Dallas Stars: more questions than answers as season restarts

The Dallas Stars start their round robin today, but old problems remain.

It might be a somewhat unfair charge, but the Dallas Stars have lost seven games in row. Of course, this dates back to March when all sports shut down due to the global pandemic. But facts are facts. They were in a standings free fall, and if we’re being honest, the impromptu stoppage in play could not have come at a better time.

The other bit of fortuitous happenstance was that they (barely) held firm as the technical fourth seed in the Western Conference by virtue of win percentage. When the NHL decided to reconvene, this meant that the Stars had somehow played their way into the round robin involving the top four teams in each conference. More importantly, this also meant that they would avoid the best-of-fives slated for seeds five-through-twelve.

The reason I say this is because of the lone exhibition game each remaining NHL team got during the course of last week. The Stars lost to the Nashville Predators last Thursday in a game that thankfully didn’t count. Maybe that’s the saving grace. Maybe they can find some phantom switch and figure “it” out when they do count. Because if we’re taking that small sample size as an indicator of future results, it was not encouraging.

In fact, the same problems that were beleaguering the Stars back in March wasted no time in presenting themselves on Thursday. Namely, the frustrating tendency to sleepwalk into games, and then the season-long malaise in the goal-scoring department. Right out of the gate, Dallas looked a step behind Nashville, if not slower, and they paid for it by giving up a power play goal.

That’s the problem with the Stars. When they’re not scoring goals, a 1-0 deficit might as well be 4-0. They have shown some resiliency at times this season, but during their most recent run of hard times, the goal spigot has run mostly dry. To wit, if we’re taking the last seven consecutive losses into account, they’ve scored a grand total of nine goals. Six of those tallies came in two games, both of which were losses. This team’s calling cards are defense and goaltending, and they’ve been able to ride that to a modicum of success. But as good as the defense has been–and it wasn’t horrible on Thursday–you can’t win games 0-0. Somehow or another, this bunch has to find a way to pot some goals if they want to make any noise.

Of course, there was also the sudden and nebulous absence of center Tyler Seguin in Thursday’s contest. In true hockey fashion, he was simply classified as “unfit to play”. Worse still, head coach Rick Bowness indicated that he wasn’t sure if Seguin would have been a go had it been a playoff game. He should play in today’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but we have no idea whether or not he’s suffering any ill effects from what ailed him.

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So the round robin starts today with three games in the next seven days against teams that the Dallas Stars are a middling 4-5-2 against. The positive here is that they’re assured of advancing to the traditional sixteen-team playoff field as no worse than a four seed. But if they continue to have trouble scoring, they’re going to be fodder for the fitter squads. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

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