OK, 5 out of 6 points on the homestand is good news for the good guys. Check the Sunday Morning Standings in the Western Conference playoff race and it is real clear that the Stars are making steady progress. They sit just 2 points out of 8th, and have 1 game in hand on those teams above them. Translation: they are essentially tied for the final playoff spot with 39 games to play – if we assume that they can win that extra game.
But, what a race this is shaping up to be in the Western Conference. Teams that they were chasing (Nashville) are now passed. On the other hand, teams that were sitting next to the Stars 45 days ago (Phoenix) have somehow shot up all the way to the #5 seed – past the Ducks!
This chase is fun, but it will also make you insane for the next 10 weeks.
Good news from the week, though, as the Stars were involved in 3 nail-biters, and pulled 5 points. 2 wins and an OT loss will make things feel a bit better after the one that got away is the Sabres debacle where the boys sacrificed a 3-0 lead.
I still feel optimistic, and I believe the team does, too. Slowly, but surely, they are coming around.
One of the nice things to see yesterday was the production from the Ribeiro line, which now includes Jere Lehtinen and Steve Ott. They all were productive yesterday with 63 getting a key tip-in goal, a sweet set up pass that sprung Lehtinen, and then a shoot-out winner where he held the mustard and just scored on a fairly conventional effort. Curious if the mustard was held because he wanted it held or if he was told something after Thursdays effort in the shootout, but he did not seem to indicate that after Saturday’s game.
Lehtinen was also big, as he scored a vintage Jere goal to tie the game at 1-1, as he split the defense of the Kings and beat Erik Ersberg. 26 is starting to look like the tenacious 26 again, and that can only be a good thing. Let’s hope he can stay healthy.
And then there is Ott. Who is trying to be Ott and Brenden Morrow all at the same time, with a bunch of metal in his hand. You can tell he is still making the opponent crazy with his actions and his words, and then they want to fight him (of course) and he cannot oblige for another several weeks. You can understand the opponent’s frustration, as they drop their gloves and then skate to the penalty box without the payoff. But, the combination of the 3 players is looking to help carry things offensively for a crew that now gets different nights of productivity from the 3 different lines.
But, here comes the key: Are they still productive on the road? 21 home games, the Stars have scored 69 goals. That is a number that will win a lot of hockey games; 3.29 goals per game. It is when the Stars have had to leave Dallas where the scoring has dried up. 51 goals in 22 road games for a stunningly low total of 2.32 goals per game. That is the difference between winning and losing. The defense, for all of its frustrating moments this season has been the exact same home and away. It is the ability to do the most important thing in hockey – put the puck in the net – that has betrayed the Stars when they have left the friendly confines of Dallas.
Well, with Tampa on Monday and then Florida later in the week, the Stars need to get some goals on the road and be sitting pretty as the All-Star break hits next weekend.
One other news item that I have not addressed in blog form yet, and that is the broadcast rights coming to the ticket that will combine two of my very favorite things in the world together: The Dallas Stars and Sportsradio 1310, The Ticket.
I am excited that the games will be on the Ticket with good ol Ralphie Boy and Razor bringing you the call on my home base.
What does it mean? Not sure. I hope that we will have plenty of surprises up our sleeve, but in the end, the key will remain the key – which is letting those boys do what they do best – call a great hockey game.
But, just so you are well aware, I am quite pleased to see this is going down. And look forward to continuing the Dallas Stars postgame show on the Ticket – something I have been doing since 1998, and has been hosted by Bob and Dan since the 1999-2000 season. We don’t see that changing too much, except that many of you will already have your dials on 1310 for the game itself.