The Dallas Stars have lost three games in a row now for the second time this season and are only one loss away from tying the season high of four games for the season. The Stars sit second in the Central division only one point behind Chicago, who has 81 points.
The Stars shouldn’t be worried at all. Every team goes through stretches like this. It’s nothing to freak out about. Dallas isn’t going to miss the playoffs if they lose a few games here and there. They just aren’t. This isn’t anything bad; it’s just another bump in the road of the long NHL season.
In the past three games, goaltending hasn’t been good, but it hasn’t been bad either. For example, look at the loss to the Bruins on Saturday. With a final score of 7-3, one might automatically think that the goalie had a bad night, even though he didn’t. Lehtonen didn’t play poorly Saturday night. It was the team in front of him that fell apart after a solid first period.
For five of the seven goals against, Lehtonen didn’t even know the shot was coming because the defensemen weren’t clearing the front of the net or keeping guys on the outside of the zone. That’s what has been happening this whole season, but until now, the Dallas Stars have been able to hide it for the most part.
Even though goaltending hasn’t been the strongest this season, it’s not the only reason the Stars continue to get scored on. They have been able to keep the Stars in. most games, Sure, a few games have gotten away from both Niemi and Lehtonen, but those few losses cannot credit the Stars’ skid.
Again, these struggles can’t all be blamed on the goalies. They’re always the last line of defense. Before the puck even gets to him it has to go through five other players on the ice. The Stars as a whole have been failing to keep the puck the outside of the zone. They aren’t forechecking hard enough and then when the forechecking doesn’t work some players aren’t backchecking.
Finally, when all five guys get back to the defensive zone, they are allowing teams to walk all over them. The strategy that Dallas had at the beginning of the season has gone awry. The Stars are running around the zone leaving the point wide open, which leads to easy point shots for the opposition. Then, players drive the net and the Stars fail time and time again to clear out the front to allow the goalie to see the puck.
Now even with all of this, there’s no point in panicking yet. The Dallas Stars are still second in the Central division and are still scoring 3.20 goals a game which is phenomenal for this point in the season. One thing the Stars need to do to get out of this rut is to clean up the power-play that has been costing them more goals against than earning goals for as of late.
This should not be a tough fix due to the fact that Dallas has one of the top power-play units, but the numbers don’t reflect that. All they really have to do is simplify their game. The Stars should not look for the cross-ice sauce pass. They should look for the simple D-to-D pass and be more active with the puck.
The Dallas Stars have to start moving around on the powerplay because it is so much harder to defend a team that is all over the zone than a team just standing around trying to make the perfect beautiful play. It’s not necessary to be fancy in order to get the job done.
Another thing the Dallas Stars need to do is tighten up in the defensive zone. They have to clear out the front of the net more efficiently and can’t allow teams to get to the inside of the slot so easily. They need the wingers to stay up higher instead of having them fight in the corner in front of the net. This way, the Stars have a better way of blocking or even preventing a shot from the point altogether.
Last but not least, they need to clear out the front of the net. Teams have been able to take advantage of them in front of the net and get all of the rebounds coming from the goalies because they can’t see the shot. This is an easy fix, because it all comes down to players wanting it more and teammates trusting each other on the ice. As simple as it sounds, that’s all the Dallas Stars need to do.
The wingers have to trust that the defensemen and centers will battle in the corners and clear the front of the net, and the centers and defensemen have to trust that the wingers will be on the point shutting down the opposing defense.
There’s no need to panic because of three straight losses. There’s no need to sell the whole team at the trade deadline and turn everything inside out. The Stars are fine and these issues can be solved over time throughout the rest of the regular season. Right now the Stars are just playing because they have to play all 82 games.
They are in the playoffs, so it’s not necessary to trade the team away because they are going through a rough patch. Ride this out, because the Stars will figure it out and slide into the playoffs. The Stars don’t need to do anything yet; they can make the one trade for a rental player for the playoffs but don’t need to go crazy. They just have to hang in there and they’ll figure it out soon enough.