Dallas Stars

Are the wheels coming off in Dallas?

5 Comments

A week ago, the Dallas Stars were flying high. They were 11-3-0, tops in the Western Conference and pushing Pittsburgh for first overall in the NHL.

But that was last week.

Since then, the Stars have gone 0-3 — with losses to Pittsburgh, Detroit and Florida — while being outscored 14-3. This included last night’s humiliating 6-0 home defeat to the Panthers, which Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News called “this team’s worst yet.” (Subscription only)

“The honeymoon’s over,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “You start off 11-3, and teams are prepared to play you. They watch you a little bit closer. I thought Florida did a really good job of pre-scouting us. You can have systems given to you from God above, but if you don’t add work to those systems, you’re not going to win. We got severely outworked.”

Florida’s domination was apparent in the first period. Dallas spent almost the entire opening frame in its own end and the disparity in shot opportunities was shocking. (37-7: Florida put 14 on goal, had 16 blocked and seven missed the net.)

Some will say this is an aberration, that Dallas is more the team that went 11-3 than the one that’s gone 0-3. But some will counter the Stars are now showing their true colors — with evidence to back it up. Dallas has given up the most shots per game in the league (33.4) and the most power-play opportunities (4.9) per game…and one wonders when some of their key contributors will come back to earth.

— Jamie Benn is on pace to score 97 points this year; his career-high is 56.

— Adam Burish has eight points already; his career-high is 14.

— Eric Nystrom has five goals in 12 games as a Star; his career-high is 11.

There’s also the issue of Kari Lehtonen’s workload. He’s started 14 of Dallas’ 17 games and is fourth among all goalies in shots faced (eighth in minutes played.) He’s been in the league for seven years, but only has two seasons as a full-time starter: 2006-07 with Atlanta and last season in Dallas. The wear-down factor could be in play, especially for a guy whose conditioning has been questioned in the past.

So, are the wheels coming off in Dallas or not? Have your say in the comments section.

UPDATE: Another tough loss for the Stars — Burish will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. He joins Steve Ott and Alex Goligoski among Dallas’ walking wounded.

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

2 Comments

Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?

Video: Rust opens scoring in Game 7

Leave a comment

What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.

Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.

After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.

Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
Getty Images
5 Comments

He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images
3 Comments

Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…