There’s a scene towards the middle of Toy Story where Buzz and Woody start bickering and end up outside of Andy’s van and lost at a gas station.
Buzz tries to defuse the situation by saying that Woody doesn’t need to panic. Instead, Woody responds with, “this is the perfect time to panic.”
For the longest time this season, I’ve been on the Buzz side of this argument in regards to the Dallas Stars. They started off hot, but began to cool off in December. Still, I remained hopeful that the team wouldn’t go through with the all out collapse DFW sports teams have become known for.
But that’s turned out to be quite the naive sentiment. The Stars have done anything but it turn it around this month. The team has lost six out of the last nine games while the Chicago Blackhawks have done nothing but win. The result: the Stars have turned a sizable lead in the Central Division into a three-point deficit (although they do have two games in hand over the Blackhawks).
Now, in fact, might be the perfect time to panic.
The failures that have led to the Stars’ crash have come from all facets of their game; however, what’s made this losing streak possible is the offense, or the lack thereof. From the start of the season, the Stars’ offense was by far the strongest in the league, continually holding onto the top spot in the NHL in goals per game.
But the offense has fallen on hard times recently. The Stars have managed to score three goals just twice in those last nine games. Their goals per game average in that time frame has fallen all the way to just 2.18. Only five other teams in the league have a worse goals per game average.
The failing of the offense have only highlighted the shortcomings of the defense, which has been poor all season. Dallas still sits in the middle of the pack, giving up 2.62 goals per game. But in the past month, the team has allowed 3.18 goals per game, exactly one more goal than they’re scoring each game. That’s not a recipe for success. Kari Lehtonen has been the biggest culprit, allowing an average of 3.53 goals in his four games, but Antti Niemi hasn’t been much better, allowing an average of 3.02 goals in seven games this month. If the Stars are to turn it around, that has to change before the offense changes.
Of course, there’s still plenty of time for the Stars to turn it around. They have two games in hand and they have some time off to rest and recuperate before making a run at getting back on top of the Central Division.
But something is going to have to change in order for that to happen. The offense has to find its groove and the defense has to keep shots out of the net.
Otherwise, this is the perfect time for Stars fans to panic.