Through 22 games this season, the Stars have had nine games already head to the overtime period. It's been an unkind game after sixty minutes for Texas. They've won just two of those nine.
Coach Laxdal chimed in after the Stars' most recent home game, "You look at the seven overtime losses, and that's seven points that puts us right back in the pack. We've talked about this. These are critical points we're giving up."
He's right. Seven points for Texas would vault them from 11th place in the Western Conference to firm hold of 4th. Even winning half those games would place them in 7th.
The Stars' seven OT losses are the most in any one season for the young franchise. Texas has lost 25 overtime games in franchise history and never more than five in a season.
You may be thinking that the Stars are being affected by the AHL's OT rule changes. That is a part of it. Among the seven losses, three have come during the 3-on-3 play. Those goals usually come down to loss of puck possession that generates a 2-on-1. Texas has been burned that way each time.
Part of what is giving Texas fits is the player usage. It's a vicious cycle that is happening for the Stars.
First, the Stars run more of a 1-2-3-1-2-4 type line rotation, which obviously gives more ice time to the top six guys who are also out there for special teams and in key situations late in the game and into OT. In some even more dire situations, it seems like Travis Morin and his line are coming over the boards every other shift. By the time, OT rolls around, those guys have been working hard all game and are still needed by their club to make that OT difference.
Add to this that Coach Laxdal has bemoaned the Stars' lack of depth scoring. Guys like Radek Faksa and Kevin Henderson ought to have more goals for the club after being such a big part of the run to the Cup. So if you aren't getting scoring out of lines 3 and 4 and you are from lines 1 and 2, it perpetuates itself. You're more likely to roll with 1 and 2 because they're producing and now you're in a bind when you get to the OT frame.
Amazing Week for Ritchie
Brett Ritchie missed some time with a lower body injury but has come back with a vengeance this week. In just three games since injury, he has three goals and two assists.
Texas saw a big potential victory come apart in the third period as the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks) overcame a two goal deficit and then scored in overtime to beat the Stars at Cedar Park Center last Wednesday night.
"We've had a few leads in the third period we haven't been able to close out," said forward Brett Ritchie, who scored in his first game back from injury. "We have mental lapses and get away from our systems. You can't let these points slip away."
The Stars went up 2-0 on goals from Ritchie and linemate Justin Dowling. Heading into the third, Texas was up 3-1 with a chance for a big two points in the standings.
Coach Laxdal commented, "That's twice now in the last week we've given up a two goal lead in our own building. There's no excuse for it."
While the Stars did make it to overtime, they fell to 1-7 on the season in the extra period with a goal off the stick of Cal O'Reilly.
Former Star Taylor Vause probably had this one circled on the calendar as soon as he signed on with the Adirondack Flames (Calgary Flames). After starting the season in the ECHL, Vause was signed on a PTO by the Flames and has been making noise in their lineup ever since. The former Texas Star and Idaho Steelhead scored two, including the game winner, tonight against Texas. Mathieu Tousignant, another former Star, had the primary assist on both goals.
Brett Ritchie scored two goals for Texas, his second and third in two games since returning from injury. Connor Hardowa played his first game as a Star, coming up with no points and a minus-1 rating. Goalie Anders Lindback, just assigned to Texas, put up 23 saves on 26 shots in the loss.
Having seen their overtime record drop to 1-7 on Wednesday in Cedar Park, Texas had to be dreading the extra period Sunday once Hamilton's T.J. Hensick evened the score in the third period. The Stars flipped the script on the Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens) thanks to their veteran captain's fourth goal of the year.
Scott Glennie popped his second of the year from in-close on the power play in the first. Radek Faksa and Brett Ritchie assisted. The assist from Ritchie gave him five points (3 goals and 2 assist) since he returned from injury last Wednesday.
T.J. Hensick would get the tying goal late in the contest but without the help of an extra attacker. The 5-on-5 tally was a one-timer that beat Anders Lindback high. The goalie got his second straight start for Texas after being assigned late last week.
In the overtime frame, the Stars did not capitulate. Maxime Fortunus scored from the slot on Mike Condon, who had a fantastic game overall. The goal came five minutes into the OT period but was still 4-on-4. The whistle had not blown after the switchover time.
The Week Ahead
Justin Dowling missed Sunday's game against Hamitlon for unspecified reasons. We'll learn more today. Kevin Henderson is out 2-3 weeks after developing an infection on a cut on his hand.