The Dallas Stars now sit in 7th place in the Western Conference, after occupying 1st in the Pacific for nearly three months. A loss on Saturday to the Canucks, and the Stars could find themselves out of the top eight in the conference. If there was any doubt before that the Stars would end up fighting purely for a playoff spot, then there should be none now. The Stars are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games and other than Colorado are now the coldest team in the conference.
The injuries are hurting this team, there's no doubt about that. But the season won't wait for players to get healthy, and no excuses should be made for the losses that are occurring. Jamie Langenbrunner recognizes this.
"We’re missing a lot of guys, but nobody cares in this league who is in the lineup," said Langenbrunner. "You still have to go out and get points. We know now we’re in a battle for a playoff spot and we know these games are going to keep on ticking by - we got to pick up some points."
The good news is that there is still time for the Stars to pull out of this nosedive. The Stars may be in danger of falling out of the top eight in the conference, but they are far from out of the playoff picture. The trick -- of course -- is to just start winning again. The Stars will be facing a division- heavy schedule in March and if they are getting some key players back and regaining confidence -- then all is certainly not lost. Right now, however, things are certainly looking mighty bleak.
"Early in the year we were finding ways to win games," said Stephane Robidas. "Now we are finding ways to lose games."
"We've just got to keep working hard," said Robidas. "We're going through adversity right now and it's going to make our team stronger. Every team goes through it. Look at Calgary, earlier in the year they were one of the worst teams in the league and look where they are at right now."
The Stars actually appeared to be temporarily in control of the game in the second period and for a short while we were optimistic that perhaps the Stars were pulling out of this slump. They were fighting hard, winning battles for the puck and not only creating scoring chances but actually cashing in on them as well. Then we witnessed perhaps the most disturbing part of this slump, as the Stars wilted and allowed the Flames to score three unanswered goals en route to the win.
The shorthanded goal allowed in the third period was the backbreaker, just as the Stars were fighting to tie the game while on the power play.
"The short-handed goal, we can’t make that play," coach Marc Crawford said. "The game is there, the game is in the balance and we’ve got to just be smart on that. You’re trying to tie it with 15 minutes to go and you don’t have to."
If there is any consolation to come from this loss, any at all, is that Jamie Langenbrunner was able to respond to perhaps some of the worst performances of his career. The Stars traded for Langenbrunner to provide a veteran presence on the team and help lead them into the playoffs. As injuries have decimated the lineup, the pressure on Langenbrunner to produce has intensified and it seemed as though he was falling apart when the team needed him most. On Wednesday night, Langenbrunner had his best game since coming to Dallas and was by far the best player on the ice for the Stars.
"I had some good talks with coaches and with [Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk], and they basically just told me to relax, have some fun," said Langenbrunner. "I was putting too much pressure on myself to do something I’m not, so I needed to just kind of turn the brain off and go out there and play hockey like I know how to. I felt better and tonight, it started to come together a little more."
One player who did not have a fun night? Brenden Morrow, missing on two prime opportunities to change the complexion of the game -- including a wide open net on a 2-on-1 with Mike Ribeiro.
"I try not to think about those things, but it’s going to be a restless night not sleeping thinking about that one," Morrow said.
Plenty of sleepless nights ahead for Stars fans, as well.