The Dallas Stars stumbled in a strong run of Central Division play with last night’s 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. And no one was more disappointed than head coach Ken Hitchcock, who brought back the dreaded P-word in his comments afterwards.
If there’s one thing Hitch can’t stand, it’s a passenger, or two, or seven or eight:
"It was our poorest effort by a mile," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were light on the puck, light around our net, light around their net. ... A lot of passengers; that's not our team."
"We had a lot of momentum when we took the break, so it's on us to get it back," Hitchcock said. "The only way you get it back is at practice, so we'll have some hard practices and hopefully get our effort level and intensity level and compete level up to where it was."
The Stars’ recent run of form meant a chance to gain quite a bit of ground in the divisional standings with a win. As it is, they left a door open for a faltering rival:
The Stars had a chance to move six points ahead of the Wild, but now sit just two points ahead in the battle for a playoff spot. Minnesota, which was struggling, moves to 19-15-3 (41 points). Dallas, which was rolling, falls to 20-15-3 (43 points). Such is the way of the Central Division, it seems.
"This is a divisional team, so it's a huge two points, and we weren't ready in the first period," center Martin Hanzal said. "That's the bottom line. We weren't ready. We didn't play hard enough in the first. They were ready; we weren't."
Mike has more. [SportsDayDFW]
Here’s the video of Hitchcock’s postgame comments (yes, he really was as blunt as you remember).
In happier news, the Jamie Benn assist on this Mattias Janmark goal pushes The Captain past Sergei Zubov for second on the Stars’ career-point leaderboard.
With the apple on Janmark's Power Play goal, Jamie Benn now sits in second place in career points as a Dallas Stars. pic.twitter.com/6xUcKCXzOV— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) December 28, 2017
Scott Burnside brings more Stars content with his latest Burnside Chats podcast, featuring The Athletic editor-in-chief Craig Custance and Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman.
It's time once again for Burnside Chats. Too early to start celebrating New Year's Eve. Too late for presents. Might as well listen to our chat with @CraigCustance and @NHLBlackhawks GM Stan Bowman. https://t.co/r0ghf4JhJz— Scott Burnside (@OvertimeScottB) December 27, 2017
If you’re in North Texas, you have until New Year’s Day to enjoy the Winter Wonderland public skate in Dr Pepper Arena at Stars HQ in Frisco. Bring the kids to selected sessions and meet Elsa, Olaf and Pikachu.
Around the league(s)
Last Night’s #MDK Fight
- More Central-on-Central violence: The Nashville Predators got their groove back with a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. [On The Forecheck]
- The Winnipeg Jets ended their losing streak but lost star center Mark Scheifele to an upper-body injury as they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. [NHL]
- And former Star Alex Goligoski scored the game-winner as the Arizona Coyotes toppled the Colorado Avalanche 3-1. [Five For Howling]
Times have changed for expansion teams: The Vegas Golden Knights are at the top of the Western Conference standings, and have set a new points record in getting there.
The Western Conference-leading @GoldenKnights extended their point streak to 10 games (9-0-1) and established an NHL record for longest such run by a team in its inaugural season, eclipsing the mark of nine contests set by the Panthers in 1993-94 (5-0-4). #NHLStats #VGKvsANA pic.twitter.com/wEyhAKL8zK— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 28, 2017
Yotes center Zac Rinaldo officially earned his fifth NHL suspension yesterday. He’ll sit for six games due to that Saturday sucker punch he gave the Avs’ Samuel Girard.
Arizona’s Zac Rinaldo suspended six games for a punch to an unsuspecting opponent, Colorado’s Samuel Girard. https://t.co/YVK1Yu32bD— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) December 28, 2017
Are NHL players sore enough over the league’s non-participation in the Winter Olympics to boycott the All-Star Game? Elliotte Friedman talks about what he’s heard in his latest 31 Thoughts. [Sportsnet]
Seeing Stars At The World Juniors
The Stars have six prospects competing in WJC 2018. So far, LWs Fredrik Karlström and Riley Tufte have collected points in victories for Sweden and the USA.
You can catch Tufte’s assist on a play that starts at 1:50 in this highlight reel. He’s wearing his University of Minnesota-Duluth number, 27.
HIGHLIGHTS: Defending champion @USAHockey got five first-period goals and never looked back in a 9-0 demolition of @DKIshockey to start the 2018 #WorldJuniors. #WJCinBUF https://t.co/CDw5qv4y4M pic.twitter.com/NjOHob907c— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 27, 2017
Karlström (No. 17) earned two assists in the Tre Kronor’s victory over Belarus:
And Colton Point earned a 20-save shutout in his tournament debut as Canada blanked Slovakia 6-0.
HIGHLIGHTS: Sam Steel scored early, setting the tone for a convincing 6-0 Canada win over Slovakia. Which was your favourite @HC_Men goal? More on the game: https://t.co/StlvAZCSXD pic.twitter.com/0G92cDXrAn— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 28, 2017
Canada was both good and lucky against Finland in their opening game on Tuesday, winning 4-2. Check this highlight reel for glimpses of Miro Heiskanen, wearing No. 2 and an alternate captain’s A.
HIGHLIGHTS: Canada started its #WorldJuniors campaign on a positive note, defeating a strong but young Finnish team, 4-2. https://t.co/rsNe1F9in4 @HC_Men @leijonat #WJCinBUF pic.twitter.com/DYyDM29fvC— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 27, 2017
Speaking of Heiskanen, Ryan Kennedy named “the best defenseman in the tournament” a pre-event first-team All-Star. [THN]
In bonus WJC content, Mark Stepneski talked with Julius Honka about his experience as the youngest member of Finland’s 2014 gold-medal team. [Stars Inside Edge]
Greetings From Scenic Cedar Park
Curtis McKenzie racked up another hat trick and Travis Morin scored his 500th career AHL point, but the Texas Stars lost 5-4 in OT against their I-35 rivals, the San Antonio Rampage. [100 Degree Hockey]
Stepneski brought some prospect news from Stars Assistant GM Scott White, including updates on Jason Dickinson, Denis Gurianov, Niklas Hansson and Roope Hintz.
With the Dallas Cowboys out of playoff contention, yet again, are DFW sports fans looking for something new? Stars Asylum ponders the possibility via an overexposed (but still pretty funny) meme. Enjoy.