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Stargazing: Stars Lose in Denver, 4-1

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Stargazing is a daily assortment of Dallas Stars and Texas Stars news, and whatever other random ramblings are bouncing around inside our heads.

My mother told me that if I didn't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all. So I guess that's the end of this one.

I could say something nice about the Avalanche. Their coaching staff certainly had their team ready to go, in extreme contrast to what was evidently happening on the other bench. The game was in HD. That was nice, I liked that. I could give the Avs some credit for playing a nice defensive game and scoring pucks from behind the Dallas net, but I'm not sure the opponent was a huge factor for Dallas last night. The Slovakia Junior National team (who was playing a much a more entertaining hockey game on NHL network at the time) might have given the Stars a run for their money.

It's happened so many times this season: Dallas didn't look interested in playing hockey until it was entirely too late. For most of the game it appeared as though they were wearing tennis shoes and the Avs had skates on. I know that's not good analysis, or analysis of any kind actually, but my opinion it remains nonetheless. I think we're all getting a little frustrated with this thing right now.

And so the Stars wake up on December 27th with the Red Wings and Canucks having passed them, and the Wild and the Blues creeping up their backsides. They've dropped eight of their last ten road games, and they begin a stretch soon where they play five of six on the road. The road was a strength for this team early in the season, but now it is tying tightening the noose around their necks. The home schedule gets no easier with The Blackhawks, tops in the West, coming to the AAC on Tuesday.

Follow the jump for player quotes and reaction to the game in Denver last night...


Art hit the nail on the head in our recap here last night. 'Sleepwalking', he called it:

Yes the score sheet says they outshot the Avs 41-32 but most of those shots were of the "from distance" and "at Budaj's chest" variety - and honestly I'm wondering if the guy keeping stats there in Colorado didn't have a little too much egg nog as it sure didn't seem like there were actually 41 Dallas shots.

Yes the score sheet says the Stars actually won two more faceoffs in the game than the Avalanche, but they were only 50% (9 of 18) in the offensive zone and a horrid 38% (5 of 13) in their own zone... So lets just say faceoffs are still an issue for this team.

They didn't play hard enough to force the Avalanche to take any penalties - granted the refs tagged Adam Foote for holding at the end of the firts period, but upon further review that was the chintziest of chintzy calls.

I saw that 41 shots number after the game and was shocked as well. The most dangerous chance the Stars had all night was the James Neal shot that wasn't a shot because he missed a gaping net. It was just that kind of night. Again.


Mike Heika didn't have much to say about this one either...

The top line was minus-10 tonight, so that's not good. They were probably trying too hard to get goals back.

The role players are rarely contributing to the scoring, so my guess is the top line feels a lot of pressure.

That said, getting to the net and not being able to get to rebound or get a puck past the goalie is getting old for everyone.

I'm not sure if the Stars are not paying the price or if it's just bad luck.

Either way, it's the very frustrating loss after a win again.

The top line was a minus 10. Yuck.

Some of you commented (I didn't watch it) that Craig Ludwig was openly critical of James Neal and Loui Eriksson's defensive games on the Stars Live post game show. I didn't see it, but if that's true, then good on Luddy.


The Avalanche were surprised to see people there in their building:

Judging from Saturday night's rockin' atmosphere at the Pepsi Center, one of the more popular Christmas gifts must have been Avalanche tickets. That, or maybe Front Range hockey fans finally figured out Colorado is home to a pretty good NHL squad.

The place was sold out (18,007) for just the second time this season, and first since Joe Sakic's retirement ceremony on opening night.

The Northwest Division-leading Avs didn't disappoint, beating the Dallas Stars 4-1 behind two goals from Chris Stewart and a season-high 39 saves from starting goalie Peter Budaj.

"It was great to see the fans. I was kind of surprised," said Budaj, who replaced an ill Craig Anderson. "I walked in and was like, 'Wow, it's a full house.'


The Denver Post talks about the weird goal that started it off:

On a fluke play, Durno got his first career NHL tally 6:04 into the game, when his pass from behind

the net went off the paddle of Auld's stick and into the net.

"It seemed like the hockey gods were shining on them tonight," Auld said of the Avs. "It's pretty rare for that first goal to go in on a crazy hop like that."

Durno, 29, has played in 15 NHL games over the past two seasons.

"It felt amazing," Durno said of his unorthodox goal. "It's something that you work for to get for a long time. And to finally get it, words cannot describe it."

The Lightning scored a similarly weird goal through Alex Auld after Thanksgiving, if you'll recall.


The Avs were motivated in the third period by a recent "meltdown" against the Ducks:

"The downfall of our team has been (trying to protect) 2-1 leads in the third period when we’ve failed to put the nail in the coffin," said Stewart, who added an empty-net goal with 57.5 seconds remaining. "I gave (Auld) a shoulder fake, he went down, and I shot it."

The Avalanche played with a lot more aggression in the third period Saturday than they did in Tuesday’s meltdown and subsequent 4-2 loss to the Ducks.

"We played like we were down by two goals tonight," Stewart said. "We have to have that mentality, that no matter how much time is left, we have to show up to play."


Player quotes on the road are hard to come by on the road...

Mike Modano played a decent game, I thought, but was rolling out the excuses...

"Pretty brutal," center Mike Modano said, regarding the Stars’ situation. "The air is thin, the ice is bad and coming in this morning, getting up early, travel-wise, it wasn’t ideal, but it is what it is."

"We had some pressure there in the second, had some opportunities, but they got one back there to make it a two-goal lead," Modano said.

And the Morning News brings you Marc Crawford:

``I did like some things about our game tonight, but we'd be doing ourselves a disservice if we dwelled on them,'' coach Marc Crawford said. ``We have to fix the things that weren't right.''

``You're going to play tight game and you've got to be responsible. We did some selfish things tonight,'' Crawford said. ``The difference in the game was that I didn't think our top guys were good enough, and they needed to be. The Richards line was minus-10, and they have to be more responsible than that. They're going to get the other team's top people, and they have to expect that and they have to rise to the challenge.''

``We've got to have people play a little bit harder and not take lightly the fact that you are generating chances, but you're not getting dirty,'' Crawford said. ``To score goals in this league, it's really hard. You've got to go to the hard areas. You've got to go to the front of the net and you've got to pay a price, and our guys can do a better job of that for sure.''


Next up: The Chicago Blackhawks: The stingiest team in the NHL, and also the hottest (8-2 in their last 10). The Hawks have it going on right now, so uh...come on out Tuesday to check that out.