It's not been a happy week for the Texas Stars. They started the week with a win against San Antonio and then lost the next three by a combined score of 13-6. They went 2-for-22 on the PP, including three shorthanded goals against. They also got some pretty pedestrian goaltending with the week's total coming out to 0.862 even when you include the win.
So what's happening to this team?
Well, the goal scoring that had gotten them so far in the season is struggling a bit. Against Stockton, the Stars came up empty on nine power play opportunities, including a pair of 5-on-3s.
"Any time you have nine power plays...," said Derek Laxdal after the game, trailing off and not completing the thought. He continued, "Right now, our groups aren't working. There's no timing and no execution. We have to shake it up a bit."
The Stars shook it up on Sunday for an unlucky 3-1 loss in which they had 47 shots on net. Tuesday's game against San Antonio saw the worst period of hockey Texas has played all year. They ceded four goals in the middle frame and never recovered.
The return of Jack Campbell on Wednesday was aided by the run support of six goals. Since then, the scoring dried up and Campbell's win total has not incremented since. He's dropped to 1-2 on the year with a 4.53 GAA and .860 save percentage. It's not the season they wanted for him or certainly that he wanted for himself so far.
Advanced stats are sketchy at best in the AHL due to there being no ice time stats publicly available. However, there are some stats that don't require any ice time numbers. One of those is PDO.
Here is the breakdown of the Stars' PDO by game for the first 15 games of the season. I've included the three-game running tally of PDO as well.
It's not hard to see from the numbers that the Stars are getting beat on luck a bit here. They were very good at the beginning of the season with two 20+% shooting percentages followed by several games that saw save percentages north of .940. Now that both have dipped, they're in the doldrums.
So what now? The club has enough fire power to score at will at times. The addition this week of Radek Faksa and Curtis McKenzie boosts that even further. What the team needs is the goaltending to meet them wherever they are.
In a game that had a much-hyped goalie matchup as recently as the afternoon, things really went in a completely different direction. It was an offensive showcase between Texas and the Rampage.
Calvin Pickard, who stole the last matchup between these teams, was recalled to the Colorado Avalanche hours before the game. Then, Texas unloaded a magazine on backup Roman Will, providing more than enough run support for the season debut of Jack Campbell.
"Jack was solid," said Coach Laxdal. "I thought he was trying to stay calm in net."
"He made some big saves for us. It's just like a player going into his first game in a while. He's going to be a little rusty. It was great to get him run support so he could settle in.
Jason Dickinson picked up two goals, including the game-winner, to extend his tally on the year to five. His second goal was a beautiful individual effort to pop the puck over goalie Roman Will, who had come out to play the puck, catch it himself, drop it and tap it into the empty net.
When you're handed nine power play opportunities in a game, you can't say you had a good game if you come up empty on all nine. That's what the Stars had Saturday night in Cedar Park. Gift after gift for the power play crew from a delinquent Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames) team gave Texas no help. In fact, the Stars gave up two shorthanded tallies in the game.
The Stars came out of the first period down 3-0. Laxdal noted, "The first period was our worst period all year. We had maybe two players who had jump. We were flat, as a group."
The bottom six pushed the Stars back to even. Between Gemel Smith, Branden Troock and Cory Kane, Laxdal had praise for them.
"That group stirred the drink for us tonight, but we need to have a little come to Jesus meeting here and talk about 'earned never given'."
Late in the game, Blair Riley beat Jack Campbell to make it 4-3. The Heat would tack on an ENG to seal it up.
Despite a shots edge of 47-27, the Rampage got all the luck in Sunday afternoon's contest in San Antonio. The Stars retooled and tweaked their lineup after a disappointing night Saturday night against the Heat. It seemed like the retool worked in every way except for on the scoreboard. The Stars had far more shot than their opponents and tallied a power play goal to boot.
Julius Honka was a healthy scratch for the first time ever with Texas. After a tough game, it's common for coaches to sit younger players to give them a chance to see the game from the press box view, which gives a lot more context for the overall action of the game.
Additionally, Radek Faksa was a late addition to the lineup. Dallas played last night with Faksa logging 10:16 of ice time against Minnesota.
It was a brutal contest in San Antonio Tuesday morning. Not physically, but on the scoreboard. While the final score might not have reflected it, San Antonio owned this contest. The second period was particularly unkind with San Antonio marking four goals in the frame. A pair of third period goals were the only thing that broke up the crushing contest for Texas, but it was too little too late.
The game marked the first loss for Texas in a 'kids game' since 2012. Jack Campbell took the loss, dropping him to 1-2 on the year, as Texas slipped into a three-game losing streak. Campbell stopped 22 of 27 shots in the game and slipped to a 4.53 GAA and .860 save percentage on the season.
The Week Ahead
The Stars will welcome the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) and Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings) this weekend on Friday and Saturday. Tuesday will bring the first trip to California of the year. Texas will visit Bakersfield (Edmonton Oilers).
Justin Dowling missed Tuesday's game with an unspecified lower body injury. He skated in warmups but decided not to push it. He is expected back on Friday.