The Texas Stars started off well enough. Against the Chicago Wolves this weekend, they scored three of the first five goals and took a 3-2 lead. The first line was clicking, with the combination of Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov, and Michael Mersch scoring all three goals. Unfortunately, that lead wouldn’t last long, as Brandon Pirri scored less than three minutes after Mersch’s tally. Then Daniel Carr scored on the power play.
That kicked off a disappointing trend this weekend of not getting enough out of the third period. Against Chicago, despite 14 shots for the home team, Texas scored zero goals because Oscar Dansk, after allowing three goals on 19 shots, shut out 14. Against the San Jose Barracuda, the Stars got just eight shots on net.
The Barracuda game is not worthy of extensive mention for a few reasons. One, it was a shellacking of the Stars’ defense, as the Barracuda kept finding ways to score on both Colton Point and Landon Bow, who came in for relief.
Every Stars defenseman allowed at least one goal in that game. The Stars needed better from their blue line in both games — they got just one point across the weekend, with Dillon Heatherington adding a secondary assist — and no one was perfect.
Texas also needed better from the power play, as they got zero goals on six chances. The penalty kill went 5-for-6, so that wasn’t as much of a problem, even though the game-winning goal from Chicago came on the man advantage.
No, the lack of depth scoring from anyone besides the first line and the general lack of defense — 57 shots against in two games — is what contributed most heavily to the feeling of disappointment this weekend.
Still, let’s talk about the positives. Ben Gleason, the youngest defenseman on the Texas roster, really impressed. He combines great skating with a strong ability to exit and enter the zones and to get passes on the right stick. He needs to get better at passing, however, especially in terms of consistency, and currently lacks scoring touch. As he develops those skills, he’ll look better and better as a potential puck-driving defenseman, and someone to watch out for.
The first line of Gurianov-Hintz-Mersch is really fantastic, and even when Justin Dowling returns that would be a good line to keep together, should Hintz and Gurianov stay (unlikely as it may be). They’re able to score on just about anybody, though Antoine Bibeau iced them out in the second and third periods.
The fourth line, revamped against the Barracuda, was also great in that game. The addition of Samuel Laberge to a line with James Phelan and Colton Hargrove added a dimension of ferocity and energy that the line needed. That should be a line that stays together as well, though Tony Calderone and Adam Mascherin were pulled to make it happen. Putting Mascherin in for Robbie Payne instead of Laberge fixed the problem, however.
The Texas Stars need to be better than the product they presented this past weekend. They know it, and they’ll do better. Their season up until Friday proved it.