The Dallas Stars are a team with growing pains.
Despite the jokes that are made nation wide about Dallas being a retirement home for players, they are an extremely young team. Three rookies on the defense, and a number more in their first two seasons help to comprise the group of forwards on the ice.
Because of that fact, there will be a lot of issues that this team will have to face and learn from during the year. There will be defensive collapses, there will be scoring droughts, and there will be frustrations that the players have to deal with when adversity strikes.
During the month of February, we saw all of that, and more.
Last month, Dallas posted an 8-5-1 record, which is not bad, considering the youth of the team and the fact that Kari Lehtonen was injured for five of those games. Still, though, the Stars are not in control of their own destiny in order to reach the playoffs. Even though they ranked in 6th in the conference after yesterday's win, they have played more games than a number of the teams just behind them in the standings.
Given the condensed season, every point won or lost is going to be even more vital than they were before. And it's understandable that both fans and players are going to get worked up about the losses that this team has. Fans are allowed to do this. It's practically in the job description. However, players, especially on the ice, have to remained composed and continue to play their game.
That means fewer penalties, (generally) fewer fights, and less panicking when things go awry. They have to believe in their system, and stick to it. During the month of March, that is exactly what Joe Nieuwendyk hopes to see.
"We've gone through a stretch where we thought we were getting better, and then we blew it up the other night. It's something that's going to continue to be a focus for us. We've got to be better in that department. It's almost like we're turning the page on February and we're starting March. It's a big month for us," Nieuwendyk said of the penalty situation. "We're implementing different things in our game, and a lot of the penalties we're experiencing can certainly be avoided if you just think about what you're doing out there. I know the game is emotional, and some players you like them because they play on the edge, but you just have to be careful not to put your team down."
With a young team that is still transitioning, mistakes are going to happen. If they want to make the playoffs this year, and gain the valuable experience that comes from it, they have to compose themselves as best they can, so that they can give themselves the best chance possible to win each game.
Last night was a fantastic start to that mantra, with only one power play given. The Stars certainly started out slowly, but they remained composed, cashed in on their chances, and didn't let the St. Louis Blues back into the game.
With any luck, they can accomplish the same thing over the next week, as they face their Pacific Division foes -- two teams that they might be fighting against for those last few playoff spots as the season draws to a close in April. It's too early to tell exactly what will happen by the time that happens, but, given the tightness of the race this year, the Stars certainly can't afford to take any chances.
- Derek Roy has been looking good lately, and it's starting to pay off on the score sheet. [Dallas News]
- Even thought the first period wasn't all that strong, the Stars were able to cash in on their chances. And that made all the difference. [Stars Inside Edge]
- Here's an interesting look into the magic that goes on in the player safety room, where each questionable play is looked at. [ESPN]
- Speaking of player safety, Flyers' Zolnierczyk was handed the largest suspension of the season, thanks to a horrifying hit. Considering he's missing almost a tenth of the season for it, that kind of makes you feel good about the length, I suppose. [Puck Daddy]
- Here's an interesting look at hockey life in Nashville, TN. It's a bit of a long read, but well worth your time, I promise. [Grantland]
- If you don't watch "The Amazing Race," you might have a reason to now. A couple of hockey players are contestants on the show, so you can root for them. [Toronto Sun]
- I enjoy giving the refs a hard time as much as the next guy, but they really do have one of the toughest jobs there is. They have to make those calls in real time, and then be blasted by those of us that have the luxury of slow motion instant replay, and re-watching it a half dozen times. Maybe it's time to cut them a little slack. [ESPN]
- For your video of the day, if you missed yesterday's game, it was certainly a good one. We even got to see Erik Cole score his first as a Dallas Star. Here's the game in 6.