Texas Stars Report: Playoff Hopes Hanging By A Thread
Despite only playing one game this week and losing it in overtime, the Stars find themselves right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
A single game against Iowa this week definitively did not end the way the Stars wanted it to. The Wild are the worst team in the league and Texas had to scrape back into the game in the third period after going down 1-0 early. They made it to OT but fell for the league-worst 13th time in overtime.
There isn't too much to say about it anymore. The team has talked about it; they've practiced it a lot. They've practiced 4-on-4 and 3-on-3. Captain Maxime Fortunus thought maybe the Stars are overthinking it now after seeing their 2-13-1 record past 60 continue to grow.
The playoff race isn't passing Texas by despite their idle schedule though. Through a bit of scheduling luck and teams around them not closing on opportunities, the Stars are right at the playoff cutoff with 19 games to go.
Of course, coming back to those OT losses, this isn't the way the season could be going if they had even a bit more composure in the extra frame. If the Stars were instead even with the second-worst club in the league, Hamilton, at nine OTLs, they would be at 68 points and firmly ahead of their current pack of competitors for the last few spots. Instead though, it's Texas, Hamilton, Adirondack, Chicago and Toronto in a dogfight for the last two spots.
It's about to get interesting.
Devin Shore Signed on ATO to Texas
Center Devin Shore was added to the Stars' roster this week on an amateur tryout. He is eligible to play the rest of the season and the playoffs. Radek Faksa came in last season in a similar way and played 21 playoffs games for Texas. He is still a rookie this season, however.
Dogged by Slow Start, Texas Drops Another OT Contest at Home
After a five day layoff, the Stars came out flat against the Wild tonight at home and ultimately succumbed to Iowa's opportunistic offense and stellar goaltending in their league-worst 13th OT loss of the year.
"It's our third game in a row here that we weren't good enough," said Coach Derek Laxdal, recalling last weekend's pair of losses to Rockford. "You can't have a good road trip and come home and be stale."
Captain Maxime Fortunus, playing in his first game since February 8th, continued, "I didn't think we had a good start. That didn't help our team. We need to play a full sixty minutes and have pressure every shift."
Iowa collected the first goal on a turnover at the Stars' blue line. Olivier Archambault scored his third of the year short side on Jussi Rynnas. From there, Texas really controlled the game but couldn't break through. Iowa goalie John Curry had a phenomenal game for the Wild, stopping 34 of 35.
The Stars' bottom six stood out on the evening, generating really solid scoring chances at the end of the first and second periods.
"Their game was simple: working and hounding the puck," said Laxdal. "They won battles and got in position. You create that offensive energy, it forces the other team to defend and sap their energy."
Rookie Branden Troock returned from injury and collected three shots on net, earning himself some power play time in the third period as Laxdal tried to spark the man advantage.
Ultimately it was the power play that helped to set up the Stars' only goal of the night. Just after a minor expired, Texas captain Fortunus rifled a shot from the point that was tipped by Derek Hulak past Curry for the 1-1 tie. With four minutes left in the third, the Stars had life.
Overtime came for Texas and many fans resigned themselves to the single point. Texas holds the league's worst overtime record at 2-13 in the frame. This evening's game was no different. Right off the drop, the Wild scored off a dump-in that was collected by Tyler Graovac. Coach Laxdal thought the dump should have been called an icing, as a tie is supposed to go to the defender. His plea was rejected, and the goal stood.
Fortunus concluded, "It's hard when you look at the standings and see all the points we've lost. We've been working on OT in practice. Our overtime has got to be a lot of possession and movement, and that's what will make it successful."
The Week Ahead
Texas plays four games this week, a huge improvement over last week's single contest from the fan perspective. The Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche) will be in town for games tonight and next Tuesday. In between, the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) will pop into town for their only two games against the Stars in Texas this year.
Branden Troock and Maxime Fortunus retruned from injury this week. Scott Glennie did not. He took an awkward fall two weeks ago in the first period of a game against Rockford.