Texas Stars Report: Season Over, But Reasons for Optimism Abound
The season comes to an end as adjustments by the Gulls and special teams trouble help San Diego win Games 3 and 4.
Texas lived and died by special teams this season. One of the best teams on the power play in the regular season, they were dogged by a brutally inefficient penalty kill all year.
In the end, it caught up to them big time in San Diego last weekend.
The Texas Stars came away from their home games with a 1-1 split heading out to San Diego to complete the best-of-five first round series. Texas would need two of three in hostile territory to move on.
The Stars couldn't find the magic they'd had in Game 2 and a lot of it was on external factors for sure. First of all, the Gulls were assisted by the Nashville Predators. Once Anaheim was eliminated, Shea Theodore and Chris Wagner joined the Gulls' lineup on assignment. Those are big impact players in the AHL. The pair combined for seven points in just two games against Texas.
Also, Gulls coach Dallas Eakins countered Texas' speed by making his lineup more nimble. He scratched big boys like Joe Piskula to make his lineup smaller. This worked to great effect as the speedier San Diego squad had a better matchup in Games 3 and 4 than in Game 2.
Texas did inflict a bit of its own wound though. Across the two games, the Stars went 0/9 on the power play and allowed five power play goals on just 13 opportunities. It was a disappointing reversal for Texas, who didn't allow a power play goal at home in Games 1 and 2.
So now Texas hits the dusty trail. Jason Dickinson and Julius Honka confirmed they will head to Dallas as black aces over the coming few days. Esa Lindell is headed to the World Championships in Russia. Everyone else is heading home, wherever that may be.
There are some gaps, for sure, in the 2015-16 Texas Stars, but the squad achieved 40 wins and made the playoffs for the sixth year in its seven year history. The youth of the squad that was a liability this season will be an asset next year as the raw speed and skill will be combined with another year's experience. Players like Julius Honka, Jason Dickinson, Devin Shore, Remi Elie, and Ludwig Bystrom will all likely return to greater success.
So there is much to look forward to.
Elsewhere in the AHL
Second round matchups, for those who are interested, are as follows.
Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) v. Wlikes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils) v. Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings) v. San Diego Gulls
Lake Erie Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets) v. Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings)
Note that Pittsburgh and Washington are the only two teams with both NHL and AHL teams still in the playoffs. They both have their ECHL teams in the playoffs as well.
Sean Shapiro reports Devin Shore has begun skating again after shoulder surgery early in the season. Branden Troock revealed at exit interviews that his most recent injury was his third concussion and second of the season, which made it a good decision to shut him down for the season.