With two preseason games already logged, and two losses at that, the Dallas Stars aren’t necessarily giving way to the Stanley Cup dream. While it is only the preseason, the exhibition matchups often set the tone for the regular season. It’s time to take a look at the Stars so far, what they need to evaluate and what they need to lean on in order to make their 2021-22 a successful one.
Blue Against The Blues
Although they started out strong, their first exhibition game on Sept. 27 was a loss to the St. Louis Blues, 2-1 in overtime. With a few of their star forwards coming back from injury, it is to be expected that the lines may still be figuring out their chemistry. Riley Tufte, one of the Stars’ prospects, opened the scoring that night, hoping to set the tone for the evening. However, his goal remained the only one on the scoreboard for the Stars.
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Albeit it was the very first game of the preseason, but that game made the Stars look a little bit like a “middle of the pack” team. However, a player that did stand out was goaltender Braden Holtby, who was confident between the pipes, impressing Stars’ head coach Rick Bowness.
The netminder had a strong start against the Blues, stopping 15 out of 16 shots in the first 40 minutes of the game, before Jake Oettinger took over in the third. Holtby is a veteran goaltender, and after a somewhat rough season with the Vancouver Canucks, he handled the puck well in net and kept the Stars in the game.
Fallout Against the Florida Panthers
On Sept. 29, in a home game against the Florida Panthers, the Stars looked less than sluggish in the first two periods, with goals from Jamie Benn, Jason Robertson and Alexander Radulov. And by the time the third period rolled around, they ran out of gas, allowing a Panthers goal to sneak through the crease with 44 seconds left in the third period, thanks to right winger Serron Noel, tying the score at 3-3. The game made it to a shootout, with the Panthers coming out with the win.
The Stars were sloppy in the final minutes before it even went to shootout, serving as a lesson for the team, while bringing back haunting memories from the past season. The third period belonged to the Panthers, when it should have belonged to the Stars, and they let it slip through their fingers. Bowness believes the team will fix their mistakes and not have a repeat of last season, but this is more of a show, don’t tell situation.
“We just stopped playing, we made it very easy for that team to play, and I hate to see that. We got what we deserved.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
A Dangerous Power Play Unit
Despite the lack of wins for the Stars so far, they do have one thing working in their favour: their power play. With two potentially dangerous units, the team could end up having the best power play in their division, or even the league. One unit consists of John Klingberg, Radulov, Joe Pavelski, Robertson and Roope Hintz.
The other, which was the “first” unit in the 2020-21 season, includes Benn, Tyler Seguin, Miro Heiskanen, Ryan Suter and Denis Gurianov. Both groups are loaded with efficient players that create opportunities with the puck. If the power play becomes the Stars strong suit, it may just help them advance to the playoffs later on. The team is gifted with an all-star roster, with some skillful new additions, and could rely on their power play firepower to edge them forward in the league.
Central Division: Where The Stars Stand
While it may be too soon to tell, given that it’s only the preseason, the Stars are going to have to step up if they want a repeat of their 2019-20 season. They have the players, and their team chemistry is up and coming for them to truly have a serious Cup run again, if they want it badly enough.
While the end results of the preseason don’t matter much in the grand scheme of the season, hopefully the Stars take away valuable lessons from the first two games so far, and hopefully apply those to the rest of their preseason contests.
The Stars are now 0-0-2 in the preseason, which is a harsh reminder that they can’t let themselves fall into the old habits of last season. Training camp forced them to evaluate several aspects of their game, including consistency, with Bowness keeping the lines the same throughout. Needless to say though, the Stars need to reevaluate their game and fix their mistakes, before the regular season begins and it’s too late.
Raylene Lung is a journalist based in Ottawa and has a Masters of Journalism from Carleton University. She has previously written for The Victory Press, The Hockey News, Canadian Geographic and most recently worked at CBC Edmonton. She still reads magazines religiously and loves women’s hockey. When she isn’t writing, she is riding her horse. She currently covers the Dallas Stars for The Hockey Writers.