The Dallas Stars entered this recent Canadian road trip in a great spot in the Western Conference playoff race. They were jumping back and forth between the first and second wild card and had a nice cushion with a game in hand on the teams chasing them. Now, after an 0-3-0 trip, they sit just two points up on the Vegas Golden Knights with zero games in hand and only four games remaining in the regular season.
Stars Disappointed in Trip
This road trip was not easy. The Stars had to go into Vancouver against a team that was battling for their playoff lives before traveling to Edmonton and Calgary to face two of the hottest teams in the league on back-to-back nights. Still, leaving Canada with zero points and doing so in a fairly disappointing fashion was not what this team had in mind.
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“We’ve just got to get our team game back, positionally-wise, execution-wise, compete-wise,” Rick Bowness said. “We’re not having a consistent five people on the same page, and it shows. It shows a lack of practice time, it shows a lot of games, but we don’t have time and got to try to find that Dallas Stars hockey.”
On top of the three losses, the Stars have to be very disappointed in the way they played. They allowed six goals in Vancouver, five goals on 50 shots in Edmonton, and watched as the Flames took control of a tie game in the third period, resulting in a 4-2 regulation loss. The game in Calgary was the sixth straight that Dallas has scored two or fewer goals, being outscored 19-11 during that span. They were outscored 15-6 on this three-game trip.
“For the third game in four nights and a back-to-back, we did what we had to do to give ourselves a chance to win,” Bowness said. “Vancouver, we had no chance, Edmonton we had no chance. We had a chance to at least get a point [in Calgary].”
While it is true that they played a much better game against Calgary, there are no moral wins at this point in the NHL regular season.
Dallas & Vegas Are Too Close for Comfort
With the recent results, Dallas has tightened the gap between them and the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas, after taking a nosedive in March, has risen up, going 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Meanwhile, Dallas dropped to 4-4-1 in their last 10 and lost on Thursday for the fourth time in five games.
“We would’ve liked to have locked up our spot already,” said goalie Jake Oettinger, who had a solid night with 33 saves against Calgary. “This road trip, I think we gave some other teams some life. There’s no one else to blame. It’s in our hands, and we have every opportunity to make the playoffs, and I think we’re excited about the opportunity.”
The Stars still control their own destiny but the margin for error has become absolutely zero. Dallas returns home for four straight games at the American Airlines Center over the next week. Of those four games, three of them are against non-playoff opponents, and the other is against the same Vegas Golden Knights that are nipping at their heels.
“We’re going home with great fans, and if we have to do it the hard way, we’ll do it the hard way,” Bowness said. “We get back to a great atmosphere in our rink. We still control our own destiny, we just have to take full advantage of it, and we’re going to.”
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All of this is a cause for concern for the Stars and their fanbase. While the team has been inconsistent all season, they have shown some consistency over the last month or so. Unfortunately, that consistency has been finding ways to lose, a mediocre power play, and struggling to score goals both on the road and at home.
Yes, they could beat Vegas and limp into the postseason. But, it is vital for a team to be playing its best hockey heading into the playoffs, especially when they are met by the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche in the first round. This means that Dallas needs to find a way to not only pick up points but find their team game again and play some good hockey over the last four games.
“We’re running out of time, there’s [four] games left,” said Bowness. “We still control our own destiny, and we don’t want to lose that.