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Texas Stars Wrap-Up: Up And Down Season Continues

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In what can only be described as a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Texas Stars continue to be a team of ups and downs.

The Texas Stars play against the Iowa Wild
Texas Stars Photography

The Texas Stars were points away from first place, and then a road streak happened. After it, the Texas Stars are now eight points out of first place with two games in hand. In their last nine games, the Stars have gone 3-6-0, including a horrible road trip where they collected a total of zero points, and were outscored 18-7.

So what changed? After all, the Stars are 3-1 in their last four home games. How did they have this big of a collapse on a road trip they’ve done throughout the years as a Pacific Division team, even if they were recently moved to the Central?

Much of it was a change in scoring. Usually dependable players snapped streaks, returning and new players needed to get worked in, and the Texas Stars just didn’t have consistency.

“When we go on the road there and we have a tough stretch, if things don’t go well right away, it zaps the life out of you,” said Stars captain Justin Dowling.

Dowling had a four-game primary assist streak to open the nine games, which ended with a three-game scoreless streak to end the road trip. Travis Morin hasn’t posted a point in seven games and Erik Condra slowed down, with only two points in nine games. That’s just the veteran leadership.

Ben Gleason has two points over the past nine games, with just one coming in the five road games. Gavin Bayreuther didn’t fare much better with just three points and two goals. That’s Texas’s best offensive defensemen having poor outings.

Denis Gurianov missed two of the road games, but was one of Texas’s best scorers when he was active. He had four goals and one assist in those nine games. On the other side, Joel L’Esperance disappeared during the road trip, as he recorded zero points. That was the case for Adam Mascherin. Those are perhaps Texas’s best young forwards.

One of the contributing factors is the amount of rest the team has had. The Texas Stars played seven games between January 16 and 26, with much of it on the road.

“Can’t remember our last full team practice,” said Dowling. “If you don’t have any practice, and things start going a little south, it’s hard to get back on track. You almost start doing too much. Practice is going to help a lot.”

The AHL’s second-place power play has hit a snag during this stretch, going one for their last 19. During this nine-game stretch, the power play has skidded to a 11.8 percent conversion rate.

“Our power play was a little clunky, especially our number one unit,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “They’ve been snakebitten a little bit here now. They’re starting to press here a little bit, things aren’t going well for them. They’ve got to get back to the basics, shoot some pucks, get to the net, and then pack it in.”

The penalty kill has stepped up in its place however, killing off 26 of the Stars’ last 28 penalties with a 92.9 percent success rate. That includes 17 of 19 penalties on the road trip.

The goaltending was part of the problem as well. In his last three starts, Landon Bow is 1-2, with a .745 save percentage. That’s not ideal. Philippe Desrosiers had an excellent shutout in relief for him after Bow made just three saves on six shots, but the Stars still lost that game.

Will the Stars bounce back from this stumble? Absolutely. This was a string of bad luck against some of the best teams in the Pacific Division, during a long road trip where the Texas Stars didn’t have a lot of time to practice or rest. During that five-game road trip, the Stars faced some of the best teams in the Pacific, then came home and went 1-1.

“We’ve played a lot of hockey here and now we can rest for four days,” said Laxdal. “We’ve got two games in the next week and a half so there’s no excuses.”