After a confidence building 6-1 stretch the Stars came crashing back to earth last week. In so doing they hit an odd trifecta. They lost to a division rival (St. Louis), a Conference patsy (Arizona), and an Eastern interloper (Boston). The Stars played badly all the time, played badly at bad times, and exhibited the same general flaws that have plagued them in the New Year.
These failings are even more acute with the trade deadline looming. While the Stars flounder on the ice, management must decide whether or not a late-season trade would be helpful. Guys are undoubtedly in the shop window, roles are under evaluation. Is the pressure getting to our beloved boys in Victory Green? Is it the tight race for seeding or the reality of post-season hockey settling in?
Whatever the case, last week felt like a crisis of leadership. We forget sometimes how new this group really is, and how little the whole has been through together. There's more to winning (and losing) than play on the ice, and I feel like that's a lesson this group is learning right now.
Radek Faksa (1 GP / 2:43 SHTOI) - Spezza's return to health pushed the youngster back out of Dallas' lineup, but for how long? It's very tempting to draw conclusions from the fact his absence aligned with two brutal losses.
Ales Hemsky (2 G / 7 SOG) - Hemsky is in the middle of maybe his finest stretch of play this season. That praise would ring a little truer had he not been part of the St. Louis power play debacle (5:24 PPTOI that night).
Mattias Janmark (1 G / 46% FOW) - Has the mentality, tenacity, and wheels to be an effective center, but lacks the faceoff chops so far. Tied the game in St. Louis, so props for that, rook.
Patrick Sharp (1G) - Broke an 18-game goal scoring drought, so yay. He also somehow escaped the Boston trash fire as a plus player. 14:46 TOI will do that.
Jason Spezza (62% FOW / 2 A) - A hearty welcome back to Dallas' veteran center. A pair of helpers, including one on the power play, gives Stars fans cause of optimism down the stretch.
Antoine Roussel (2 Pts) - Scored twice in a valiant attempt to out-Marchant Brad Marchant. Gets a little bit of the penalty kill stink affecting the rest of the squad, but overall, Roussel's passion was helpful this week.
Jamie Benn (Captain) - His team lost ugly to a division rival (St. Louis), appeared to take Arizona too lightly, and waived the white flag against the Bruins. While the team has upgraded their post-New Year performance from abysmal to mercurial, the inconsistency is a major problem.
Cody Eakin (7:38 SHTOI) - Eakin is likely fighting through at least a minor malady right now. This time of year who isn't? Right now he's a major piece of a struggling penalty kill.
Patrick Eaves (0 Pts) - Five games goalless, four games pointless. Eaves played 7:34 on the power play against St. Louis and then 0:00 the rest of the week. Hard to bust a slump that way.
The Defense (Johnny Oduya, John Klingberg, Alex Goligoski, Patrik Nemeth, Jason Demers, Jordie Benn) - Yes, it's a little cheap to lump them all together, and sure, there have been some highlights across the group. With that said, this group has surrendered 15 goals against in their last 3 games. I was particularly appalled by the way one-trick Arizona was able to repeatedly blow their doors off. This unit is bad right now.
Tyler Seguin (1 G / 10 SOG) - Don't be fooled by the heavy shot total. He actually registered single digit SOGs against the Blues and Bruins. A single shot in 7:43 of power play time against St. Louis is particularly galling.
Jamie Oleksiak / Jyrki Jokipakka - As bad as the on-ice crew has looked, this duo can't crack the lineup. That's got to sting a little.
Kari Lehtonen (2 L / 9 GA) - Had a nice little three game winning streak before the wheels came off. Not to be a buzz kill, but Lehtonen has given up 3+ goals in seven of his last ten starts.
Antti Niemi (1 GS / 1 L / 6 GA) - Struggling right alongside his colleague. Niemi has started five games since February 2nd. He's won three of those starts, which is nice, but has only once allowed fewer than three goals (a 3-2 win versus the Predators).
Vernon Fiddler (9:13 ATOI) - Nine minutes against the Coyotes and seven against the Bruins are indicative of Fiddler's role in this squad. Once they're down, he's not coming off the bench.
Valeri Nichushkin (8:28 TOI vs. Boston) - Picked up an assist this week, which is his 21st point of the season. That's a 30-point pace for the young Russian. More or less where he tracked during his rookie season. A closing burst would be nice, but usage is definitely an issue.
Colton Sceviour (4:27 SHTOI) - Scratched against St. Louis, then played 10:19 in the desert and 9:28 against the Bruins. Fourth line usage.
On the Shelf