coming into Saturday's game against the Aeros (Minnesota Wild). Including five against on Saturday, Texas allowed 12 goals in three games and only scored six.
The playoffs are slipping away right now for Texas. The Stars are in last place in the conference and can only afford five more losses before the window closes pretty much completely. Some may call it a lost season, but that's an AHL viewpoint. For Dallas fans, every season has potential whether you win the Cup or you're golfing by Tax Day. Big storylines this year for Texas include the emergence of Richard Bachman to the backup role in Dallas and the growth of Philip Larsen and Tomas Vincour to become every day NHLers.
Further, Texas has some great prospects budding up among their ranks. Older guys like Ryan Garbutt and Jordie Benn played their first NHL games this season after starting their careers in the oft-maligned CHL. Free agent signees (and roommates, no less) Matt Fraser and Brenden Dillon have begun to mature their professional game and could have long NHL careers thanks to wise scouting from Dallas. And finally, drafted prospects like Scott Glennie have taken big steps forward toward NHL careers. While it may be a tough season for Texas fans, Dallas fans have many things to be happy about moving forward.
More on this week's slate of games, Coach's thoughts on Ryan Garbutt, and the burgeoning injury list inside...
Texas started out strong in Oklahoma City, looking like they would get the best of the Barons (Edmonton Oilers), but ended the night with another L. After a first period power play goal by Texas, the Barons scored the next five straight for a 5-1 final. Andrew Raycroft started the game but was pulled in favor of Beskorowany after allowing four goals on 18 shots. Beskorowany stopped 16 of 17. Jordie Benn scored Texas's only goal on a breakaway on the power play.
Oklahoma City co-leads the league in points at 75. The Stars see them three more times this season.
Texas opened a two game set with Houston Friday in Cedar Park with a win, their first in Central Texas over the Aeros this season. The 3-2 regulation win stretched their home winning streak to four games, reaching back to the February 8th game against Milwaukee. When asked about the streak, Coach Pyle added, "Winning everywhere is crucial. We just don't play smart enough on the road to win."
Texas picked up goals from Glennie, Esposito and Wathier while Tyler Beskorowany played a gargatuan game, stopping 39 of 41 shots against. "Getting a couple of wins here in the last few weeks, my confidence level is definitely up there right now," said Beskorowany. Coach Pyle added, "He's been playing better and better in the last few weeks. He made some huge saves for us [tonight] and calmed things down."
This was a real momentum killer for Texas. After winning four straight at home, Texas laid an egg against Houston in the second night of a back-to-back. Houston and Texas were tied in the first but the Aeros potted four straight afterwards en route to a 5-2 win. Tyler Beskorowany took the loss, stopping 32 of 37 shots. The Stars were outshot 37-23, including a 13-4 mark in the first period alone. Texas's goals came from Brenden Dillon and Colton Sceviour.
The Week Ahead
Texas takes to the road for two games in British Columbia this week. Friday and Sunday games against the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames) will preface the Stars' longest home stretch of the season, seven games, beginning on March 7.
Coach Pyle Talks Garbutt
Coach Pyle has a special relationship with Ryan Garbutt. As an ECHL coach, you are also the GM. He picked him up out of the CHL's IceRays for his Gwinnett Gladiators in the 2010-11 season. The Chicago Wolves signed him to a tryout in November and had him on a standard player contract by December. Coach Pyle got the job in Texas as the Dallas org was asking around about Garbutt's play when they were looking to sign him. Pyle has a very "proud dad" type vibe when talking about Garbutt in the NHL, which I asked him about in the below video.
There are a lot of injuries affecting the Stars lineup right now. Raymond Sawada and Hubert Labrie remain on the injured list from the past few weeks. Dan Spang and Stephen Schultz, added last week, are still both out with no timetables for returning. Finally, Maxime Fortunus was injured in Texas's game against Oklahoma City on Wednesday.