You've probably noticed something about the Stars this year when it comes to how they do against good teams. Think back to their points gained during the series against Chicago this year. The Rangers? Perfect. Now think about how they've done against Buffalo. I know, I'm sorry, but trust me, it's important. Dredge up that memory, then really quickly move to to their recent win against the historically bad team up there. Yes, it was nice to avoid a sweep by the Sabres, but the fact that a 3-goal third period was what it took to avoid such a ghastly event speaks volumes about the Stars' penchant for stumbling over the speed-bump teams of the league this year.
For instance, the Stars' recent win against Vancouver was great, and it kept their pulse active, if only just for the moment; but you can't help but wonder...well, I'll let Josh Bogorad take it from here:
Still, you can't help but think about just how much better things would feel if they had just beaten Edmonton.
But the more you do think about it, the more you realize that this year's Stars have been a team that plays to their competition all season. Be it up or down, it seems like Dallas has a chameleon-like way of matching their opponent. When they rise to the occasion against elite teams, it can be a thing of beauty. When they lower their game against some of the league's lesser clubs, that beauty gets replaced with frustration. Even before Edmonton, at the start of last week, the Stars had to come from behind twice in the third period to squeeze out a victory over the lowly Buffalo Sabres.
The record tells the story.
Against the top-20 NHL teams based on record, the Stars are a combined 26-18-7 (.578). Against the NHL's bottom-10, the Stars are an even 11-11-3. Included in those games are some hard-to-fathom results. The Stars went 0-2 this year against Toronto. They split the season series with Buffalo. Dallas went winless in five games this year against Colorado. They split their season series with Carolina. And they had a number of season-high streaks snapped Friday night at the hands of Edmonton. The Stars have only been shut out three times this season. Two of them came against the Maple Leafs and Oilers - the third and fourth worst teams in the standings.
At the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, you see just how good the Stars can be. The Stars swept the season series against the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. They have points in four of five meetings with the Chicago Blackhawks, and are 2-1-1 against the St. Louis Blues. All four are top-10 teams in the league. The Stars are also a perfect 7-0 against much-improved teams in Vancouver, Calgary, and Washington.
It is difficult to explain why the disparity exists. Maybe the Stars have been guilty of, at times, underestimating the opponent. Maybe teams ahead of the Stars have been guilty of the same when it comes to Dallas. Maybe lower teams in the standings see Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Jason Spezza across the ice and use that as motivation to show how they can measure up. Whatever the reason, the Stars need to make sure none of it plays a role in the future. [On the Radar]
There's tons more in that piece that you should check out. Give it a read. This is just a taste. First one's always free.
Last night was a pretty perfect example of this problem. The Flames created very little--15 scoring chances in all, with score effects responsible for a third period dearth, yes--and the Stars created a lot. But what happened? Kari Lehtonen got beat once or twice when he really shouldn't have, and Patrick Eaves suddenly turned into the 13th forward that Detroit didn't bother to bring back. The Flames got a nice bounce off Goligoski, and the Stars couldn't will themselves to victory (or convert on the power play).
In short, the Stars last night were the Stars of this season: a largely good-to-great team that are enormously fun to watch, but one that also leaves you walking away feeling bad about a loss that you still can't quite believe happened. Do you have the answer for this? Is it just "goaltending"? Oh, okay. I guess the Stars need to sign...what...Karri Ramo? Jonas Hiller? Ondrej Pavelec? Jaroslav Halak? The list goes on, actually. The Stars have been beaten or nearly beaten by goalies that really are not as good as Kari Lehtonen, and that begs a different explanation than just "goaltending," or at the very least it suggests such reasoning to be incomplete.
Or perhaps the Stars just finally ran out of gas last night after skating uphill way too many times this season. Really, that's what it felt like, and the fact that these players could still create so many chances 75+ games into this track meet of their own creation is almost unbelievable. Unfortunately, we have no choice but to believe, because it has happened.
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Hey, this might be somewhat applicable now.
The Flames scored four (or five, if you so wish) goals on 15 scoring chances. The Stars scored 3 on 40. Also, the Stars created 40 scoring chances last night. Just look at all the numbers from this game and shake your head. [War on Ice]
Sigh. [Stars Recap]
Hey, this was fun. Patrik Nemeth the Pirate! [Puck Daddy]
On high-danger shots, Kari Lehtonen is historically alongside Carey Price and Jonathan Quick. You tell me who he was on that Diaz goal. [SportsNet]
Not that we're in any shape to be objective this morning, but did you think Brett Ritchie's hit on Sean Monahan deserved more than two minutes? Some people sure did. [Puck Daddy]
If you think things are rough in Starsland, the Kings dropped a game to Scott Darling and the Blackhawks last night that they really couldn't afford to drop, thanks to what the Flames did (or what the Stars didn't do). [NHL]
Jaromir Jagr has scored nearly a point per game since being acquired by Florida at the trade deadline. Derek's piece over at THW reveals that Jagr is going a lot of the same things over there that we loved him for doing during his brief time in Dallas. [Hockey Writers]
Bob McKenzie has a great piece on two NCAA prospects that you are interested in. Check this one out. [TSN]
A nine-year-old girl won an intermission contest by scoring a sweet goal from center ice, so basically it is the best video ever. [Puck Daddy]
If you want the cockles of your heart warmed, check out this look at brothers Chris and Brett Sutter. [We Are Iowa]
From a childhood love of mine: the world of competitive ice skating. American skaters have not won any medals in almost ten years. The reason? It might be money. That is, Russia might be spending way more on it than America. This piece mentions Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan, so you know it's good. [Time]
Connor McDavid is finding fans in unusual places, such as, oh, his locker room during intermission. [Observer]
Finally, here we have Valeri Nichushkin doing a postgame conference in Cedar Park--UNFILTERED. Or at least untranslated. Man, is it ever good to see him again.