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.