Overtime seems to be the Dallas Stars’ kryptonite. Correction, both shootouts and overtime. Not only are they sitting at 25th in the league with a .438 points percentage, but the team can’t seem to win, let alone win a regulation game since the start of the season. They’ve been struggling to score since the beginning of the season, and their frequent inconsistency is driving head coach Rick Bowness a little batty.
But now the Stars have a fully healthy roster — they’re playing hard, they may even be outplaying some of their opponents. But they just can’t capitalize. What is the solution? The team isn’t giving up — they could be on the cusp of figuring it out and whether or not that is true remains to be seen. But what can they do to get out of this sour stage they’re in?
Rely on Harley’s Defense And Offense
Ahead of their three-day road trip, the Stars have called up Thomas Harley, despite not needing to fill a roster spot. The defenseman is traveling with the Stars to play against three Canadian teams, starting with Winnipeg on Nov. 2. He practiced alongside Jani Hakanpaa, and the pair could easily be dynamic in the lineup. He could be the answer to the Stars’ scoring woes, and Bowness says the rookie could bring his skating and passing abilities to the team that could help produce goals. He did have 25 points in 38 games played with the Texas Stars in the prior season.
“He gives us another offensive defenseman. It’s clear we’re struggling to put the puck in the net, and he gives us an element that’ll help us.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
While Harley does create possession in the offensive zone, he also is still only 20 years old, fresh out of training camp, and in need of growth in the American Hockey League (AHL). To rely on him entirely to fix the Stars’ issues is a pipe dream. But he is known for taking risks and maybe he can add just enough of a blip in the lineup to force the team to reevaluate how they approach both their offensive and defensive opportunities. John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen are good at that, and maybe Harley can add to the mix. It may be an eye-opener for the youngster, but he wants it.
“I want to prove I can play in this league for a long time,” Harley said.
During the game against the Winnipeg Jets, the defenseman failed to put up any points, but he was quick and sharp on the plays. His efforts did not go unnoticed by Bowness.
It won’t be long before he settles into the NHL pace and starts putting up the points, if the Stars decide to keep him around. And his freshness may just encourage the team to spice up their overtime and shootout minutes, or help them avoid them altogether.
Insist Veterans Like Benn to Push Harder
Jamie Benn is normally a goal-scoring machine… normally. But the Stars’ captain has been slow to start on the goal-scoring front. Bowness recently reunited the forward with his former linemates Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, hoping the “All-Star Line” will score the Stars out of their season slump.
It worked, for the most part, with Benn putting up his first goal of the season in the game against the Jets on Nov. 2. Tyler Seguin, who also had a slow start to the season, put up a goal in the game as well. It’s up to Bowness to start putting more pressure on his goal scorers, not only to push harder, but to lead the rest of the team.
Joe Pavelski and Klingberg also have to step up and produce alongside their teammates. Pavelski is sitting with two goals so far in the season, while Klingberg has none (although he was out at the beginning of the season with a lower-body injury). They, along with the captain, are all sitting with lower points than they should be at this point in the season.
Stars Need to Avoid Overtime… If They Can
This last one is a little presumptuous, but it might be the key. Any game that goes past regulation for the Stars seems to be their downfall. After 60 minutes elapse, the Stars get sluggish, and lose steam and motivation. This was evident during the game in Winnipeg.
“We had some really good looks in the third, so I was encouraged by that. We know we can do better, and we take the point and move on to Calgary.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
While the Oct. 29 game against the Ottawa Senators ended with a 4-1 loss, despite being a regulation game, Bowness acknowledged the Stars’ offensive production but added they simply couldn’t capitalize on their chances. Chances are something the Stars have been given tenfold, especially in recent match-ups.
The scoreless narrative that the Stars remain loyal to needs to expire soon, or the team can pretty much wave goodbye to their playoff chances. They need to utilize Harley’s abilities and push the veterans to amplify theirs in order to emerge from their overtime blues as quickly as possible. The Stars head to Calgary, the second stop of their road trip up north, on Nov. 4 and all that can be expected is that they prove they can still win at hockey, and in regulation.
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.