The Dallas Stars have a 3-2-0 record and six points through five games. They have found ways to win, but they are also aware that they haven’t found their game. Whether it’s their top players or their overall game, there is plenty of work to be done early this season. The good news is that the Stars are confident they will be at their best soon.
Stars Outplayed Often
After five games, Dallas has put together a few good periods along with plenty of poor ones. They have been hemmed in their own zone far too much, been outshot in every game, and have forced their goaltenders to be very strong to keep them in the game. Although they’ve managed three wins so far, it is not a long-term strategy. This was most obvious in the home opener against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night. Dallas was outshot 45-23 and created very little offense until the third period. However, they still found a way to win.
“There’s two things that come out of that game for me. One, good teams find a way to win. We found a way to win. That’s the most important thing. Two, is we know we can play a lot better than that. That’s the good thing.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
Despite being outplayed early in the season, the Stars have reasons for optimism. Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, and Alexander Radulov are all seeing their first action since offseason surgery and have been improving each night. Jason Robertson and Blake Comeau have not played a game this season, and John Klingberg has missed four games since being injured on opening night. There are many new faces still working to find their place in the lineup and develop chemistry. Those things take time to work out, but we have already seen glimpses of good things to come.
“We got dominated there for a while. That was the message between players that we thought we had a lot more to give. There’s nothing really pretty about tonight, but good teams find ways, and we did tonight.”– Stars forward Tyler Seguin
Related: Stars Are Built to Win Now
What Is Missing From the Stars’ Game?
Three areas have dragged the Stars down so far. First, they have struggled to break out of their zone. There have been far too many shifts with failed breakouts due to poor passes, lazy plays, and mistakes. They have been unable to find the crisp tape-to-tape passes essential to getting out of the defensive zone and into transition. The result has been long shifts in their own end, penalties, and goals against. Klingberg is the best puck-moving defenseman on the team and should provide a boost when he returns from injury.
Second, the Stars need to change their forecheck. They feed off their forecheck when they are aggressive and causing turnovers up the ice. We have seen flashes of this, but it has been limited. Since the team is not the most explosive offensively, they need to create scoring chances on the forecheck.
Finally, the Stars have struggled to convert on their chances. While they have only scored 11 goals in five games, they’ve had good chances on a nightly basis. Whether they are missing the net, not making clean passes, or trying to be too pretty on the play, they have wasted plenty of scoring opportunities. For a team that does not score a lot, they need to find a way to take advantage of their chances.
“We’re walking right down the middle of the ice and we’re putting it on the glass. Inexcusable for me. That’s not paying attention enough. We’re getting two-on-ones, and a two-on-one should be two chances to score – the shot and the rebound. We’re not even getting the one chance.”– Rick Bowness
All these issues have a common theme: they cannot be fixed with coaching or strategy, it’s up to the players to get the job done.
Stars Know They Are Close
At least the coaches and players have been honest. It starts with Rick Bowness and has been echoed throughout the lineup. If the team was playing horribly with no signs of getting better, we would see it in the attitude of the locker room. However, they continue to show their optimism for things to come, which is a good sign for fans.
“We keep doing the things that we’ve done in those games, and you’ve got to believe that our scorers are going to get their timing back, and their confidence back, and the puck will start going in the net.”– Rick Bowness
One thing is clear: The team wants to play “Dallas Stars hockey.” They are a defensive-minded team that finds their offense from hard work and in transition. They are also a team that does not score a ton of goals, which means they will find themselves in a lot of tight games. While it may not be the most exciting style, it is what brought them within two wins of the Stanley Cup in 2020.
“Just Dallas Stars hockey, which was kind of last game. It can be to the eye a little boring and maybe repetitive, but it’s how we’re successful. We defend well, we compete hard, we win games 2-1, we’re pesky, we’re dirty and ugly, but that’s nice to see against a team like [Pittsburgh] that has been really buzzing and scoring a lot of goals.”– Tyler Seguin when asked what the team was looking for
The Stars know that they are not playing well early. They know what’s missing from their game, and they are confident they will find it soon. As they head into the second week of the 2021-22 season, it’s time to turn those words into actions and show what type of team they really can be.
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!