We're almost a quarter of the way through the season and the results are clearly in. Texas can score goals. Like, a lot of goals. They drop four goals on average every game on their opponents. Only two teams rank above them in the league in this regard and both of those clubs have above-.800 records.
So what's the difference?
Well, the Stars also happen to give up 3.11 goals per game, 22nd in the league. Those other two clubs (WBS and Toronto) are both top five with sub-2.50 goals per game against.
And so once again it falls on the goaltending. Does this song sound familiar? Sing along if you know it.
The first thing to look at is whether it really falls on the goalies. Are the defensemen just giving up too many high quality shots? Texas ranks mid pack on shots against with 30.89 per game. The eye test shows that many of those should be saveable shots as well. The number of times that Coach Laxdal has uttered, "He'll want that one back," has been pretty high this season. That points to some spotty goalie play.
John Muse let in two of the first three shots he faced on Saturday. Then Jack Campbell allowed five more in a game that the Stars had gotten to an even 6-6 tie with a few minutes left in the third. Coach Laxdal pointed to some blwon defensive assignments, but at some point, you also need your goaltenders to bail you out when those blown assignments happen. It seemed like every mistake was ending up in the Texas net on Saturday.
Last night's 3-1 win from Campbell inspired some confidence, but more is needed. If he is going to hold the net as he is expected to do, steady as she goes needs to be the watchword.
On Star Wars theme night at Cedar Park Center, the Texas Stars game on the ice was a three period microcosm of the first trilogy in the series. In Episode IV, the down-trodden Stars scored two goals and led by that margin after one. In Epsiode V, the Checkers struck back with a pair of PPGs to tie things at two after two. Finally, in Episode VI, the Stars pushed through with four goals in the frame for the ultimate 6-2 victory.
Gemel Smith, Derek Hulak, Radek Faksa, Justin Dowling, Greg Rallo and Devin Shore scored in the game.
In a contest between the two most recent Calder Cup champions, it's not clear it was the game that either team expected. Ontario and the Texas Stars combined for thirteen goals as the Reign took the first of six meetings between the two clubs tonight in Cedar Park.
"That was nothing like our scouting report," said Devin Shore, who had three assists. "We thought it would be a defensive battle. It seemed like every shot was going in."
The Stars battled back from separate two goal and three goal deficits in the game to tie things at two and six, respectively. Coach Laxdal pointed to the teams resiliency in those moments as a positive but was of course not pleased with the final result. Too many individual mistakes and blown assignments cost Texas the win this evening.
Laxdal noted, "It takes a lot of energy out of you. You can't play like that every night, chasing the game."
John Muse started the game, but was pulled after allowing two on three shots in favor of Jack Campbell, who allowed five goals of his own.
Following Saturday's disappointing result in Cedar Park, Texas got a solid road win in Bakersfield Tuesday night. Goaltending, which was a large part of the loss on Saturday, turned away 30 of 31 Bakersfield shots as Jack Campbell picked up his second win of the season.
The Texas offense was steady but not explosive. They didn't need to be tonight with the goaltending they got and that was the difference. Matt Mangene, Devin Shore and Esa Lindell collected goals in the game.
The Week Ahead
Texas continues its road swing in California with a game tonight against the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks). The weekend will bring games Saturday and Sunday against the San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks).
Remi Elie and Derek Hulak are both out with unspecified upper body injuries.