Well, that was unpleasant.
With last week's two losses to the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings), the Stars earned just a single point in the season series with the club. When you combine that with their record against Pacific-leading Ontario (Los Angeles Kings) they are 0-7-3 against the teams currently leading two Western Conference divisions.
Coach Derek Laxdal found the problems pretty easy to diagnose this past week. The club isn't playing that gritty style of hockey that the Griffins and Reign are. Laxdal contrasted Texas and Grand Rapids, "You're not going to win in the playoffs if you're being too fancy. You have to muck it out."
It's all that cliche stuff: pucks to the net, generate rebounds, sticks in lanes on defense, etc.
"We didn't execute plays," said Jason Dickinson after Wednesday's loss. "We are getting too fancy and passing up grade A chances. We need to bury the chances we get."
The Stars didn't have as many shots on Saturday (just 18) but they scored 5 goals and led 5-3 after two periods. The Griffins clawed their way back into that one and won it in overtime. The Stars were worn down after killing a lot of penalties in the second, but it was inexperience that Laxdal pointed to when compared to the Griffins.
So there is room for growth and a few weeks left to make it happen.
Texas is in a tight battle for home-ice advantage with the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks). It's likely the two will meet in the first round as second and third seeds, but the question is who has home ice. San Diego currently holds a slight edge, just 0.005 percentage points. A win tonight would push Texas back into second until at least Saturday, when San Diego plays again.
The streaking Griffins found a way to win their twelfth in a row, topping the Texas Stars Wednesday night on their home ice by a 4-1 score. Texas bombed Tom McCollum with 41 shots but, in their own assessment, tried to get too fancy on many of them.
Laxdal said, "We're unwilling to take that important shot. The simple way to put it is that we weren't selfish enough. We all want this shot in the game. When you get them, you have to take them."
The Stars didn't take a penalty in the game and earned six power plays and a penalty shot. They couldn't make Grand Rapids pay for their indiscretions.
"Our guys were disciplined, but if there's that much of an imbalance, you have to score."
Gemel Smith scored the only goal of the game in the first three minutes and the home side was silent on the scoreboard from there on out.
The Griffins showed their experience in the third period Saturday night, mounting a two-goal comeback to down the Stars in overtime. The 6-5 OT loss ended the season series between the teams with Texas collecting a single point.
"They took it to us pretty well all game," said Laxdal. "We had a lead going into the third period, but then you see the inexperience in our lineup."
The clubs spent most of the second period on special teams one way or the other with three of the four goals in the frame being scored either on the power play or shorthanded. The Stars grinded hard to hold that 5-3 lead after two, but the extended penalty kills in the second came back to bite them in the third.
"We played [the top two lines] so much in the second period, I think you saw our gas tank emptied in the third."
Mitch Callahan and Jeff Hoggan scored ten second apart early in the period, putting Texas on the back foot and leading them to call a timeout.
Texas would get a golden opportunity late in the third with two delay of game penalties against the Griffins. The 82-second 5-on-3 segment came up empty.
"In the 5-on-3, our execution wasn't great. The guys were tight trying to get the game winning goal."
The Week Ahead
Texas has its busiest week of the remaining season this week. The Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) come to town tonight and Saturday. Texas heads to San Antonio (Colorado Avalanche) on Sunday and returns home on Tuesday for a game against the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers).
Greg Rallo has begun practicing with the Stars and could play this week. Remi Elie rejoined the lineup as well. Travis Morin is still out.