The typical narrative is not being followed. They should be done with this by now.
When the Dallas Stars lost to the Canadiens after out-shooting them and to the Red Wings after statistically dominating them only to see a lack of "finish", the 7-3 thud in Long Island seemed a natural bottoming out point. Then things would get better.
They held New Jersey to a goal and generally played well enough against a team determined to halt anything reminiscent of an entertaining on-ice product. They didn't win, but they played better. They improved.
Against the Rangers then, yes? They played a pretty even game and seemed in line to get at least a point or more on the second night of a back-to-back, which would have been found money at that point. Surely it was enough to dig themselves out of this hole and right the ship.
Except Rick Nash scored with time expiring.
So when they went up 2-0 last night, at home, you had to know it was all behind them. The cutting down and the building back up took longer than you'd like to see in a typical slide that happens from time to time, but it ends here. It's time. It's not like they're going to lose to the Islanders again, even if it's not pretty.
And "not pretty" turned into ugly in a hurry.
Their "first three-game losing streak" of the season has now doubled in size. The narrative twists into an even darker one.
Six games and 12 points. Not an insignificant percentage of an 82-game campaign. The math is becoming... challenging, and the Stars haven't added to their total since the waning hours of 2013.
Lindy Ruff has little choice but to look at the micro. To explain each failure individually.
"We played a very good first period," he said this time. "We started turning the puck over in the second period and our top guys turned it over on the entries. The guys that are getting anything done are the guys that are getting it low and making smarter plays. We turned too many over."
Stars fans took to Twitter and parts beyond Sunday night with a thirst to speak of the macro. Who to trade. Where the team will draft. That sort of thing.
Is Jim Nill thinking that way? His is the realm of the macro, certainly.
Patience. Always patience. It's still the order of the day. Or is that the kind of loss, punctuating a six-game stretch, that necessitates a shakeup of some kind? Begs for one? The same was said after a certain shellacking at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks last season and came to naught.
The lines have been shuffled. And re-shuffled. The coach has been changed. The GM, too. A trade? Only if it makes sense for the next 3-5 years, and probably not before the Olympics.
All signs point to attrition. To digging in.
There's no help coming. There's nothing new to say. There's just the truth.
"There's only one way out of it," Ray Whitney said of that truth Sunday night, "and that's just with simple hard work and a commitment to playing the right way. As a group, we have to decide to do that. You can't have half of your team doing it and half the team not doing it. Until you get that, you're not going to have the success you want as a group. We're going to have to evaluate this on Tuesday morning and change what we're doing."
That's the truth concerning the playoff race for those inside the locker room. At 20-12-7, as the Wild crumbled and the Coyotes wavered it (the playoff race) captured our imaginations. At 20-18-7 as the Stars wane and the Wild wax, the thoughts of some drift to the larger truths.
Those would be the ones we trot out in April and July and September. The ones about the long-term plans and the cap and the "culture" and the farm system - about how every game serves as valuable information in what is hoped to be "contender-building." It's not something that needs to be said after all 48 losses or whatever it will be, but it's in the back of our minds.
Which is all a pompously long-winded way of saying that some people rush to the standings and some people rush to the draft board or the inane trade rumors - and the lines of demarcation where those two groups are concerned are blurry and ever-changing during a season.
It's easy to sit back now and say "Well, I didn't really expect them to make the playoffs anyway..." You hoped they would. Some of you dared to even believe it a little bit just 13 days ago. You're a sports fan. You simply can't have the hope beaten out of you.
A six-game losing streak has a funny way of warping expectations and facilitating revisionist history.
The part that stings about this, and it's been said in this space already this month, is that we were shown, in all its titillating glory, what this group CAN do.
This too shall pass, and the Stars will be "back in it" at some point. There's no doubt.
Stranger things have happened, after all. Like losing six straight to Eastern Conference opponents. It doesn't get any weirder than that.
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