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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.

 

Report: Stars make more changes in goal, hire ex-Detroit coach Bedard

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Suspect netminding has plagued Dallas for two straight years, and GM Jim Nill is switching things up accordingly.

On the heels of acquiring Ben Bishop and signing him to a long-term contract, Nill has reportedly hired veteran goalie coach Jim Bedard, per In Goal Magazine.

Bedard will replace longtime Dallas employee Mike Valley, who has been with the club since 2009 in a goalie coach/director of goaltending development role. In Goal reports that Valley told the club he wouldn’t be returning.

Bedard, 60, was with Detroit from the mid-90s to last summer, when he was relived of his duties. His unemployment didn’t last long. Within weeks of being dismissed, Bedard caught on as the goalie coach for OHL Windsor,

The connection to Dallas is quite obvious. Nill and Bedard worked together for years in Detroit, and won three Stanley Cups together.

Related: Bishop has ‘good relationship’ with Hitch, and that’s important

 

 

Penguins prepare for another Game 7, this time as favorites

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Two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins played a Game 7 that the oddsmakers expected them to lose.

But the Penguins didn’t lose. They went into Washington and shut out the Capitals to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

Which brings us to tomorrow, and another Game 7.

This time, the game is in Pittsburgh. And this time, it’ll be the Penguins as favorites. 

At online sportsbook Bovada, the Ottawa Senators are +170 underdogs, meaning a $100 bet on the Sens to win Game 7 would pay out $170. Conversely, to make $100 on a Penguins win, a bettor would have to risk $200.

This is not to suggest that betting on Ottawa is the savvy move. It might be, given the potential payout, combined with the fact hockey games are often decided by a lucky bounce or hot goalie.

But just remember: the Penguins beat Tampa Bay in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference Final. The defending champs have proven their worth in these winner-take-all games.

“It’s not something that’s new to them,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “These guys have been involved in these experiences on a number of occasions, and they have those experiences to draw on. You know, I think they know what to expect, and now it’s a matter of going out and earning it and controlling what they can and doing your very best to get the result that we’re looking for.”

Veteran forward Matt Cullen added, “We’ve been there before. We’ve gone through this. We know what to expect out of our group. We have a comfort level with our plan and the way that we need to play. These are the fun games to play. So as a group, we go into it with a lot of confidence, knowing that we’re going to need our best game and expecting that we’ll bring it.”

For the record, Sens coach Guy Boucher has also experienced a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. It came in 2011 when he was coaching the Lightning, who fell to the eventual champs from Boston by the score of 1-0.

Though it wasn’t the result he wanted, Boucher felt privileged to have had the experience.

“It was a tough game,” he said. “It was 0-0 with seven minutes left in the game. It was quite a game and a lot of pressure. What I remember most is the excitement of an opportunity that very few people get in their lives, and I’m part of that. I can’t be blessed more than that.”

Related: The modern-day Sens have never won a Game 7

Weight ‘not afraid’ to say he wants ex-NHLers behind Isles bench

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With the interim tag dropped, Isles head coach Doug Weight is in the midst of retooling his staff.

It began last week, when Weight added longtime NHL defenseman — and former Oilers teammate — Luke Richardson as an assistant coach. That was followed by reports the Isles were interested in hiring another of Weight’s old teammates, Kelly Buchberger, as well as two-time Stanley Cup champion Scott Gomez.

Buchberger was playing as recently as 2004, in Pittsburgh, where he was teammates with the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury and Brooks Orpik. Gomez suited up for 13 games in Ottawa last season.

Clearly, there’s a trend at play here. Weight wants guys like him, veteran NHLers not far removed from their playing days (Weight hung ’em up in 2011). And he isn’t shying away from addressing it.

“I’m not afraid to say it, it’s something I’m looking for and chasing,” Weight said, per the Post. “But that being said, I’m not just hiring guys who play 15 years or 20 years.

“You have to sit with them, you have to see how they view the game, how they are, how they view the players, how I view the game.”

Bob Corkum, a holdover from the Jack Capuano era, won’t be brought back as an assistant. The status of Greg Cronin, another holdover — and who never played in the NHL, it should be said — is still up in the air.

Weight said he’s interviewed eight to 10 candidates to join his staff.

 

Detroit signs Czech d-man Sulak

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The Red Wings have added some depth on defense.

On Wednesday, the club announced it has signed Czech rearguard Libor Sulak to a two-year, entry-level deal. Sulak, 23, is fresh off representing the Czechs at the World Hockey Championship and, prior to that, spent the last two years playing for Znojmo Orli of the Austrian League.

There, he was named the league’s rookie of the year in 2016, and followed that up with a career-high 10 goals and 28 points in 54 games last season.

It’ll be interesting to see if he can push for minutes in Detroit next season. Currently, the club has six d-men under contract — Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul. Xavier Ouellet is also in the mix, but a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings also signed ’16 first-rounder Dennis Cholowski to his ELC last month, and he played one game for their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.