After another week filled with losses and despair, the Dallas Stars are looking to close out Week 5 with a win against the smokin’ Carolina Hurricanes. With Dallas sitting at sixth in the Central division, the Stars are losing footing in the division are looking like one of the weaker teams. The Stars have managed to lose three of their eight home games during these next two weeks and unless they can pull a win or some overtime points at least, the Stars will be in deep, deep water as they continue to slide down the standings. The seventh place Nashville Predators sit only one team point behind us while the Stars sit three points behind the fifth place Chicago Blackhawks. Unless the Stars can pull some points out of these next five games at home, then we will dig ourselves a hole that even a midseason revival will not bring us out of.
Struggles Against Chicago & Carolina
In the two game series against the Blackhawks, Dallas seemed to lose that offensive pressure that they had built during the first four games of the season. In the first game, the Stars only put 31 shots on net, with the second period having the most shots of thirteen. It seems that the penalties have gone up for the Stars while the chances on the power play and the forecheck dwindle. The Stars only scored two goals in two games, which is unsettling to say the least. Luckily both of the games with Chicago went to overtime, giving us a point for each overtime loss.
What is irksome about how the Stars are playing is that we see this every season and it is not anything new to us fans. It seems every year the Stars hit this patch of terribly played games against teams that we have beaten in the past. Our main problem is allowing too many skaters around the goal and crowding either Khudobin or Oettinger. We also allow long passes and then in return get burnt by the opposition and our backcheck suffers because of it. If the Stars could just force the other team’s skaters away from the net and play smarter in our zone we could choke the opposition’s forecheck chances. The biggest problem against Chicago’s forecheck was that on penalty kills for the Stars, they would allow a Chicago player, like DeBrincat or Janmark, to set up behind the play on the opposite side with an open net and could score with an easy pass. We allowed Chicago to set up in our zone and it ended up biting us in the butt.
Another problem that the Stars are facing, and one we saw against both the Blackhawks and the Hurricanes, was allowing teams to come back from a deficit while we are ahead. In the second game with Chicago, we almost went up 2-0, but Benn’s goal was waived off by obvious goalie interference. After that, the energy from the Stars seemed zapped as we allowed Chicago to score a goal and then let the Blackhawks keep a tight game until overtime. With Carolina, we let them score in the first period and then the Stars came out the second period and scored three goals to the Hurricanes two. Then we head into the third and final period and the Stars could get nothing going on offense while the Hurricanes notched two more goals, one right before the game ended. The Stars need to work on creating pressure on both sides of the puck and we need to keep our momentum going if we want to win games. If we allow teams to crowd our net and we allow teams to beat us going back on defense, we can never dig ourselves out of the hole.
Positives Out Of Negatives
Even though we have lost the four games straight, there have been moments where the Stars shine and some players are stepping up because they are tired of losing winnable games. The Stars have good depth and we have good moments, even in bad situations. If the Stars can focus on what is lacking from the team, then we can turn ourselves around and play like the team who wanted it so bad in the Stanley Cup bubble playoffs.
Some aspects of the Stars’ game that is working is when they use defensive pressure on the opposition’s forecheck. For example, when Roope Hintz scored the first goal in the second game with the Blackhawks, it was created from Robertson and Gurianov while Chicago was looking to go on the forecheck. If the Stars can keep consistent and precise pressure on the opposition, rather that be in our zone, the neutral zone or the opposition’s zone, we can create enough chances and fluster the other team enough for them to start playing sloppy and for them to make mistakes. I keep harping on it in these reports, but the Stars need to create pressure and then we can thrive off of that pressure into winning games.
Another aspect that the Stars are having go their way is how well some of the younger skaters are playing. Roope Hintz has been a force to be reckoned with while he has been on the ice for the Stars. The past two games, Hintz has scored two goals and helped create chances for others while on the forecheck. Jake Oettinger has been playing pretty well between the pipes as he has a record of two wins and two overtime losses and is putting up great numbers like a .919 save percentage and 2.19 goals against average in the four games he has started. Other like Miro Heiskanen and Denis Gurianov having been playing feed machines with eight assists for Heiskanen and four goals and seven assists for Gurianov. With Joel Kiviranta back and the taxi cab players doing well for the first NHL experiences, the younger part of our team is stepping up and doing well. Of course, our team leader in points and goals is none other than Captain America, Joe Pavs himself. If the Stars could just be tighter on the backcheck and create more havoc while transitioning from the forecheck and through the neutral zone, the Stars could be producing some more wins and gaining a better standing in the division.
What The Future Holds
The Dallas Stars have five more home games before going on a road game stretch. Before the Stars pack up and leave the AAC, they will need to turn this four game losing streak into a lesson and start working from there. But before we head back onto the road, we have some games that we must win or that we must grab some points in. The remaining teams left while at home are Carolina, Nashville and Tampa Bay, and each game brings its own worries.
With one game left with Carolina during this eight game homestead, we will need to slow down the Hurricanes as they go on the forecheck and we will need to terrorize their goalie while we are on the forecheck. If the Stars can create chances while in front of their net, we can knock in some easy goals and if are smart while on the forecheck and using their entire side of the ice, we can also create some havoc from the blue line and get their goalie to be frantic in the net. The more the Stars get their goalie to move around in his crease and the more shots we throw at the net, it will allow the Stars to create enough chances to grab some easy goals. While we are going on the backcheck through the neutral zone and into our own side of the ice, we need to sustain enough pressure to have the Hurricanes start to make sloppy and forced plays. If we can play tight on players like Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, Jordan Staal, and Andrei Svenchnikov, we can force them into bad situations and cause chances off of turnovers and sloppy play. We need to choke their entry into our defensive zone and shutdown their attempts to move the puck around with tight play and smart checking. If we can force Carolina into an ugly style of play, we can drive down their energy and gain control of how the game will play out.
The third two game series will be against the Nashville Predators, who we put up ten goals on and held them to two goals across two games. With Nashville, we need to sustain pressure early on in the game and cause them to play conservative hockey. Nashville’s biggest threats are Filip Forseberg, Matt Duchene, and their captain Roman Josi. If we can cut off plays to them and force them to play around blue line, we can cut off passing zones and slow down their playing style. Another aspect is if we can throw a lot of shots on goal and really pepper either Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros while they are in net, we can squeak in some goals and create some doubt in their heads. Saros has allowed 27 goals on 227 shots and is posting a .881 save percentage and 3.68 goals against average. Rinne has allowed 17 goals on 191 shots and is posting a .911 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average. Both goalies have a tough time in the net when too many shots are allowed on them by the Predators defense. If the Stars play high pressure offense and play tight on defense, the Stars can play their type of hockey and win some games.
Tampa Bay is one of the toughest teams on both offense and defense. Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Ondrej Palat are Tampa’s top point scores and are menaces while on the forecheck. The Stars will have to focus on playing conservative on defense and will need to play tight around the blue line in order to shutdown the Lighting’s offensive pressure. One thing the Stars did well against the Lighting in the playoffs was how fast we played while going on the forecheck and how we moved the puck around while on the forecheck. If the Stars can cut off the Lighting’s attempt to move around the puck and if the Stars can sustain pressure while in the neutral zone and in our zone, the Stars can play effective hockey while also being conservative.
The Stars will need to play smart hockey and we will need create and sustain pressure while in the neutral zone and on defense. We will need to also spread out in the opposition’s zone and will need to make smart plays while on the forecheck. The Stars need to learn from this losing streak and make some smarter choices while on defense. I would hope to see some more plays from our captain Jamie Benn and I hope we get to see Joel Kiviranta get to play a little bit more on the ice. The main goal for the Stars will need to be the creation of pressure and the chances that we get off of it.
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