|(Credit: Taylor Sammarco/Texas Stars)|
After last night's near-complete game effort, the Stars capitulated against the Wild tonight in a 4-0 shutout where they looked like a shell of the team they were just 24 hours before. The loss is their fourth in the last five games and the second time they've been blanked in a week. Sitting in 7th place with 23 games remaining in the season, bluntly, head coach Neil Graham was asked postgame if this was a playoff team.
"Yes, we are, but we have to correct some things. We have to fight for more consistency in our game. We have to be a team that manages pucks. We have to play with speed, and when we do those things, yes, we're a playoff team."
He recalled Texas's recent shootout win against Milwaukee and even last night's contest to point out how the Stars need to play to make it into the playoffs.
"We mismanaged a lot of pucks," added Graham. "When they're coming that hard at you, if you're executing quick, you can make a clean play. There's a chance you can beat 2-3 forecheckers with one pass, and I thought that's what we did last night, and I thought they closed even quicker tonight and in turn, we had a lot more turnovers, a little more careless with the puck. We gave them some opportunities in our end, and they capitalized on it."
Tonight's game was just a disjointed effort. Iowa made adjustments, as any team does on the second night of a back-to-back. Texas couldn't adapt to those adjustments. Puck mismanagement ended up killing them as mistakes found their way to the back of the Stars' net.
The power play was the only potential spot for Texas to mark out a positive or two tonight. "I thought we actually had some pretty good puck movement and we were crisp. We let the puck do the work and especially early you kind of took what was given and the only thing that was missing was probably the final finish."
Iowa got all the goals they needed in the second period. Luke Johnson finished a tic-tac-toe play from Mason Shaw and Kyle Rau that started off a turnover behind the net. Hunter Warner scored to make it 2-0 on an almost lazy effort to fling the puck at the net from the high slot. Texas was 2-17-1-1 trailing after two and fell to 2-18-1-1 tonight.
Brandon Duhaime put the game out of reach at 3-0, and Mike Liambas drained one into the empty net to make it 4-0 late.
Starting on Wednesday, Texas plays nine games in 14 days. Joel Hanley summarized where the team needs to go from here, "Moving forward we just have to put this behind us and just move on because it's there's not a ton of games left so we gotta make up some ground.
"We're going to be in playoff mode until [the playoffs]. So hopefully we can make up some ground and string some wins together."
Texas is next in action on Wednesday against Rockford.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Nellis, Gleason, Cuglietta, Cecconi, MacKay (scratch)
Mascherin, Caamano, Bow (injury)
Tonight’s attendance was 5,906.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Iowa - February 22 2020