This time of year there are supposed to be blessings on all men and everyone is supposed to be in the good spirit. But after how the Dallas Stars played over the weekend, it is really hard to be joyous with my feelings for this team right now. Dallas first got a home win over the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 2-1 on Friday, but were not impressive in winning at all. The team had plenty of chances throughout the game and should have had more then one goal in just the first half of the game. But the offense put pucks right into Cam Ward and let the Canes settle into the game as it went on. The teams leveled out later in the contest and Andrew Raycroft had to make a few big saves just to get the game into the shootout. Luckily they won there or it would have been a disaster.
Then Dallas plays the next night in the wild west against the Phoenix Coyotes and again Raycroft started in net with Lehtonen ruled out for a couple more days at least. The game started out decently enough…for all of a minute or two. Just over 6 mins into the game the Stars gave up a goal and then another just over a minute later and never got back into it really. Dallas was down 3-0 after the first and got it back to 3-1 before it got worse and they ended up falling to the rival Coyotes 5-2. It was sloppy, it was ugly, and it was hard to watch. The Stars got off plenty of shots (taking 35 shots), but other then that the stats were ugly. They lost the faceoff battle. 12 of the skaters ended up going negative in the +/- column, including some top guys like Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro both looking bad on the stats sheet. But what was most noticeable was the Stars going 1-for-7 on the powerplay and their lone goal coming on their 7th chance and it being a fluke goal where they got a lucky bounce.
So what is going on with the Dallas Stars? Whenever they play at home in the comfort of the AAC, Dallas has won games and even when they don’t play well at home they overcome it and find ways to win. The record of 11-3-1 at home looks nice and is good for the home crowds. But something is not right on the road, as the Stars are 6-7-1 (1-5-1 against the west) and their play often does not look to be at the same level. One night on the road they can look like an AHL team and the next at home they can look like a contender for the Pacific division. Against the west on the road Dallas is just 1-5-1 and has been outscored 25-12. This is a glaring concern for a team that wants to be a playoff team in the western conference where the race is extremely tight. How the hell are we supposed to do anything in the standings when anytime the Stars hit the road against a conference foe they can’t even seem to do some of the simple things. It is even more of a concern since this was happening last season as well, when the Stars could not even pass the puck or skate some nights on the road and were one of the worst road teams on the road.
This has been one of my reasons for saying I still do not like Marc Crawford as a coach and want someone else in here after this year unless things change. While Dallas has won at home and got better goaltending from both Lehtonen and Raycroft most nights, the whole team looks flat often on the road unless it is against some mediocre Eastern team. I know some of it falls on the players, but some of it has to fall on the coaches too and they have still not figured out how to change it or do something with this team. The road powerplay is the joke of the month with Stars fans and is now 3-49 away from Dallas (6.1%). There was even tweeting (it’s what the kids do now-a-days) going on today making fun of the PP and things that are actually worse then it. Needless to say some of the things people put were the worst things in today’s sports and entertainment world. I know at some point they can’t keep over-thinking it and constantly worrying about it, but the PP is over 20% at home and 11th in the league. And they have fixed the PK unit, which was horrid early in the season but has improved to 88.2% over the team’s last 11 games total. So the “Jekyll and Hyde” syndrome of this team is frustrating and perplexing.
Tonight the Stars get a chance right away to try and fix it on some level or at least get a win on the road. Dallas plays the first game of a home-and-home series with the division rival San Jose Sharks out on the west coast. The puck drops in just under two hours and the team again will be leaning on Raycroft tonight as Lehtonen is still out of action. Special teams will be the focus tonight, being that the Stars have struggled so severely with theirs in this season on the road and the Sharks have a PP unit that is in top 10 at home and overall. But if the Stars have one stat nice to look at, it is that the Sharks are 24th in the league for home PK units. So even if it is just one goal tonight, Dallas has to get something with their chances tonight and try to smother and defend the Sharks high-powered offense. We will see how it goes soon and I will be ready to complain or cheer about it all with you guys after the game.
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