Stars: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Andy Nietupski // Texas Stars)

Happy April, everyone! It has been ages since the Milwaukee Admirals and Texas Stars last played. Yet, when they did, boy did an explosion take place and it is one that could have repercussions this weekend if the words and memory of a certain head coach hold strong.

The Admirals first two games against the Stars ended in wins but were entirely different games. Marek Mazanec was a rock for the Admirals as they earned a 4-3 win in the first meeting of the season. The following night things became ugly in the best of ways. The Admirals won 9-1 in Texas and it prompted Stars head coach Derek Laxdal to say the following after the game.

“There will be probably history next game because guys aren’t going to forget you’re down 8-1 and they’re putting their first power-play unit on the ice. Guys don’t forget that. Guys are upset. They’re getting shown up in their own building. So, there’s going to be a little bit of emotions there. Guys are stepping up for teammates. That’s good to see. At the end of the day it wasn’t a good night for us. Last night we played pretty well in the third period and had a chance to get some points and we didn’t. Tonight they were the better team.”

If “history” is going to be a thing that these guys are still clinging on to after more than three months of work? I’d keep my head up on the ice tonight and my eyes wide open if I’m sitting back inside the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

The Stars are on a three-in-three weekend. They lost 3-1 on the road last night to the Rockford IceHogs. They had the game’s opening goal coming from a penalty shot in the first period but that was that. Their record moved down to 30-33-1-4 (65 points, 0.478 points percentage). They have lost their last two games and only have won three of their last eleven games.

As always happens to be the case – I adore getting to match up with the Stars because it affords us here on Admirals Roundtable the chance to have a chat with Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey. There aren’t nearly enough beat writers or bloggers around the AHL landscape but he’s certainly top of the top, I’d say. He was once again kind enough to give us insight on the Stars’ season to date and much more in a Q&A.

~Q&A with Stephen Meserve~

Admirals Roundtable: The Texas Stars are not having the best of seasons out in the Pacific Division. What has been the story this season?

Stephen Meserve: I mean… yeah. The story has been mixed. Goaltending has been quite abhorrent. The Stars pinned their hopes to the combination of Maxime Lagacé and Philippe Desrosiers. As of today, Desrosiers is playing the ECHL outside the organization and Lagacé has just one start since the trade for Justin Peters in late February. The goaltending hasn’t been helped by a porous defense and the worst penalty kill in the league. Additionally, Texas has a bad tendency to cough up leads. They led 3-0 in Cleveland a few weeks ago only to lose 6-3, for example. They did nearly the same thing against Stockton last weekend. Put it all together and you have a middling season, just the second time ever that Texas will miss the playoffs.

AR: It always amuses me how similar AHL teams can be to their parent NHL clubs. Would it be fair to say that Dallas organization in general is having a down year? If so, how do things change for the better?

SM: Ha, if I knew the answer to this question, I would be working in hockey ops. Dallas and Texas are so very similar: poor goaltending combined with poor defense and no PK to speak of. Systemic changes are probably necessary and it is going to be a tough sell for anyone to make it back behind the benches next season in either city.

AR: The last time these two teams played was 12/17/16 when the Admirals won 9-1 in Texas. Stars head coach Laxdal said, for those who had forgotten, there will be “history” after that game. Are we in for some bad blood?

SM: I don’t know if there’s enough blood left in the thing to send any blood toward this beef. Texas has been playing some pretty demoralized hockey as of late. They aren’t brawlers and I think the 9-1 game was an exception to their normal game. That being said, the Stars did set a franchise record for penalty minutes this season against Tucson. They may very well be up for a fight since they’ve got nothing to lose. I’d rather not, since games with the Ads are usually quite entertaining due to the defensive styles of both teams. Wait, scratch that. Texas hasn’t played that style this season so maybe that isn’t a safeguard. We’ll have to see who starts.

AR: I feel a mandatory Travis Morin mention should come about here. For as rough or up-and-down as things can be he always seems to be a model of consistency, doesn’t he?

SM: Morin will be the only player to wear #23 for the Stars. I’ll help lead the pitchfork brigade if anyone else does. He intends to retire with the Stars, and I think his consistency proves that he deserves that chance.

AR: The Stars added a very familiar face to us Admirals people at the NHL Trade Deadline: former Rockford IceHogs forward Mark McNeill. How has he settled into a new setting? I had the feeling getting away from the tyranny of Ted Dent would do him a world of good.

SM: He’s gotten 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists in 14 games, immediately jumping into the top 6. He’s been good, but not great. I think getting into whatever this team turns into next season will give him a true chance at a fresh start. He’s gotten good minutes and been a PP contributor.

AR: Peters and Lagacé have split time this season in net. Yet, numbers-wise, things look painful. Is that a sign of the defense or has goaltending struggled in addition to the defense?

SM: See above… Yes, it’s been an all-around issue. Defense has done the goaltending no favors. The goaltending hasn’t held up its end of the bargain either. What you ended up getting was a defense that would let players walk in and a goalie that couldn’t make the big save when you needed it. Then, the team would get down by 2 or so and have to step it up to get back in it. This led to aggressiveness, which either tied the game or earned more penalties and goals against. If Texas did tie it or even go ahead, they’d lose steam by the third from all that aggressive play and give up a late goal to tie/lose. That about sums it up.

AR: The schedule sort of works against the Stars this weekend. The Stars Rockford ahead of the Saturday and Sunday games in Milwaukee. How will the Stars be handling the three-in-three?

SM: It is, oddly, the Stars’ first three-in-three of the season. It comes at the worst possible time… if the Stars were making a playoff push. However, they could be eliminated by Sunday, so that is something. I asked about this after the last game and Matej Stransky noted that they’ll just be keeping themselves energized, well fed and well-rested.

Cheers to Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey for taking the time to get us all up to speed on the Texas Stars. You can read more from him at his website and do give him a follow on Twitter (@100DegreeHockey).

What are your expectations for this weekend’s games against the Texas Stars? Will the Stars be out for blood after how the previous game between the two played out? If so, would it be smart for the Milwaukee Admirals to focus less on post-whistle activity and simply focus on “more of the same please” such as that 9-1 win in Texas?

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2 thoughts on “Stars: Scouting the Enemy”

  1. There will NOT be blood. The Stars players don’t want to get hurt at the end of their season.

  2. I really like the honesty he provides. There’s definitely no sugarcoating. They are having a bad season and that’s that. The bigger problem, and he mentioned it, is the entire Stars organization needs to be fixed. That is not going to be a quick fix. I hope fans of both the Dallas and Texas Stars are ready for at least a few down years in a row.

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