Texas Stars Report: The Championship Hangover
Mired in a franchise-worst six game losing streak, the defending champs have been outscored 21-7 in that stretch and need a kick in the pants to get back to their winning ways.
Hydration? Hair of the dog? How about some Austin breakfast tacos, ibuprofen and a cup of joe?
The championship hangover is in full effect in Cedar Park. After bursting out to a 6-2-2 record out of the gate, the Texas Stars are on a franchise-record tying six game winless streak. Over the 0-4-2 stretch, the Stars have been outscored 21-7, including a 7-1 drubbing on home ice, and were shutout for the first time since April two days later. They approach a weekend set around Thanksgiving outside the playoff picture (10th place) for the first time in over a year.
The Stars were skating on thin ice in the early season. They had one of the worst goals against in the league, over three per game. It didn't matter as much because they were also scoring at a clip of greater than three per game. That caught up to them when their high-scoring ways cooled off this month. The Stars went from an average of 3.70 goals per game before the skid to 2.75 currently. Losing a goal per game will lose you some hockey games no question.
Part of what has been affecting those scoring numbers has been the rash of injuries and illness in both Dallas and Texas. Flu has been running rampant through the Stars room, affecting several forwards and forcing callups from Idaho to replace them. Further, as discussed last week, when things happen in Dallas, the reverberations to Texas are huge. Valeri Nichushkin's surgery pushed out the return of Curtis McKenzie until Monday.
On the backend, Texas is hurting from its own success. Last year's crew is disbanded as the AHL side lost Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak to Dallas to start the season. With the loss of Kevin Connauton and the trade of Sergei Gonchar, Texas lost Jyrki Jokipakka and John Klingberg, who were being counted on not only for their defensive skill but also their scoring prowess. Klingberg was second in the league among defenseman for scoring at the time of his recall. Despite not playing at AHL game since November 8th, he is still tied for 7th in that category.
Long story short, you're welcome.
However, Texas cannot look to Dallas as the cause for all of its problems. The team has struggled to create scoring chemistry at times with Coach Laxdal often changing lines from game to game. Sounds familiar to a lot of Dallas fans, I'm sure.
In an article yesterday, I also noted that the Stars are ending up shorthanded more often than any other previous season. They are taking the same number of PIMs as any prior season, a near-league low 12.25 per game, but are still killing an average of two more penalties every three games than any previous year. To boot, they also have the worst penalty killing percentage they've ever had. Something has to change there, especially with OKC coming to town, which owns the best road power play in the league at 32.1%.
San Antonio Embarrasses Texas on Home Ice, 7-1
Stars fans were waiting patiently for the first Texas goal of the night to drown the ice with teddy bears for Operation Blue Santa. Unfortunately, that tally would be the only one of the night for the home side. In franchise history, the San Antonio Rampage had only won in regulation at Cedar Park Center four times before Friday. Icing a depleted lineup due to illness, the Texas Stars allowed the fifth regulation win for the Rampage tonight by a 7-1 final score. The loss stretched Texas' winless skid to five games and pushed them out of the top eight in the Conference.
Jack Campbell got his second straight start with Jussi Rynnas under the weather again. He wouldn't last the full game, getting pulled in the third period for Maxime Lagace. Campbell stopped 27 of 33 on the night. Especially with Rynnas out sick, this was not the type of performance that the Stars needed out of their starting goaltender.
It is unclear if the Stars were too beleaguered by the illness that is affecting the locker room or if this is the new normal. The Rampage seemed faster, hungrier and overall better than the Stars. After so many years of giving the Rampage fits, is this the comeuppance year for Texas?
Texas Shutout in San Antonio as Winless Skid Hits Franchise-Record Six
Looking to get back into the win column, the Texas Stars were unsuccessful against division-leading San Antonio, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Rampage in the Alamo City. With the loss, Texas dropped to 6-6-4 on the season, 10th in the conference, and tied a franchise-record for worst losing streak at six. The Stars set the unsavory previous record at six from March 10th to 23rd of 2012. That season was the only one so far where the Stars did not make it to the postseason.
Coaches hate it when goals against come in the first or last few minutes of a period. They either put you on your heels at the start of a period, after just going over your gameplan in the locker room, or they put you in a bad situation going into the intermission. The Stars gave up one of each against San Antonio Sunday.
The Week Ahead
Texas has three games, all on home ice, this week. Starting tonight, they will play three games in four nights. Oklahoma City will visit for games tonight and Friday. The Iowa Wild will come to town on Saturday.
Jussi Rynnas and Kevin Henderson have both missed time with illness. Brett Ritchie has also been out with a lower body injury. He is expected to be back for the weekend.