March 9 seems so long ago. The Dallas Stars had posted an excellent comeback win in regulation against the Anaheim Ducks. Not only were they sitting pretty in the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, they were actively nosing around a top-three slot in the Central Division.
And then the road trip happened. The team flailed against opponents they should have beaten, and fell short in a do-or-die contest with the Winnipeg Jets, one of their most fearsome rivals in the NHL’s most fearsome division. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika saw the same problems you did, and he enumerates them for the record in a story he posted yesterday:
With just nine games to go, the Stars are outside the Western Conference playoff picture looking in. This thing has unraveled quickly and in embarrassing fashion. Ken Hitchcock has successfully transformed last year’s free-wheeling, risk-taking club into a defense first squad that is efficient in its own end.
But the Stars can’t score goals.
In addition, the injury bug has caught up with the team at precisely the worst time:
Hitchcock and [Ben] Bishop -- not to mention Alexander Radulov, Marc Methot and Martin Hanzal -- were supposed to lead Dallas back to the playoffs. For most of this season, it has appeared that would happen. It still could.
But in the toughest stretch of the schedule, from last Sunday’s game against the defending Stanley Cup champs to Sunday night’s against Canada’s best team, the Stars withered. Even after this brutal run, they have more road games remaining (five) than home (four) before the season wraps up April 7 in Los Angeles.
Mike has more. [SportsDayDFW]
Stars digital correspondent Scott Burnside brings a doleful Five Takeaways for the Stars loss that will probably stand as the turning point of their season, for better or otherwise.
With Bishop set for “re-evaluation” of his Winnipeg injury in two weeks, the Stars have called up experienced AHL hand Mike McKenna.
The Dallas Stars have recalled goaltender Mike McKenna from the Texas Stars. https://t.co/ScztVGWfhE— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 19, 2018
The season isn’t over yet, and the Stars might take hope from their superb away record against the Washington Capitals. Starting goalie Braden Holtby (0-4-0) has never won a game against the Victory Green.
Puck drop is 6 p.m. CDT, and the team is hosting an official watching party tonight at Snuffer’s in Richardson.
Around the League(s)
What Doesn’t #Kill You
- Pekka Rinne earned a league-leading eighth shutout of 2017-2018 as the Nashville Predators shut out the Buffalo Sabres 4-0. The Preds have earned points in their past 15 games. [On The Forecheck]
- The Minnesota Wild had to settle for a loser point, falling to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in overtime. [Hockey Wilderness]
Scott Burnside speculates on a Preds-Bolts Cup showdown in his latest Power Rankings.
Power. Monday. Rankings. Yes. All the elements are here. https://t.co/ufHGSjjFKx— Scott Burnside (@OvertimeScottB) March 19, 2018
As of last night, so-called teenager Patrik Laine has pulled even with Alex Ovechkin in this season’s Rocket Richard Trophy race.
With 36 goals and 57 assists, Nikita Kucherov leads the Art Ross Trophy race by four points – and has placed himself solidly in some pretty elite company.
Nikita Kucherov is averaging 0.4 goals and 0.5 assists per game. He'd be the 7th player since 2000 to do that in his first five NHL seasons pic.twitter.com/W3voBOFpRc— Hockey Reference (@hockey_ref) March 19, 2018
Dating back to the end of last season Nikita Kucherov now has 57 goals and 77 assists (134 points) in his last 100 games.— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) March 19, 2018
Let me just run the numbers to see if that's good and I'll get back to you
OEL making fantasy owners smile tonight across the globe.— Nick Alberga (@thegoldenmuzzy) March 20, 2018
Semi-perennial Selke Trophy contender Patrice Bergeron is a bit closer to returning to the Boston Bruins’ lineup. Yesterday, he skated with the team for the first time since his fractured right foot was diagnosed in late February. [CBS Boston]
Goalie interference and one-minute penalties were hot topics at yesterday’s NHL GM meeting in Boca Raton, Florida. Mike Traikos has more, and ESPN’s Emily Kaplan has been live-tweeting the meeting. [National Post]
Greetings From Beautiful Boise
The Stars’ ECHL squad, the Idaho Steelheads, is getting in on the free-skate action. The team and CenturyLink are inviting fans to skate with players, coaches, and the team mascot, Blue, on Sunday, March 25 in CenturyLink Arena.
Of all the pregame rituals hockey players indulge, the way they prep their sticks is one of the most interesting – and individual. James van Riemsdyk and Zdeno Chara tell their own tales of the tape in the new episode of Marc Savard’s YouTube series “Taping Twigs,” and BarDown has the back story. Enjoy.