For all of the Stars' struggles this year, they have had their share of triumphs as well, albeit with slightly less frequency. John Klingberg's debut was a wonderful surprise that exceeded all hope and expectation, and the lithe Swede should be casting Confundus charms on the league for years to come. Additionally, there's still no team in the Central that looks at the Stars' top six and doesn't start sweating a bit. Oh, by the way, Brett Ritchie, Curtis McKenzie and Shawn Horcoff(!) are also going to be an insanely tough line all of a sudden, just for grins. Don't worry, though. If you're lucky, you might "only" have to deal with the pit bulls (although they have been broken up a bit lately).
That said, the Stars still have a glaring gap in their game, and it's all the more sore a spot for its geographical nature: they have been downright "duncical" at home. Mike Heika elaborates:
Dallas enters Sunday’s contest with a 13-13-8 record at American Airlines Center, 26th-best in the NHL. If the Stars could have been just middle of the pack on home ice, their playoff chances would be a lot better than they are.
But that’s spilled milk for this team, so with 13 games remaining — including the next four in Dallas — now is the time to do something about it.
"I really feel like this has been a learning season for everyone," said center Jason Spezza, who joined the team in a trade last summer. "I think we added some new pieces, and we got behind early, and then we started pressing. We probably were a little too offensive, and maybe even more so at home, and we dug ourselves a hole. Now, we’re trying to dig out."
The Stars this season added Spezza and Ales Hemsky to the lineup and reshaped their forward group. Instead of three checking lines that drove the push to the playoffs last season, this year included two scoring lines for much of the way. That created a situation where the team simply took too many risks.
Dallas sits sixth in shots on goal at 31.3 per game, but 22nd in shots against at 30.3. The Stars are second in scoring at 3.12 goals per game, but 27th in goals against at 3.27.
"I still toss this home-record thing around, and I think it’s trying to be too much on the entertaining side," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I break it down to that, first and foremost, because the games we’ve given away haven’t been games that all of the sudden the other team has dominated, it’s been because we’ve put ourselves in a situation where an odd-numbered rush has put us in a bad way."
I strongly urge you to read the rest of the piece as well, if only for the Tebow-ish Spezza quote about Patrik Nemeth.
Spilled milk indeed. Winning at home is certainly among the most glaring missed opportunities for this squad, but there's time to give at least some of the fans their money's worth this year. Besides, if ticket prices are going to match or exceed inflation, you probably want to show the people buying the tickets that their money isn't being spent in vain. Who doesn't love that goal song, after all?
* * * * *
The Eastern Conference is so boring. Aren't you glad the Stars weren't cursed with playing there? That dance card has been filled in for months now.
Matt Niskanen & Co. are pretty worried about their team after Dallas's dominant performance. [Washington Post]
Ludwig Bystrom has been brought over from Sweden and assigned to the Texas Stars. Keep an eye on Cedar Park, eh? [Stars]
Speaking of which, Texas managed a 4-3 victory last night powered by, well, the power play. It would be really great to see this team back in the playoffs again. [100 Degree Hockey]
The Jets are still determined to make the playoffs, which should be a bit easier thanks to Calgary's loss yesterday. Winnipeg actually managed to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy last night, if you can believe that. The game turned on a boarding major by Nikita Kucherov. [NHL]
St. Louis was defeated by Minnesota Wild and Devan Dubnyk last night because Dubnyk is actually immortal and has never allowed a single goal in his career and never will. So, I guess St. Louis will be hungry tonight. [Hockey Wilderness]
Dan Ellis is actually doing all right after assuming the goal crease in Florida for the time being. Good for Dan. He literally has won more games for Florida this year than Tim Thomas, Jhonas Enroth, Anders Lindback and Jussi Rynnas have won for Dallas combined. [Pro Hockey Talk]
Jannik Hansen went full "Dana Carvey in Master of Disguise" on Dion Phaneuf last night in what was pretty clearly an expression of disdain for the Toronto captain. [THN]
This kind of took me by surprise even though the technology isn't all that new: virtual viewing of hockey games from various seats (or spots atop the glass) around the arena. How about mic'd GoPros on the team captains? [Puck Daddy]
Finally, here is what Carey Price does.
And Part 2: