Texas Stars Wrap Up: On the Road Again
February has been a month largely dominated by road trips for the Texas Stars. It’s also been a time to shine for Philippe Desrosiers.
Joel L’Esperance and Landon Bow are in Dallas. They’ve been called up by the Dallas Stars, with L’Esperance the leading goal scorer in the AHL and Bow having been Texas’s best goaltender the entire season.
Bow has now played in two NHL games, his most recent coming in relief on February 14 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. L’Esperance has also played in two NHL games, though he has just two shots and has yet to register a point.
L’Esperance went to Dallas on an impressive streak — four goals in his five most recent AHL games, including a three-game goal-scoring streak. Bow headed north after a 29-save shutout.
That’s the important NHL news for the Texas Stars, who have gone 4-4-0 in their last eight games, a stretch which includes six road games. Of Texas’s 11 games throughout February, eight are on the road.
The Texas Stars are now fifth in the AHL, one point behind Rockford, and with two games in hand. That means the Stars are one point outside of the playoffs, but again, they have the opportunity to catch up.
“Every game’s a playoff game for us,” coach Derek Laxdal said. “Doesn’t matter who we play. Every game now we play we play a divisional rival so every point we get is huge.”
With the play of Philippe Desrosiers of late, including a .940 save percentage with Bow in Dallas, that should be an opportunity the Stars capitalize on. Desrosiers has allowed one goal (or fewer) three times in his six starts, and is earning himself a larger look.
“It’s pretty easy to play every night,” Desrosiers said. “That’s what I like. It’s easier to get in and be good every game.”
The power play continues to be largely excellent, with a 25 percent conversion rate in the last eight games, but their six goals came in just four of the eight games. Inconsistency has hurt, but when the power play is on, it’s perhaps the best in the AHL.
“[The power play is] not going to score every night,” Laxdal said. “As long as you’re getting looks, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Meanwhile, the penalty kill has become better, with an 82.76 percent success rate.
The departure of L’Esperance brought about the return of Denis Gurianov to Texas, and Gurianov has been the best shot producer on the team, with 17 shots in three games. He has yet to score in February, but he is overdue, and his crucial setup led to a goal for Justin Dowling against Tucson.
Dowling is now on a two-game goal-scoring streak, with four points in his last four games. He and Michael Mersch have been the team’s most dependable scorers since the departure of L’Esperance. Mersch has seven points in his last eight games, including four goals. No other player comes close to consistency in terms of production, at least in February.
However, plenty of players are consistent at driving possession and getting pucks on net. In his last seven games, Ben Gleason has had at least one shot per game, and has tallied two assists in his last four.
Nicholas Caamano has 22 shots in his last eight games while being bounced around the top three lines. Mersch has 23 shots, and newly-arrived Brad McClure has 19 shots in seven games, including scoring his first AHL goal.
For the Dallas Stars, it’s good news that Gleason is starting to heat up again over his past four games. He’s a 20-year-old defenseman, and one that should have a bright future. He has been used on all three pairings at some point this season and has shown signs of working on all three.
Gurianov looks good in both directions, and should start producing more in the near future. Gavin Bayreuther hasn’t scored in seven games, but continues to move the puck well and find open lanes to the net. Points will come as long as he continues to get the puck on the net.
However, this has been a stretch where goaltending has been Texas’s best asset, and Desrosiers seems destined to stick around Texas a while longer.
“Phil’s stepped up here, with Bow up, he’s played the last number of games here, played very well, and he’s given us a chance every night,” Laxdal said.