After the fourth week in the NHL shortened season, the Dallas Stars finally conceded and lost their first games. The Stars now sit at a record of 5-2-1, and with eleven team points, the Stars are sitting at sixth in the Central division. With a losing record on the road, the Stars are heading home for an eight game homestead with Chicago, Carolina, Nashville, and Tamp Bay. If the Stars want to take this division by storm, they will need to win and grab some points while on home ice. But before we get to weeks 5 and 6, we need to discuss the errors of week 4 and breakdown what the Stars will need to do to rectify themselves and learn from these losses.
Eye of The Hurricanes
The Dallas Stars rolled into their first road game in Carolina with some swagger. After coming late into a short season and putting up a record of 4-0 and one of the best power plays in the league at the moment, the Stars seemed to slip into midseason form. In the Stars case, midseason form is just running through the motions and putting up points any way possible. After the two games in Carolina, the Stars sat at 4-1-1 and in fourth place. However, there were a lot of things unpack for the Stars after those two games, with problems on both sides of the ice and in the neutral zone for the boys in victory green.
The Power Play
One of the biggest issues in the two games against the Hurricanes is the amount of chances they had on the power play. The Hurricanes scored on five out of the nine power play opportunities in the two games. The Hurricanes even scored on a shorthanded goal in the second game to take the lead. It seemed the Stars were not the same team on the power play as we only scored one out of the eleven power play opportunities that we were given; one in even in overtime and a strong chance to win the second game. The Stars seemed loss on the power play and could not find the net as easily as they did in the first four games of their season. The Stars will need to tighten the screws on the power play and keep the discipline up for the team in order to not give so many chances to the opposing team.
The Past Still Haunts The Present
The major problem for the Dallas Stars in the games against the Hurricanes was how lackluster they were playing. They seemed to have gassed out and lost their step before the games even started. The Stars looked like the middle tier team they have been in the years before the playoff bubble success. The team has seemed to slip into their midseason form of just looking lost on the ice. The Stars came into the first period with no fire and no presence on the forecheck or in the neutral zone. In the first game, they let the Hurricanes dictate the pace of the game from the very first puck drop and the Stars just could not keep up. The Stars could not find the open lanes to the net and were slow to get back on defense. The Stars just seemed a step behind, which was evident in the first goal scored by Vincent Trocheck on a pass and shot Khudobin had no idea of the puck’s location. In the second game, the Stars played catch up hockey with the Hurricanes, mostly trailing them until our captain Jamie Benn put a wrap around past Reimer to take the lead. Unfortunately, they did not keep the lead long as Nino Niederreiter blasts one past Jamie Oleksiak and Khudobin. The Stars need to wake up and play like the team they were at the beginning of this season, not the team from the mid of the season two years ago.
The Dallas Stars posted two rough games in Carolina, luckily escaping with at least one team point. The Stars left North Carolina for Ohio to play the Blue Jackets and their newest acquisition of Patrik Laine, a player who has been a plague to the Stars. With two games in Columbus, the Stars escaped with two points and only one loss. However, the Stars still looked weak and were not playing the same as they had in the beginning of the season. The Stars versus the Blue Jackets was another showing of the poor performance of the Stars.
Trading Canon Fire in Columbus
The Dallas Stars started off the month of February in Columbus playing the Blue Jackets in a two game series. There were a lot of positives from the two games to take away, and it seemed that the Stars were returning to the team before Carolina after the first game against the Blue Jackets. However, the Stars would have to play catch up hockey again in the second game and it ended up biting them in butt. The Stars split the series with the Blue Jackets at 1-1, and between the two games, the Stars looked completely different.
Positives From Both Games
In both of the games against Columbus, the Dallas Stars looked aggressive and angry for the most part. They played like a swarm of hornets in the first game and the fire seemed to dwindle a little in the second game. The presence in the Blue Jackets’ zone by the Stars was one of the positive outlooks from these games. They played their hockey with pressure points on the blue line and congestion in front of the net. The two names that seem to be the loudest this season are Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov. Both Pavs and Rads love to sit in front of the net and cause chaos. The biggest advantage for the Stars on the forecheck was the presence in front of the net, creating rebounds and second opportunities for them. Tip-ins and redirected shots were another huge aspect for the Stars that led to many goals or second chances. With our captain Jamie Benn and Roope Hintz both back on the lines, the pressure in the forecheck was there in the first and second games. The Stars were also able to shut down on the shorthanded pressure as the Blue Jackets were only able to score on one power play out of six in the two games. The Stars also utilized their own power play better as they scored three out of the five power play chances in the two games. The Stars looked better on the forecheck and on both the power play and the penalty kill. However, they still looked weak in some aspects in the two games with the Blue Jackets, and the negatives played a huge part in why the Stars lost the second game.
Negatives From Both Games
The Dallas Stars looked great on the forecheck and on the power play and penalty kill for the most part, however, the neutral zone and even our own backcheck were detrimental in both games, more in the second than the first game. The scariest thing about the Columbus Blue Jackets is their puck awareness and how they use that to their advantage. Players like Zach Werenski, Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Seth Jones all made chances on loose pucks and turnovers, and three of them scored between the two games. The Blue Jackets played like Yellow Jackets; they were always pressuring in the neutral zone and when they went on the forecheck, they went in hard, fast and with numbers to their advantage. The Stars allowed the Blue Jackets to control the neutral zone and it caused the Stars to make turnovers and bad passing choices, creating opportunities for Columbus to score. Our net minders also looked a little soft in both games. Oettinger allowed three goals in his game and Khudobin allowed four goals in his. Both could have made the stops on the pucks, especially on goals like Patrik Laine’s backwards shot. It seemed Khudobin was still rattled from Carolina and Oettinger’s inexperience seemed to be the thorn in his side. The Stars will need to work on closing down the lanes while teams look to go on the forecheck and they will need to keep the neutral zone in their favor. The word I wanted to be main message for the Dallas Stars this year was pressure. The Stars put the pressure on while on the forecheck, but there seemed to be none in the neutral zone and on the backcheck.
Splitting the two game series on the road against Columbus isn’t a bad way to end their road game stretch. Finishing week four at 5-2-1 isn’t the worst position to be at, but the Stars will need to tighten their screws before going back home and having an eight game stand. The Stars will need to work on shutting down while on the backcheck and will need the net minders to be bringing their A-game to the homestead that they are approaching.
The Stars’ Return Home
For weeks five and six, the Dallas Stars will play eight games against the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Nashville Predators, and the Tampa Bay Lighting. With Carolina’s and Nashville’s second series against the Stars at the American Airlines Center, the Stars will need use the home advantage (even with the small number of fans) and take the game to both the Hurricanes and the Predators. With Chicago and Tampa Bay, the Stars will need to make the front of the net a nightmare for Chicago, and they will need to sustain pressure on the ice and keep the forecheck of Tampa Bay in check. Coming home with 1-2-1 record off the road, the Stars need to be angry and aggressive. They need apply the pressure early in each two game series with the visiting teams, and the Stars will need to play their type of hockey. I would expect Benn, Rads, and Pavs to be the biggest contributors in front of the net while the blue liners control the choke points of the forecheck. I would also like to see Hintz play like he did in Columbus, and Dellandrea’s on ice presence as well. The Stars can rack up some points while on this homestead and they can work their way out of sixth and into the top four once again. I am excited for the Revenge Tour to come back home, and I cannot wait to see Jamie Benn and boys in victory green defend the AAC while scrapping for the top spots in the Central division. Make sure to check back every Friday for a Dallas Stars Report and tune in on Sunday to watch the Stars kick off the eight game stand at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Photo Creds: @DallasStars/Twitter.com/https://twitter.com/DallasStars/status/1355699417668583425
Highlights Creds: NHL/Youtube.com/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmqS5uZ48jY – Carolina Hurricanes Game 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_SzQFiQ8cI – Carolina Hurricanes Game 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp7FrVIWpOY – Columbus Blue Jackets Game 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mAt94xPliY – Columbus Blue Jackets Game 2