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Stars go deeper than rock bottom in Ruff’s ‘worst game’ with team

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At this point the 2016-17 season can not end fast enough for the Dallas Stars as they keep finding new lows in what has been an already disappointing season.

Things continued to get worse on Tuesday night when they were thumped by the Edmonton Oilers, 7-1, to run their current losing streak to three games, all of which have seen the team surrender more than five goals.

Reactions after the game were, to say the least, not pleasant, with the harshest criticism coming from coach Lindy Ruff when he said, via Mark Stepneski of NHL.com, that it was probably the worst game he has ever coached with the Stars, and that the the team “needs a lot more from the leaders of the team.”

Said Tyler Seguin, again via NHL.com, “I thought we hit rock bottom last game, but we got deeper tonight. We are going to have to find some pride here. We left our goalies hanging out to dry. It’s frustrating.”

It’s been a season long problem, and it only seems to be getting worse in recent weeks.

Some numbers to ponder about just how bad this team has been defensively:

  • Tuesday’s game was the third consecutive game the Stars have given up at least five goals in a game
  • It is the eighth time they have given up five goals since Feb. 1.
  • Their 3.29 goals against per game on the season is the worst in the league and the fourth worst mark in the NHL over the past five seasons.
  • Their penalty kill, which gave up another goal on Tuesday, has been successful on just 73.9 percent of its attempts this season. That would be the third-worst mark the NHL has seen since the 1990-91 season. Only the 1993-94 Ottawa Senators and 1990-91 Quebec Nordiques (two truly awful teams in NHL history, both playing in a higher scoring era) were worse.

The Stars’ downfall is one of the more surprising developments of the NHL season, especially after making it to the second round of the playoffs just one year ago. Part of it has been out of their control (like the rash of injuries that at times devastated their forward depth this season), but part of it has been self inflicted from a management perspective.

Their inability to address the goaltending issue over the summer and trying to once again roll with the Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen duo, combined with a defense that lost solid veterans Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers over the summer, has been a devastating blow to their season and it is showing up in the performance.

This isn’t just a bad defensive team, it has been the worst goal prevention team in the NHL and one of the worst in recent memory.

Now they head into another offseason where their coach is without a contract, they still have both goalies signed for another year at a combined salary cap hit of nearly $10 million per season, and have several unrestricted free agents (Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, Jiri Hudler) and restricted free agents (Brett Ritchie, Radek Faska, Mattias Janmark, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, and Esa Lindell) to deal with.

For a team that entered the season as one of the most entertaining teams in the league and a potential Stanley Cup contender it is a pretty drastic turnaround, and at this point it seems like it is going to take quite a bit of work to fix it.

 

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.