NHL: Dallas Stars Hoping March Brings Better Luck After the February from Hell
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The Stars had managed to fight their way back to victory after these sorts of games.
A day later in Boston and it started to feel like the season was taking a sudden turn for the worse.
Not only did the Stars concede four in the first period and lose 6-3, they would lose spiritual leader Adam Burish with a broken orbital bone for eight games and pugilistic Krys Barch also out for eight games.
The SO win over the Chicago Blackhawks seemed to indicate the Stars were getting out of the rut they had dug themselves in.
It was not to be, Dallas lost the next five games by a total score of six goals to 16, which included an ugly loss to Columbus in a 2-1 game and yet another defeat in the last game against the Canucks, 5-2 away.
Add to that, the Powerplay scoring only two on a staggering 18 attempts and the PK at 81 percent.
Injuries to Burish and Barch were not the only problem; the month already had Toby Petersen out until February 15th and Jamie Benn didn't play any part until the 22nd against New Jersey.
Loui Eriksson, even though he played on anyway, was suffering with an illness that was visibly sapping the energy out of him.
Add to that the loss of first pairing D-man Nicklas Grossman and the concussion of Brad Richards after the Columbus Blue Jackets game on the 13th and the Dallas Stars were more reminiscent of the Texas Stars.
The month saw the acquisition of Jason Williams on the 12th to provide depth to the forward lines, and was the only one other than Texas call-up Tomas Vincour to put in a spirited effort away against the Edmonton Oilers on the 15th, assisting Loui Eriksson's powerplay goal that night.
February ended kindly for the Stars. On the 21st, GM Joe Nieuwendyk traded away James Neal and Matt Niskanen for puck moving defenseman Alex Goligoski from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Whilst national uproar over the trade led to conspiracy theories on some internet forums determining the trade as a blatant sign that the league was backing the Penguins (the NHL currently partially own the Dallas Stars) and others simply stating Dallas was fleeced, Goligoski has made an instant impact in the Lone Star state.
His first game, on the 22nd against New Jersey, saw him take part in a spirited effort by Dallas and kept the Devils to 0-0 for 55 minutes where an unfortunate goal gave the home team a horrible 5th loss in a row.
This day was significant due to the return of sophomore Jamie Benn, the much heralded multi-position youngster who's return has been seen as the lifting force the Stars needed.
The omens were good for the Stars when Krys Barch scored at the Joe. Adam Burish also returned in Detroit, adding that emotional leadership the team had been working with since October.
More good news came in the form of Loui Eriksson battling off his illness and once again returning to a point-a-game pace.
February could have scuppered the chances of a Dallas Pacific division win and perhaps even a playoff berth, but not all is lost for the team in the deep south. They picked up another depth forward in Jason Williams, call-up Tomas Vincour looks like a keeper and at the trade deadline, they managed to keep hold of Brad Richards.
For good or for worse, he will help the Stars this season.
With all that said, it is obvious just how good Jamie Benn is and what he meant for this team, his return is almost like a second coming. Jamie Benn's impact was and is far more noticeable than that of James Neal.
Where will the Stars end up in the Pacific?
The team go into March winning their first game on a five-game road series against all of the Pacific teams. The 3-2 win over Phoenix is a massive confidence booster for the side, and that man again Jamie Benn scored with just four seconds to go to get the regulation win. Loui Eriksson was the man to receive the primary assist.
Sometime next week, Brad Richards is possibly going to step onto the ice in anger for the Stars once more and at this crucial time, the team is proving it can win without him.
With Goligoski in the side, Richards may get the rest off the PP that he's been needing for a long time.
The month has just begun. The Stars sit sixth in the conference and third in the Pacific. They have two games in hand on the Coyotes, who sit just two points ahead and one game in hand on the San Jose Sharks who are 6 points in the lead.
However, the drop to ninth placed Nashville is only one point. If the Stars hope to stay in the playoff hunt, they will need to make a Pacific division schedule heavy March their best run of the season.
With Brad Richards and Nicklas Grossman due back in the next week or two, Dallas can start to feel relieved that the injury nightmare may have just passed.
Now all that's left to do is win hockey games. Can they do it?
Well, they proved in the first half of the season they could. If they manage to play above .500 hockey against the Pacific they should be in good stead to make the playoffs, closer to .600 would be best.
Anything like .400 and the team will just not make it.
It's a big month for the Stars, but that's the same of any team in the logjam that is the Western Conference.
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