It feels almost unfair to split hairs over the Dallas Stars after five games when they’ve gone 4-0-1 to start for the second year in a row. Given how far they went last year in the playoffs and how high they’re projected to finish this season, they’ve earned a bit of nitpicking.
So far the Dallas Stars seem to have split their game into two styles: bewildering and brilliant. The somewhat bewildering bit comes typically in the first period where they might score a goal and then immediately give up one through some defensive breakdown. Dallas has given up a fair few short-handed goals, notably in the game against Philadelphia becoming the first team in NHL history to do so and still win.
It feels like the Dallas Stars haven’t been at their best yet and that is actually fine. There’s no need to panic as it’s still early days. They’ve shown they are capable of comebacks and have the will to win. But the great teams that go on to win it all have the ability to command and take over a game completely, and in order for that to happen all parts of the roster need to be clicking.
Ask yourself, what would happen if Jake Oettinger wasn’t able to play? Through his first three games, he had a save percentage of .943 and in the most recent game against Pittsburgh, he stopped 38 of 39 shots for a .974 save percentage. He has the elite ability to force a win when needed.
Supporting Oettinger should be the main objective of the defense. Just last night, Oettinger was swarmed by the Penguins’ offense in the first period, that shouldn’t be the case every night.
There are good standouts. Miro Heiskanen is as perfect as ever, Thomas Harley is stepping up and even scoring, and Nils Lundkvist has especially unlocked a new level to his game.
On the flip side of that is Ryan Suter still playing his usual way (with the usual baffling plays) and Esa Lindell is even having a rough start to the season. Since it is so early in the season, bringing up Lian Bichsel could be a fun experiment.
Bichsel stands at a towering 6’6”. The large player seems to be less of an offensively-minded defenseman. That’s intriguing when thinking about pairing him with more fluid defensemen like Heiskanen, Harley, and Lundkvist. He probably needs his year of development in the AHL, but bringing him from Austin to Dallas in case of injury or if the team needs an injection of new energy seems like a good idea. At the very least, he would get a chance to showcase his level of readiness.
Regardless, the defense still remains the weak point of this Dallas roster (which really does feel almost blasphemous to ever say in Heiskanen’s presence). Whether it’s from one of their prospects, an internal restructuring, or some other direction it does need to be strengthened as this season progresses.