‘Just blow it up right now’ after Texas Stars go 0-for-9 on the power play

Travis Morin battles for a face-off in the Texas Stars 5-3 loss to Stockton. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Travis Morin battles for a face-off in the Texas Stars 5-3 loss to Stockton. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK – If they could, the Texas Stars probably would have declined the penalties in a 5-3 loss to the Stockton Heat.

Texas went 0-for-9 with the man advantage on Saturday and allowed a pair of shorthanded goals against an undisciplined Stockton team.

And Texas didn’t even generate chances when it had the man advantage.

“Just blow it up right now,” Stars coach Derek Laxdal said. “Right now are units aren’t working and our top guys aren’t working right now.”

Most of the power plays where spent chasing down Stockton clearances as Texas looked stagnant and couldn’t hold possession, even when they had a pair of 5-on-3s and then a 6-on-4 with 49.4 seconds remaining.

“There’s just no timing and no execution,” Laxdal said. “We’ve got to shake it up a little bit and see if we can spark it and get back to a basic power play.”

In fact, the power play inefficiency turned part of the chorus of fans who consistently shout “shoot” into boo birds when Texas left the ice without a shot during a 5-on-3 late in the first period.

That capped Stars worst period of the season as they trailed 3-0 after 20 minutes.

Texas consistently turned the puck over, allowed 16 shots, and the aforementioned power play induced a smattering of boos from the 4,350 announced fans at the Cedar Park Center.

Twice the turnovers ended up in the back of the Stars net – one by Julius Honka and one by Esa Lindell – while the penalty kill was a galvanizing moment for Stockton.

Turner Elson scored on a shorthanded breakaway with 1:58 remaining in the period. Sixteen seconds later Texas gifted a 5-on-3 for 84 seconds, but couldn’t contain the offensive zone and didn’t fire a single shot at Kevin Poulin.

Eventually the period came to an end with Texas failing to pull the trigger on the power play, prompting a couple more boos from the crowd.

The third and fourth lines dragged Texas back into the game in the second period.

First with their effort, than with some scoring touch.

Cole Ully, Cory Kane, and Branden Troock were Texas’ best unit during 5-on-5 play Saturday and started grabbing extra ice time, including more offensive zone starts in the middle stanza.

And they rewarded Laxdal’s confidence when Troock broke through with a twisting wrist shot 8:27 into the second period.

The shot was slightly misplayed by Poulin, but it lit a fire for the Stars.

Texas continued to pressure and eventually pulled within one on Gemel Smith’s fourth goal of the season. Smith won a face-off in his defensive zone on the shift, pushing the Stars into transition before the forward eventually shoveled home a rebound.

Troock, who was subbing in for Greg Rallo during an equipment issue on the third line, appropriately had the primary assist.

Cory Kane, another fourth-liner, tied the game in the third period, but Blair Riley restored Stockton’s lead with 5:06 remaining, beating Jack Campbell on a sharp angle shot.

Texas had chances to tie the game and was gifted the 6-on-4 advantage with 49.4 seconds remaining. But the ninth power play ended just like the first eight, and Elson added insult to injury with a shorthanded empty net goal.

Campbell finished with 29 saves on 33 shots in his second start of the season, while Poulin stopped 31 of 34 shots in the victory.

Texas Stars power play goes to work in win against Lake Erie

Julius Honka fires and scores in the first period. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Julius Honka fires and scores in the first period. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — The Texas Stars’ power play went to work as the team ended a four-game losing streak and moved back into playoff position with a 6-4 victory over the Lake Erie Monsters on Wednesday night at the Cedar Park Center.

Texas went 2 for 5 with the man advantage, including Derek Hulak’s game-winning goal, while a third goal was scored immediately after a Lake Erie player had left the penalty box.

Texas now has 66 points, good for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

It was the first time since Jan. 10 that Texas scored multiple power-play goals, and just the 10th time this season the Stars converted more than one with the man advantage.

And Texas needed it as Lake Erie pushed back in the final 10 minutes.

After Hulak gave Texas a 5-2 lead with 9:13 remaining, Ben Street cut the lead to 5-3 on a power play.

“We’ve been working on it a lot and our power play has been pretty decent lately,” forward Justin Dowling said. “We’ve been getting a lot of chances. … I think it was just bound to happen. It ended up being a two-goal game and we had two power play goals, so that’s the game right there.”

The Monsters then gambled and pulled the goalie early. It paid off when Reid Petryk scored with 4:13 remaining to cut the Stars’ lead to 5-4.

Much of the game was spent in Texas’ defensive zone, but the team held on after Travis Morin was awarded an automatic empty-net goal with 15 seconds remaining.

Morin missed the empty net, but a Lake Erie player threw his stick on the play, prompting referee T.J. Luxmore to award Texas a goal. It was the first referee-awarded goal in team history.

Earlier Texas took advantage of the power play and built a 2-0 lead in the first period.

Scott Glennie struck first when he deflected Just Dowling’s initial shot past Aittokallio. The goal didn’t officially count as a power play goal since Michael Schumacher had just left the box, but it was still a result of the man advantage.

Three minutes later Texas officially cashed in on the power play when Julius Honka beat Aittokallio with a wrist shot from the right face-off circle. The defenseman had a nearly 15-foot radius of open space on the play and was calling loudly for the pass that eventually came from Matt Mangene.

The teams traded three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 22 second early in the second period.

Ben Youds scored on an individual effort 30 seconds into the middle stanza, a power-play tally, while Derek Meech countered 38 seconds later when he converted on a drop pass from Dowling during a 3-on-2 rush.

Lake Erie continued the goal barrage when Sam Henley beat Jussi Rynnas with a wrist shot on the short side.

Honka then helped Texas restore its two-goal advantage, 4-2, with 1:16 left in the second period, setting up Kevin Henderson for a one-timed blast from the right circle.

This story was originally published in the Austin American-Statesman.

Morning skate: Texas Stars need to fix the power play, McKenzie a game-time decision

Derek Laxdal sat down with the power play units Saturday morning in an attempt to fix the problems that ailed the Texas Stars in a 2-1 loss to the Iowa Wild on Friday.

Texas went 0-for-5 on the power play and only forced Iowa goalie Johan Gustaffson to make eight saves on the penalty kill. Iowa then built momentum off those penalty kills, including Stu Bickell’s game-tying goal in the second period.

“We did a lot of good things, but we didn’t score,” Laxdal said. “We had a lot of zone time … there were a couple times we had shots that hit our guy in front of the net. And he’s screening the goalie. So if that doesn’t hit him, it hits the goalie right in the chest.”

Texas is looking for better quantity and quality shots on the power play against the Toronto Marlies, who are 27th in the AHL with a 80.5 percent penalty kill.

“We had 25-plus shots that didn’t hit the net (against Iowa),” Laxdal said. “We’ve got to do a better job of creating those second-chance opportunities. Because, let’s be honest, 60 to 70 percent of goals in most leagues are scored on second-chance opportunities.”

Curtis McKenzie could help fix some of those ailments after missing two games.

Laxdal said the forward is a game-time decision, but McKenzie he said he felt good after taking the optional morning skate. He also said sitting out against Iowa on Friday was more of a precaution than necessity.

If McKenzie does enter the lineup Texas would be back to 12 healthy forwards. The Stars dressed seven defensemen and 11 forwards on Friday, prompting defenseman Matt Mangene to take occasional shifts on the fourth line.

Jussi Rynnas will get the start in goal, his second start against his former team. Back on Nov. 5 he stopped 25 shots in a 3-1 victory against the Marlies.

Projected lineup (with some guesswork after an optional morning skate):
McKenzie-Morin-Hulak
Ranford-Smith-Glennie
Henderson-Root-Rallo
Peters-Faille-Stransky

Gaunce-Fortunus
Honka-Jokipakka
Valentine/Mangene-Meech

Rynnas

Morning skate: Texas Stars possibly converting to umbrella power play

Taking coach Derek Laxdal’s post-game words to heart, the Texas Stars worked on a new-look power play before tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Barons.

Instead of the 1-3-1 power play — a staple the past three seasons — Texas was working on an umbrella power play with first group, while the second group was working on a hybrid umbrella/1-3-1 formation.

“It’s something we’re going to incorporate in our pre-game skate to give them an extra five minutes (to work on the power play),” Laxdal said. “I liked some of the looks that we saw and the things that we did. Hopefully we can manufacture some goals on the power play tonight.”

Laxdal said it was important to create a system where injuries and call-ups won’t be detrimental to success, just like Curtis McKenzie getting called up to the Dallas Stars on Friday morning.

Texas will have a slightly different look than Wednesday’s lineup with McKenzie headed to the NHL.

Laxdal wouldn’t tip his hand and said he’d dress 21 players in warmups. The key question circles around Mike Dalhuisen, who could skate as a forward, defenseman, or be a healthy scratch.

When Dalhuisen played Wednesday it was his first shift at forward since he was 11-years-old and he didn’t find out until after morning skate. He sparred with Kale Kessy in the first period and embraced the role as an enforcer.

“After our morning skate (Laxdal) said, ‘Hey I’m going to dress you as forward out there tonight. Keep everything cool.’ … we didn’t want them coming in and running around in our building,” Dalhuisen said.

McKenzie moving up to Dallas makes it more likely Dalhuisen will be in the lineup. Derek Hulak was on the top line in warmups. Branden Trook and Jesse Root were on the fourth line with Gemel Smith, while Dalhuisen practiced as a defenseman.

Jussi Rynnas will get the start tonight, his second straight game after returning from the flu. Rynnas was stellar in Wednesday’s loss and Laxdal said he “gave us a chance to win.”

Projected lineup for tonight, remember Texas will dress 21 skaters for warmups.

Ranford-Morin-Hulak
Stransky-Dowling-Glennie
Rallo-Faksa-Henderson
Troock-Smith-Root/Dalhuisen

Gaunce-Fortunus
Meech-Honka
Wrenn-Valentine

Rynnas

Lacking creativity, the Texas Stars’ power play has lost its pop

Derek Laxdal would like his power play to show more creativity. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

Derek Laxdal would like his power play to show more creativity. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)

CEDAR PARK — The book is out on the Texas Stars power play.

After leading the AHL in power-play percentage last season and converting on 14 of their first 54 chances this season, the Stars have hit a rut during a franchise-worst seven game losing streak.

Texas is just 1 for 26 with the man advantage during the losing streak and coach Derek Laxdal called out his team after an 0 for 3 power play effort in a 3-2 loss to the Oklahoma City Barons on Wednesday.

“We have a group of players that want to stick to the same system,” Laxdal said. “And they don’t want to be willing to try anything else. We have to be open to have a different look on the power play. We had some shots tonight, but teams are going to pre-scout you and have to be willing to make the adjustment.”

The Stars still have the same power play look they used for most of last season under former coach Willie Desjardins, giving opponents ample film to view when preparing for the defending champions.

Opposition penalty killers have taken away backdoor passes that led to numerous goals last season and Texas’ point man – usually Maxime Fortunus — hasn’t been able to get shots through the maize of bodies.

Texas has a couple options it could try with opponents consistently clogging the slot against its 1-3-1 power play.

The Stars could embrace the umbrella or spread power play formations, which are both designed to spread out the penalty killers and create more shooting lanes for defensemen.

Continue reading this story in the Austin American-Statesman.