Last week, the Dallas Stars dropped a tough contest to division rival St. Louis. As a part of a back-to-back, it was a strong showing in the effort department, but Jake Allen was just too much. The good news is, prior to the game against the Blues, the Stars took 4 out of 4 points against the Hurricanes and Flyers
Now it's time to get back up on that horse for the familiar Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday set. Let's dive in.
Tuesday 12/15/15 - Columbus Blue Jackets @ Dallas Stars
Columbus was a sexy pick to make a run at a playoff spot in the Metro Division. The offseason trade for Brandon Saad to go along with the hot finish to last season had people thinking the team was ready to make the leap.
As it turns out, the Jackets were ready to leap... ready to leap off a cliff.
After a disastrous 0-7-0 start to the season as their goalies fell off a cliff and the firing of their coach, the team has "rebounded" to earn 25 points in 31 games. Good enough for last place in the NHL. John Tortorella, brought in to replace Todd Richards, has made headlines crushing his best players and doing other John Tortorella things.
Columbus has lost seven of its last eight games (two in overtime). Sometimes professional sports teams just have a year from hell, and this looks to be a second consecutive such year up in Ohio.
Last year the team was literally ravaged by injuries. This year the injuries haven't been so much the issue as just being awful. The Jackets don't score a lot and give up more. At one point early in the year, the goalie Sergei Bobrovsky admitted he was a head case and requested some time off. That's weird.
This isn't a great hockey team, but neither were the Maple Leafs. The locker room seems to have issues and the players are frustrated. Taking the Jackets lightly would be a mistake, because it still feels like the pieces are there for a good hockey team.
Thursday 12/17/15 - Calgary Flames @ Dallas Stars
The first day of December, the Stars were forced to pay the piper for a miraculous comeback two nights before in Minnesota. The Stars entered the third period in Calgary up 3-0, and wound up losing the game in overtime. This was a sad game to watch, especially after such a dominant road performance by Dallas in the first period.
The Stars get a chance at revenge on Thursday, this time in their own barn. The postgame reaction by players and coaches after the collapse in Calgary was telling. I would expect they have not forgotten that performance.
The fact is, during an 82-game season some nights you need to dig deep for motivation. Dallas should have no problem getting up for this game.
The game in Calgary was a perfect example of why you can't rest on a lead in this sport. The third period was a clinic on how not to defend a lead. The attack will be pressed, and if the Stars jump out to an early lead I would expect them to exercise some demons in "throat crushing".
Calgary was the beneficiary of a questionable strategy/execution from Dallas, but they deserve a lot of credit for hanging in the game against one of the league's best. Thursday figures to be another exciting, high-event game.
Saturday 12/19/15 - Montreal Canadiens @ Dallas Stars
The best in the league will host the second-best in the league on Saturday. Of course by the time Saturday rolls around, there is a chance that Washington has caught and passed the Habs, but as of Monday, this is a best on best showdown.
Montreal, like Dallas, began the year on a torrid pace. Max Pacioretty scored every night and Carey Price never allowed the other team a chance to get back in the game.
Then the injury bug showed us just how fragile a good team can be.
Carey Price and Brenden Gallagher are hurt, both for an extended period of time. The Habs are a good team, but losing Price is a tall drink. Montreal has weathered that storm admirably, but the pace has slowed. How could it not?
Perhaps Dallas is lucky getting to face the Canadiens when they aren't at full strength. But for that luck to matter, Dallas will need to perform at their highest level on Saturday.
The Habs are second in the league in goals for, and sixth in goals against. Not too bad, eh?
Montreal represents everything that Dallas fans hate about Canadian/East Coast bias, and now they get a chance to host the northerners on Saturday night, in primetime under the lights.
Everyone needs to go to this game.