Thursday, March 21, 2013
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - 10 Worst Losses in Dallas Stars History
Grab a beer and some meth, Stars fans, this one's gonna hurt.
Good morning, hockey fans! Last week we cowered in fear from the wrath of Alex Goligoski's fists. This week, rather than focus on the fourth time this shortened season the Stars have lost a game in which they led by two or more goals, it's time to take in the lighter side of franchise history. Namely, where, exactly, does the 8-1 curbstomping by the Blackhawks really belong?
Article after article claimed it was the "worst" home loss in Dallas history, but a quick dusting of the memory says otherwise. But those fans who forget history are doomed to think to-night's 3-2 loss to the Kings is the worst loss in NHL yore, so we've decided to put together a little list of the 10 Worst Losses in Dallas Stars History.
Each one is ranked using a convoluted and often made-up system of expectations, results and catastrophic aftermath. And these are not necessarily the most significant losses --Game Six of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals was heart-breaking, especially considering just how illegal the curve on Jason Arnott's stick really was, but both teams played brilliantly throughout-- no, these are the losses where the Stars themselves reached through your TV and kicked you in your groin while snickering. The real ball shrivelers, the nightmarish losses that should haunt every athlete involved until the End of Days.
#10: January 30, 2001 - Kings 8, Stars 0
The Set Up: The Stars were Cup losers, but had just had their tuckuses handed to them in a pair of lopsided home losses to the Devils (again!) and Sharks. The Kings were a middle-of-the-pack team with zero expectations, and certainly no one over the age of seven would've predicted that they would put up 8 goals on a guy like Eddie Belfour.
Blood on the Ice: The Kings put up 8 goals on a guy like Eddie Belfour, seven of them at even strength. Oh, and the two-time reigning Western Conference Champions got shut out.. by Jamie Storr.
The Aftermath: Dallas went out and won its next game, but the blueprints for decisively beating a Ken Hitchcock team had been laid. The Stars were a tight defensive team that gave away nothing, but like all such teams they could be demolished by a young, fast team assaulting the city walls with 60 minutes of pure north-south aggression. Hitchcock's Stars limped through their annual first-round postseason series win against the Oilers, then bowed out in the second, getting swept by Pierre Turgeon and the Blues. Hitch didn't even make it out of the next season, and has been plagued by fast, hungry teams ever since.
#9: November 15, 2011 - Panthers 6, Stars 0
The Set Up: It was Gulutzan's first taste of the NHL, and his young Stars team had come out smokin', going 11-3-0 before dropping two straight road games to the Pens and Red Wings. But those were "good" teams on the road; playing the Panthers, at home, should have been a walk in the park and a way to get back into the race for the President's Trophy.
Blood on the Ice: In a disgusting display of absolutely-just-not-giving-a-s**t, not one single Dallas Stars player decided to show up to this game. The Panthers cruised through all three zones at will, and even seemed to ease up halfway through the game. Hell, Brian Campbell was a +5 on the night. That should tell you how much a kick in the solar plexus this game was.
The Aftermath: Dallas followed this one up with two more lopsided losses to cap off a five-game regulation losing streak, a streak they would later repeat in the final weeks of the season to drop from 3rd to 10th and miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year, solidifying their position as pretenders with no ability to right the ship when they needed it most. More on that, unfortunately, later.
#8: March 16, 2013 - Blackhawks 8, Stars 1
The Set Up: The Stars were reeling, having lost three straight coming in, including a shootout loss to the Ducks of all teams, in which Dallas clanged two shots that hit both posts and had a goal disallowed simply because of a quick whistle. Nevertheless, even though the Blackhawks' record-breaking streak was ancient history, it's always nice to test yourself against the best the league has had to offer in a generation.
Blood on the Ice: Dallas was competitive for about five minutes before the wheels came off. Every single systemic problem of the 2013 Stars --their unwillingness to skate in the middle of the rink, the weak perimeter game, the inability to clear their crease, the rookie mistakes on D (made worse by having three of their six d-men be actual rookies)-- became glaringly obvious against a tightly-controlled Blackhawks team that is skating a north-south game for the first time in four years.
The Aftermath: It's early, but this might've been the game that ultimately costs Gulutzan his job. The Stars responded with a win the next game --just barely avoiding blowing a three-goal lead-- but it's clear the underperforming veterans on this team are just biding their time with their bags packed until the trade deadline. On the other hand, if this loss led to the Stars acquiring Seth Jones, it will be looked back upon fondly... a little too fondly.
#7: February 3, 2011 - Bruins 6, Stars 3
The Set Up: Dallas was the league's annual unexpected darling, first in the Pacific with a shot at the #2 overall seed. They had just come off a lopsided loss to the Canucks, but hey, that's normal, right? The Canucks are good!
Blood on the Ice: The game started with blood all over the ice, most of it from Dallas Stars' arteries. The game started with a spirited tilt between Steve Ott and Gregory Campbell in the first second, which was entertaining but ok, let's get on with the actual game. One second later ineffective Stars punching bag Krys Barch takes on former Stars punching bag Shawn Thornton and loses. Badly. Two seconds after that, Brian Sutherby takes on Adam McQuaid, mostly by allowing McQuaid's fists exclusive VIP access to his unprotected face. Oh, and Adam Burish, a key guy on the third line, also fought four minutes in and got his a** kicked. Were the Stars trying to send the thuggish Bruins a message of "we're not going to get pushed around?" Because it totally worked: the Bruins were up 2-0 before the game was 90 seconds old, and 4-0 at the first intermission. Message. Sent.
The Aftermath: The Stars lost Burish and Barch for extended stretches after that, coud not kill a penalty or score a goal or clear a crease to save their lives, and ended up losing 9 of 10 games, with the lone "win" a shootout victory over the Blackhawks in which they had to overcome a 3-0 first period deficit. Also, they dropped from #2 to a number so high scientists are still trying to calculate it.
#6: March 31, 2011 - Sharks 6, Stars 0
The Set Up: It was late in the season and the Stars were reeling, but they still had a microscopic chance at the postseason. They came in having lost four straight, but three of those were in overtime, and their next three were all road games against Pacific Division rivals. If they could beat the Sharks here, they would be back in the thick of things and in control of their own postseason destiny. If. But they would have to play their a**es off against the Pac's best, on the road, with everything on the line.
Blood on the Ice: With so much at stake, it was genuinely shocking (at the time, not in retrospect) that the Stars did not just lose, but that they were not even remotely competitive at any point in the game. The Sharks essentially used the game as a pre-game warm-up shooting drill, repeatedly skating unopposed into the Dallas zone and taking as many shots as they needed to work on their weak areas before, presumably, facing a real team in the playoffs. Dallas gave up 52 shots on goal on the night, including 12 to Patrick Marleau alone, who would use the much-needed practice to dominate the Kings and Red Wings later that postseason.
The Aftermath: Dallas would lose one more before reeling off four straight wins in the final five games, setting themselves up for an epic win-and-you're-in on the final game of the season. A game which, coughclearsthroat, may or may not appear later on this list.
#5: May 30, 2000 - Devils 7, Stars 3
The Set Up: Dallas had just come through its second straight epic conference 7-game conference finals series victory against the heavily-favored Ray Borque Avalanche, and were primed for their second straight Stanley Cup. Unfortunately for Stars fans, they were hoping for a date with the all-bluster, no-muster Philadelphia Flyers, but the Devils were able to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win an epic seven-game conference finals of their own. Most hockey experts predicted a long, terse defense-only series that could have multiple 0-0 overtimes. After all, Belfour hadn't allowed more than two goals in eight straight games, seven of which were against Forsberg, Sakic, Blake, Hedjuk and Borque. What chance did New Jersey have?
Blood on the Ice: A 100% chance, apparently. Fighting a cold, Belfour let in long unscreened shots from Scott Stevens and Ken Frickin Daneyko, and was pulled after giving up two goals on two shots in the third period. The Arnott line put up four points on the night and sliced through Dallas' Hatcher-Matvichuk top line of defense like it was rancid butter. Parade routes were canceled, trophy cases locked back up.
The Aftermath: Dallas won the next game, but lost three of the next four in the beginning of the end. Following their Finals loss, the Stars wouldn't defeat a non-Oilers team in the playoffs until 2008.
#4: April 11, 2007 - Canucks 5, Stars 4 (4OT)
The Set Up: After getting unceremoniously bounced by bad Avs teams in the first round two straight years, the Stars were actually technically the underdogs in this matchup despite having one more win than the division-winning Canucks. Dallas had played well coming in, putting up a 10-1-1 record through most of March to get to where they were. While the Canucks were no pushovers, they were in the postseason, and only the annual playoff collapses of the Sharks distracted hockey writers' attention from the miserable postseason failures the Canucks had been. Dallas was primed to finally get past the first round for only the second time in Dave Tippett's career.
Blood on the Ice: After a high-scoring back-and-forth game came down to overtime --thanks to an unexpected appearance of the rare and elusive Ladislav Nagy tying the game at 4-4 with six minutes left in the third-- both goalies completely shut it down. Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco stoned everything that came their way for an entire extra game and then some, with Turco making 50+ saves and Luongo stopping a bats**t-insane 72 shots as Dallas repeatedly dominated in the Vancouver zone --including an extended 5-on-3 in the second overtime-- with zero result. Finally, with the spectre of a fifth, sixth and maybe ninth overtime looming, Sedin A took a pass from Sedin B from behind the net and wristed it through Turco's five hole to shock the stunned, slack-jawed and sleep-deprived members of Stars Nation.
The Aftermath: I don't know the precise stats, but it seems as if teams that lose 3OT or longer games always go on to lose the series. And so they did: despite three shutouts from Turco to bring Dallas to a series-deciding seventh game, they could not get over the hump in the anticlimactic finale, missing both Sergei Zubov and a fistful of cash in the officials' pockets --with Dallas getting whistled for five straight penalties in the second period, two of which mysteriously featured zero contact of any kind-- en route to surrendering three goals in the third. The Canucks, predictably, would go on to get plastered in the next round by the Ducks.
#3: November 10, 2007 - Kings 6, Stars 5
The Set Up: The Stars were struggling at 7-7-2, and there were rumblings that top brass would be in trouble if the ship wasn't righted soon. Dallas had surrendered five goals in three of their last five games, and their defense and goaltending were beyond suspect. Fortunately the Kings were an up-and-down team that had lost to the Stars 5-1 earlier in the season and were also muddling through the early season at 7-8-0. Not exactly an epic clash of the titans, but whaddya expect in an early November regular season game?
Blood on the Ice: Dallas cruised in the first two periods, going up 4-0 before LA even knew what hit them. When Philip Boucher took a hooking minor midway through the third, both teams appeared to be going through the motions, waiting for the clock to expire on this blowout so that they could move on to the next game. That is, until Dustin Brown scored on the ensuing powerplay. And Scott Thornton scored 75 seconds later. And Alex Frolov scored 94 seconds after that. And Anze Kopitar scored 24 seconds after that. And viola! The suspect Dallas defense, surrendering four goals in three minutes, had shown its true colors. Two minutes after Kopitar's goal, Nagy, the subject of arguably the single worst trade in Stars history, scored the go-ahead goal to turn a 4-0 lead to a 5-4 deficit with 2:07 to play in regulation. Mike Modano thankfully tied it up on the powerplay with a minute left, but Kopitar scored again in overtime to complete the most memorable collapse in Dallas history.
The Aftermath: GM Doug Armstrong was fired, and after an overtime loss the next game Dallas reeled off six straight wins to get back into the playoff picture, where they won two rounds for the first time in Tippett's career before bowing out against the eventual Cup champion Red Wings in the Conference Final. Inexplicably, Brett Hull was co-promoted to Armstrong's spot, directly resulting in one of the worst personnel decisions in franchise history.
#2: April 24, 2003 - Mighty Ducks 4, Stars 3 (5OT)
The Set Up: In typical Tippett fashion, the Stars had just barely squeaked out of a first-round matchup against an underwhelming Oilers squad, only to face a far less whelming Ducks team that had mastered the art of clutching and grabbing to such a flawless degree that they had swept the #1-ranked Red Wings in the first round. While this brought many fist-pumps and high-fives amongst Stars fans --"Our path to the Cup is clear! Thanks, Anaheim!"-- we had apparently forgotten that a team with Keith Carney and the Stay-Puft Goaltender wasn't going to change their tactics anytime soon.
Blood on the Ice: And so it was, for nearly three games' worth of hockey. Dallas actually went down 3-1 in the second, but a late goal in the second by former archenemy Jason Arnott in the second brought it to within one, and Dallas tied it with just three minutes remaining when a young Brenden Morrow popped one in to make it 3-3. And then the scoring just...stopped. Anaheim carried the play through much of the first overtime, but in the second and third OTs it was all Dallas. The Stars, who had just managed 23 total shots in regulation, opened up a shooting gallery on J.S. Gigeure's enormously oversized pads in the second and third overtimes, mounting 29 shots but zero goals as the rest of the Ducks held pom-poms and cheered. The fourth overtime was a blur of half-asleep skaters and weak wristshots from distance, until the misery was finally put to rest when fellow former archenemy Petr Sykora rifled one past Turco just 48 seconds into the fifth overtime for the agonizing, demoralizing win. It was the fourth-longest game in NHL history, with 80 minutes of just overtime.
The Aftermath: The heavily-favored Stars never recovered, losing in six games, all four losses by one goal --usually scored in the third period on a tired, old Stars squad that had zero fight left in it. The Ducks would go on to cruise past a similarly awful Wild team, before finally meeting a team with a real goalie and a real defense in the Devils. Additionally, the "success" of that Ducks team directly led to the lockout, as the NHL desperately changed the rules to prevent talentless teams from greco-romaning their way to the Finals ever again... with mixed results.
#1: April 10, 2011 - Wild 5, Stars 3
The Set Up: The foreboding feeling the two of you who are still reading this got earlier on this list culminates here. Thanks to a terrible late-season showing from the Blackhawks and a late-season four-game winning streak from the Stars, Dallas was in the rare position of playing a "win and you're in" final game of the regular season. This was a nationally televised game, too, the final regulation NHL game before the playoffs started, which would determine who would face the clearly-overrated Canucks squad in the first round. Dallas had fallen far this season, but had crawled back into it, and needed two points to claim the spot on a tie-breaker with Chicago. All that was standing in their way were the Wild, a terrible team plagued by injuries with nothing to play for. Dallas had all its weapons ready. Just go out and win, baby!
Blood on the Ice: Things started poorly when Brad Staubitz scored six minutes into the game to put the Wild up 1-0. But Dallas came back, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Minnesota scored twice in the second, including the first and only goal of the season for first-round draft bust Colton Gillies to make it 3-2, but newcomer Alex Goligoski scored late in the period on a 5-on-3 (one made possible by a series of questionable calls) to make it 3-3 heading into the third. So it all came down to one period, one stretch of 20 minutes: if the Stars could score one goal and hold off a glorified AHL team, they would reach the postseason for the first time in three seasons.
But it was not to be. At 6:47 of the third, Antti Miettinen, who had just been released by the Stars after years of underperforming in a top-six role, took a cross-ice pass from Stars-killer Andrew Brunette and simply tapped it into a wide-open net to make it 4-3. Morrow, who had left Miettinen completely uncovered next to the goal --no doubt because of what he had seen in countless practices and games-- was late to recover. Dallas mounted sporadic offense after that but were unable or unwilling to get anything going in the Wild zone, and when Bouchard knocked in the empty-netter with 13 seconds left the collective confidence of every Stars fan in the world deflated... permanently.
The Aftermath: Head coach Marc Crawford was fired, but the team "leadership" was not: since then, the Stars have firmly established themselves as a team unable to overcome adversity, one with no ability to win important games late in the season and one which refuses to skate through the middle of the ice when the game calls for it. Although if there are any Bruins executives reading this, Please Ignore Any Disparaging Remarks In This Article About Brenden Morrow's Grit, Determination and Leadership He Is Fine.
That's it for this week's Cupcheck. Tune in next week when we discuss whether the Stars should be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline in a column titled SELL SELL SELL FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST SELL!! My subtly nuanced arguments may surprise you.