CEDAR PARK, TX– The Texas Stars return home to face the rival San Antonio Rampage tonight, and will be looking to extend their recent run of success. The Stars started the year 8-8-0-1, but have now gained points in 11 of their last 14 games (10-3-1-0) to shoot up the standings.
While the Stars still trail the Stockton Heat in winning percentage, Texas’ 38 points ranks first in the Pacific. While there have been many reasons for the success, including the play in net of Landon Bow, the Texas power play has come to life to fuel the run.
The Stars ranked near or at the bottom of the AHL in power play percentage over the first few weeks of the campaign, but have since shifted into a lethal unit. Texas has scored at least one power-play goal in 10 of their last 13 contests, going 14-55 in that time, a 25.4% clip. The Stars are now up to 18.4% on the year, and at this rate, the number will only continue to rise.
The recent run would not appear to be a fluke either, as the Stars are loaded with offensive weapons. Instead, it would seem more likely that the slow start was the aberration. While Curtis McKenzie leads the way with six power play goals, the Stars have been receiving production from multiple players. Brian Flynn, Justin Dowling, and Roope Hintz have all tallied three times with the man advantage.
The success on the ice has also lead to a rise in the Pacific Division standings. The Stars are positioning themselves very well for the second half of the season, currently sitting in second or first depending on how you read the standings. Points, of course, is the name of the game in the end, and the Stars currently lead there with 38 points to second place Stockton’s 35. Teams don’t play the season at the same pace, however, and so your percentage of points gained can be a better indicator of where you stand. In that regard, Stockton sits in first in the division. The Heat have three fewer points than Texas at the moment, but have played four fewer games than the Stars. For this reason, Stockton leads in percentage points over Texas .648 to .613. The Stars continue to close the gap, though, and are fast closing in on the Heat in this regard as well.
So, how sustainable is the Texas success? Well, while nothing is certain, they are sure going about it the right way. We know the Stars can score, and now they are getting goaltending and special teams production as well. This lethal combination gives you the ability to win games you otherwise shouldn’t, as well as demoralizing the opposition when you are on your game. Not much hurts more than firing shot after shot with no success, only to eventually take a penalty and fall behind by conceding a power-play marker. At the same time, if you are the team controlling play, the defense is forced to be extra careful in their coverage. They know they risk a blowout if they continually put a red-hot power play unit on the ice. This is what the Stars have been doing recently, and is why they have climbed to 18-11-1-1 on the season.
Texas has also played well at home, and will now play six of their next seven inside the H-E-B Center where they are 10-3-0-1. San Antonio comes into Cedar Park owning a 4-1 record over the Stars so far this season. Texas won the last meeting, though, and will look to build upon that when the puck drops tonight at 7:30.
You can keep up with tonight’s contest by following @SinBinStars on Twitter, where we live tweet every game.