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Burnside: Five takeaways from disappointing loss to end Stars' road trip

An early hole proved too much for the Stars to overcome, closing the lengthy trek with a thud

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB /

WINNIPEG -- And so, the Dallas Stars' mammoth 11-day, five-game road trip comes to a screeching halt with a grisly 5-2 loss to a very-good, very-committed Winnipeg Jets team Thursday. The loss ends the team's brief two-game road winning streak, and leaves the Stars with a disappointing 2-3-0 record on this trip.

Some thoughts and musings on returning to Texas having accomplished less than what had been expected.

Video: Stars wrap up road trip in Winnipeg


1. Memo to Stars: Please start on time

Memo to Stars: In general, it's always a good idea to start the game as the same time as the opposing team. It is especially imperative when you're working on your fifth straight road game and have been on the road for 10 going on 11 days.

Apparently, that memo didn't get through to Dallas on Thursday, who looked very much like a team that was thinking about home cooking and a good sleep on familiar sheets.

The Jets made head coach Ken Hitchcock look prophetic, as Winnipeg stormed over the Stars through the first period, building a 3-0 lead with three goals in 4 minutes, 18 seconds in the latter stages of the first period. And it's not as though the Stars had been doing much up to the scoring barrage, failing to register their first shot on goal until after more than half the period had elapsed.

Hitchcock had suggested the Jets, now 4-0-2 in their last six games and winners of three straight, are the cream of the tightly-packed Central Division, describing them as a being like a pack of wolves.

The problem for the Stars is that through the crucial parts of this game, they were very much lamb-like. Unlike previous losses for the 7-6-0 Stars, where a few minutes blemished an otherwise impressive outing, this was a disappointment from the get-go.

"This is different. We weren't ready to play at the start. That's on me," Hitchcock said. "And we just had too many passengers today. We were constantly grabbing guys to see if we could get a higher level of play from them, and you saw it in our execution. Even when we got it back to 3-2, we weren't executing at a high level. Kudos to them, but we were not ready to compete at the start of the game at the level that the game was at. I'm not sure why we were surprised after we practiced and chatted yesterday. I'm not sure why we looked surprised and at times overwhelmed at the start."

Video: DAL@WPG: Radulov snaps backhander past Hellebuyck


2. Depth? Not now. Maybe later

An interesting observation on the issue of depth score from Hitchcock heading into this game, as he's been asked regularly about the lack of balanced scoring from his lineup.

Basically, his premise is that you don't need it if your best players are producing. Now, easy to say when Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and John Klingberg are lighting it up (the four had combined for 21 goals and 26 assists through 12 games and added a goal and an assist Thursday).

In short, "What? Me Worry?" might be the motto of the Stars moving through the early part of the season.

"You know, I'm beginning to think that's the most over-used word in the league, because everybody is complaining about it and you still got to get wins," Hitchcock said. "I think depth scoring only manifests itself when you're top dogs don't do anything. Our top dogs are scoring -- they're contributing, they're working hard, they're helping us in many aspects. So it's not a real focus for us."

Video: DAL@WPG: Janmark goes top shelf on Hellebuyck


3. On the other hand ...

The problem is that on this night, the big guns did contribute -- Radulov scored late in the first to keep the game within reach, in spite of the team's tepid play -- but they were also on the ice for a couple of Jets goals and weren't at their best.

And on this night, the league's second-ranked power play was victimized twice in a row during the Jets' three-goal first.

That happens. It's why they call it a power play and no matter the strides the Stars' penalty-kill unit has taken thus far, there are going to be nights when another team's power play -- especially as one as talented as the power play iced by the Jets -- is going to get the better of you.

When that happens, isn't that the time for depth scoring to come to bear if you're going to get points?

Mattias Janmark scored late in the second to break a nine-goal scoring drought, but it still leaves too much on the shoulders of the big line of Radulov, Benn and Seguin, if Jason Spezza, (zero goals), Devin Shore (zero goals), Brett Ritchie (one goal, injured Thursday) and Martin Hanzal (one empty net goal, injured) aren't producing.

In all, during the five-game road trip, seven different players scored at least one goal. Two were defensemen (Klingberg and Esa Lindell) and three were from the big line.

Enough said. Or rather, not enough.

"It's not what we wanted. You want to be over .500 for sure, especially for a team like this," veteran defenseman Marc Methot said as the road trip came to a close.

"We're relying heavily on our top line. They seem to be getting a ton of goals for us and we've got to help them out a little more too."

Said Benn, who ended up fighting Dustin Byfuglien late in the second period after a late hit on Radulov, everyone is in the same boat together.

"We're all in this together," Benn said. "We need 20 guys -- the 20 guys that are playing every night -- we need everyone to pitch in, and we all need to be better in the 5-on-5 game."

Video: Stars can't come back against Jets


4. How many points for a moral victory?

We looked at for the column that says 'moral victories' and there doesn't seem to be one.

And let's be frank: After dropping two games to start this five-game set against Colorado and Edmonton, it was going to be a tall order to come out above .500.

The Jets might be the best team in the division, or heck, even the conference right now. And when they come to Dallas on Monday, it will be interesting to see if what kind of pushback the Stars show against a division opponent that ate their lunch on Thursday night.

If they show something then, well, maybe this road trip won't have been the kind of disappointment it feels like right now.

And as Ben Bishop said early in the trip, team bonding and all the things that this team tried to build into the past 11 days are much more meaningful when you win. Right now, whatever foundations were laid on the trip in terms of identity and cohesion will have to bear fruit down the road in the absence of more tangible results in the here and now.

"I think we should have learned how hard it is to win on the road," Benn said. "We went up against some good teams in some tough buildings. We're going to see that again a lot more on future road trips and future games so we now know. So we've got to be prepared. We need 20 guys every night to win a hockey game in this league."

Video: Methot after loss to Winnipeg


5. Youth served

Let's remember something about this Stars team, especially the lineup iced Thursday night: It's very young.

So whether that's an excuse or not, with kids like Jason Dickinson -- called up prior to Thursday's game from Texas of the American Hockey League -- Remi Elie, Gemel Smith, and even Shore and Radek Faksa -- both of whom seem to be much older than their 23 years -- the Stars are relying heavily on a group of players that have relatively little experience.

Even the back end is relatively inexperienced with Klingberg just 25 and Esa Lindell, 23.

Can you win consistently with that many youngsters shouldering that much of the load? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Dickinson, for example, has the tools to be an important part of this lineup, but he took an offensive-zone penalty in the first period that led to the Jets' first power-play goal of the night.

Smith, Shore, Dickinson and Elie have combined for zero goals thus far this season.

How they respond and mature, and how quickly they respond and mature, is going to say a lot about how this season unfolds. 

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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