While fans may think the Hawks are in a desperate situation, they are not barely clinging to the side of the building and waiting for Mitch Leary to come tell them, "Take my hand, Frank. If you don't, you'll die." That's where the Dallas Stars find themselves.
I said it before, but to me the loss the Stars suffered on Sunday is the kind you simply don't get over, especially this late in the season and especially when it comes against a division and playoff rival you have to beat.
For those who didn't see it, the Stars were down 2-1 to the L.A. Kings and fought furiously to tie the game with 40 seconds left to send the American Airlines Center into rapture. But they fell asleep from the ensuing faceoff and let in the winner a mere 20 seconds later to suck all the air out of the building like that vacuum in Spaceballs. They hadn't recovered by Tuesday when the Sharks, fresh off their hiding in Chicago, thoroughly outplayed them for a 4-2 win.
The Stars still sit 7th in the Conference, two points behind the Hawks and a one-point cushion on 8th and 9th. But I just think this team is headed for a fall after a loss like that. Teams coached by Marc Crawford have been known to collapse late as it is, and they're never mentally strong because he's a headcase too.
They're also banged up. Adam Burish ran into a wall or something else ridiculous as he's prone to do, and is out. Far more importantly, second-leading scorer Loui Eriksson also looks set to miss out, and he kills the Hawks as well as most everyone else.
Also, Dallas is no longer equipped with James Neal, a power forward who haunts my dreams and life, as he was shipped off to Pittsburgh for Alex Goligoski. Goligoski one day will be the No. 1 d-man this team has long craved, and his +25 is impressive. He also has eight points in 11 games with the Stars as he's getting the power play time that he couldn't in Western PA. Staying out of the box will be key. But without Eriksson and Neal, suddenly the Stars look a little thin on the wings.
Kari Lehtonen is getting the start again, but he may be tiring just like our guy. He's only kept the opponent under three goals twice in his last seven starts, and one of those was against the fading Wild who only mustered 14 shots. He's vulnerable.
They're coming off two emotional losses to division rivals with the stomach punch of the Kings loss and the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots reenactment that was the game against the Sharks. Either they're going to say enough is enough and come out firing tonight or they're spent and are waiting to be thrown on the sword. I think it's the latter.
The Hawks will be without Brian Campbell and Dave Bolland again, but if they play at the speed they managed in the 2nd against the Sharks for even the first 40 tonight, this will be over quickly.