Did the intensity of the Stars’ practice on Saturday, less than 24 hours removed from a frustrating 3-1 home loss to the Minnesota Wild, lead to Jim Montgomery getting cut in the face?
No. Although, assistant coach Vernon Fiddler gave the Stars head coach a friendly face-washing with his glove that accidentally left a small, visible scar on the mug of his superior.
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Dallas won’t hit the ice again until Tuesday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings for the second tilt of a three-game homestead.
The fervor of Saturday’s non-optional practice, which Montgomery said was already on the books, was evident by the sweat-soaked conditioning that concluded the skate in front of crowded stands.
The players’ collective effort seemed to reflect a team that isn’t satisfied with their cumulative performances so far this season. Through seven games, the Stars are 3-4 and are coming off their third-straight defeat.
The season is still in its infancy. And as Montgomery often says, he trusts that his process will succeed.
“Facing adversity is a good thing and you want to face it now,” Montgomery said after practice on Saturday. “There are going to be other ups and downs. But we’re far off where were going to be and we need to work through it.”
So, to, do his players.
“I love what he’s done,” center Jason Spezza said. “ He’s pushed us. I think we would’ve practiced whether we won or lost, but there was some extra fire there today.
“What’s the first thing people say, ‘he’s a rookie coach, let’s see what he’s made of when the team loses a couple games in a row.’ He hasn’t diverted from what he wants us to do... and it’s going to get us wins if we just do it better.”
This past week was a long one for this team.
Last Saturday, the team proved that it can score goals on an elite net minder by putting five pucks past John Gibson and chased the likely Vezina Trophy contender from the game.
But then things went downhill. The roster has only scored two goals in the past three games.
“The disappointing part, for me, last night, was that we stopped playing,” Montgomery said. “To me, we were hoping to win a game instead of going to win a game. And there’s a big difference mentally in how you play when that’s the case.”
His pointed criticism likely derives from that fact that his issue with his players runs counter to one of his most foundational strategies.
“We have to be consistent as coaches,” Montgomery said. “We can’t jump all over the place and if we aren’t scoring goals, we’re only going to work on offense. You have to work on your all-around game.
“I’m a big believer that offense comes from really good defense, which is puck pressure. And we got away from that.”
Spezza did acknowledge that some things aren’t the same as they were under former head coach Ken Hitchcock last season. However, different doesn’t necessarily mean worse.
“With Monty, it’s push, push, push all the time,” Spezza said. “You have to trust all the guys on the ice that everyone is thinking the same way. And maybe now, we resort back to old habits when we get the lead.
“He (Montgomery) knows that. And he’s going to teach it (the style) to us and we’re going to get better at it.”
Montgomery isn’t ignorant of the team’s shortcomings this past week, but like his process and strategy, he always seems to be moving forward.
“The NHL is a humbling league,” Montgomery said. “We are all humbled today. We were humbled in New Jersey, badly. And you have to bring it, or you will be humbled.”