Stars Need to Solve Their Road Issues

The Dallas Stars have an identity crisis this season. When they are at home, they have high energy, score goals, and win more games than they lose, including a recent eight-game winning streak at American Airlines Center. When they are on the road, however, they struggle with just about every aspect of their game. If the Stars are going to make the playoffs, they will need to find a way to get it done away from Dallas. 

Stars Road Stats Are Poor 

It is no secret why the Stars have not had success on the road. They currently own a 4-8-1 record and have lost their last three games, scoring just five total goals in those contests. While scoring goals has been an overall issue for this team for years, their inability to score on the road is even more alarming. In 13 road games this season, Dallas has been outscored 45-28 including a shocking 20-7 differential in second periods. At home, they have been able to flip the script, outscoring opponents 41-28. So what is the issue? 

“There’s always gotta be a big commitment in all three areas of the ice,” said Joe Pavelski. “You can’t take things for granted. It’s a tough league. There are good teams out there and you’re seeing a lot of them on a nightly basis. It’s just big-time commitment each and every night in certain areas. Sticking our nose in there, taking a hit to make a play at times, get it deep. Little things that make it tougher on teams to come 200 feet.”

Joe Pavelski Dallas Stars-Stars Need to Solve Their Road Issues
Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While it sounds simple, Pavelski describes their issues on the road perfectly. The struggles do not come just from their offense, defense, or goaltending, they stem from a lack of consistent play and energy in all three areas of their game. For whatever reason, they do not consistently bring the same level of fight when they play on the road. If you need more proof of that, take their 0-5-1 record when the opponent scores first.

While scoring first in the NHL is a huge key to success, it should not be an automatic for any team. Yet, Dallas has failed to rebound after allowing the first goal in all six attempts this season. That means that despite what the players might be saying, they are simply letting that first punch knock them to the canvas. 

Responding to adversity is something the Stars have struggled with all season. When you are on the road, adversity is magnified with the home crowd roaring and everything seeming to go 100 miles per hour. However, this is a team that had built a reputation of dealing with adversity. In the 2020 Stanley Cup Final run, Dallas dealt with it better than any team in the league. Despite being constantly hit with injuries, illness, bad luck, and game-changing plays, they always seemed to find a way to bounce back. That is a team that is built for long-term success. 

Unfortunately, this season has been just the opposite. Each time they are given the chance to strike back after a first punch, they seem to shy away instead, allowing their opponents to take the game right from underneath them. What was once a feeling of confidence from their fans is now surrounded by doubt, something that is clearly in the minds of the players as well. 

Stars See Light at the End of the Tunnel 

The good news in all of this? There have been signs of improvement as of late. While there are no moral victories in professional sports, the Stars have shown growth in their road games over the last week or so. In Vegas, they held a two-goal lead in the third period before a determined Golden Knights team found their way back, while in San Jose, they played perhaps their best road game all season despite their inability to find the back of the net. 

“That was the best road game we’ve played all year, and the feeling on the bench and the feeling in the room, we felt very good about the game, we just didn’t score,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said. “That’s how we have to play.”

So what is the solution? Is it as simple as receiving more depth scoring? Will the return of Roope Hintz from illness solve their issues? Do they need better goaltending on the road? Does Jamie Benn need to assert his dominance once again? The list of questions can go on and on. The first step in the process though is finding a way to play with more energy and more grit on a consistent basis. From there, the rest usually has a way of working itself out. 

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