If you had asked me on October 10th, opening day, which pairing of goalies were going to give Texas this most success this season, I would have been dead wrong.
I think we all would have been.
From Dallas brass down to the bandwagon fan, Jack Campbell was the man in Texas with John Muse there as backup. Fresh off a great year in the Q, Philippe Desroisers would split time with Maxime Lagace in Idaho.
The hockey gods laughed. If you had to pull up a goalie to the NHL right now, chances are that would be Lagace. Unlikely at the beginning of the season, but certainly well earned at its halfway mark.
Since switching to a duo of Desrosiers and Lagace, the Stars are 8-3. They allowed just 1.91 goals per game during that span. Prior to that, Texas was allowing 3.59 each game. So it's making a big difference. In fact, Lagace pitched the Stars' first shutout of the year last Wednesday.
The honest question for a Dallas Stars fan here is will Jack Campbell ever play another AHL game for the Texas Stars again. The answer is probably no.
One forgotten piece of the equation is John Muse, who Texas initially signed to backup Campbell. He's the third goalie in Texas but hasn't even suited up for a game in weeks. If anyone above Campbell in the depth chart gets hurt, Muse jumps into action in Texas.
Heavy Games Played An Asset for Texas
As you look at the standings at the Break, the Stars have played the most games in the league at 48. Most reports are calling the post-All-Star time the 'second half' of the season. For Texas, the second half of the season started January 9th. The Stars have played the most hockey of any team in the league to this point in the season.
The good news for Texas is that they are in second place in the division with the bulk of the season behind them. If they were down in the standings, the games played would be a liability. They'd have fewer games to catch up. Now, having cemented a bit of standings inertia, the Stars will play just 28 games in the next three and a half months. That affords time to practice up and heal up for the playoffs.
Maxime Lagace's 35 saves stood up against the San Jose Barracuda to notch the Stars first shutout of the season by a 3-0 margin. From a clean sheet, two power play goals and obviously a perfect PK, Coach Laxdal said the game "checked off every box."
While Lagace may get the stats for the shutout, he deflected praise to his forwards and defensemen, who kept the lanes clear throughout the night.
"My D and the forwards did a tremendous job," said Lagace. "Glad we could pull it out. It's good for the team and a good confidence boost for the road trip. I wanted it for the team."
Since moving to the tandem of Philippe Desrosiers and Maxime Lagace, Texas is 7-2. Laxdal added postgame that he needed both goalies to be up and running in the second half. McKenzie noted, "They're both playing so well, giving us chances to win every night. "
San Jose kept up the pressure through all three periods, ending the game with a full two minutes of 6-on-4 hockey.
"They came hard the last few minutes. When we got the PK, I thought, 'I'm going to have to go to war now.'"
If Lagace was going to war, Curtis McKenzie could be considered the infantry tonight. He went to the hard areas of the ice and was rewarded with two goals.
"If you go to those hard areas, you're going to score," said Coach Laxdal. "He paid the price for the goal. He's gotta muck that out, grind that out."
McKenzie noted that it was something he's been working to inject more into his game. "I think there's times I saw I wasn't getting to the net hard enough and not generating offense. A lot of times it stems back to that, not being around the net. That's where I have to be to score goals."
Greg Rallo continued his hot hand at scoring with his 19th of the year, but Texas broke their win streak at 3 with a loss to the Monsters in Cleveland tonight. Stephen Johns, who had a massive cheering section at the game, scored the other Stars goal on the night.
Philippe Desrosiers took the loss, stopping 23 of 26.
After falling Friday night 3-2, the Stars earned a win by the same score over the same opponent in afternoon action today. Maxime Lagace got the start and has now won his last six decisions. Radek Faksa scored a pair of goals including the game winner.
The early start was no problem for Radek Faksa, who opened the scoring on an individual effort in the first. His feisty forecheck handed Texas the first goal of the game on a turnover. Trent Vogelhuber beat the Stars in the second on the power play to tie things.
Curtis McKenzie continued going to those tough areas of the ice, as he did Wednesday against the Barracuda. The result was his tenth goal of the year, a jabbing play that slid the puck five-hole on Anton Forsberg for the 2-1 lead. Lake Erie would again counter to tie it in the next period.
As the third wound down, Texas earned a power play and scored in the most peculiar fashion. A Brett Ritchie shot went high and bounced off the glass. In the spirit of play to the whistle, Radek Faksa banged home the puck, which landed squarely in front of Forsberg.
The Week Ahead
The Stars have three games on the calendar this week. Friday and Saturday is a home-and-home with the San Antonio Rampage (Colorado Avalanche). On Tuesday (and Wednesday), Texas will trek to the frozen north to play the Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets) for the first time since 2011.
Greg Rallo was added to the injured list this week with a lower body injury taking him out of the last game before the break. The hope is he can return thanks to the week off. Justin Dowling and Jesse Blacker also continue to be out. As previously mentioned, Devin Shore is done for the season following shoulder surgery.