To say it was a rough week for the Dallas Stars would be quite the understatement of the season. The team lost three of their four games, including two division games. In those three losses, the team only managed to score one goal.
Thankfully, or perhaps not given how the Stars have played against lesser opposition, the last place Kings are sandwiched in between these two match-ups.
The All-Star break will finally come after these three games and it will provide the Stars a much-needed reset button to hopefully get themselves right mentally and physically. But, with the All-Star break also comes the realization that the regular season is winding down quickly and the Stars will have to increase their level of play if they want to be playing deep into April. It would be fair to be concerned for this season to end in a major collapse much like last season, but the Stars have shown reasons why that will not happen.
If the Stars are going to make the playoffs, it all starts with the defensemen.
If the Stars make the playoff push fans are so desperate for this season, the pressure will fall on the defensemen to kick-start this team into gear. The main catalyst of the Stars offense begins with their defensemen. Their ability to get the puck up ice to the forwards dictates how the possession spell for the team begins. The forwards do have to contribute and add some depth scoring for certain, but the defensemen are the ones who have to get them the puck and help them be in position to score.
The entries by the team have, at times, been less than idea, admittedly. Speed is key for creating scoring chances and the Stars have plenty of speed skaters on their team. This is how the Stars can get better entries into the offensive zone and start scoring more goals. The puck needs to move quicker up the ice and to the right players.
The Stars defensemen need to think of themselves much like how a quarterback thinks within the pocket. You only have so much time to move the ball/puck until the other team applies pressure and forces a mistake. The clock has to speed up and the puck needs to move faster in order to utilize their speed. They are capable of doing this – now it is a matter of executing.
Record Against Top Competition
While, admittedly, that 6-7-0 record against bottom 10 in NHL is concerning, that 10-5-2 record vs the top 10 has to be incredibly encouraging. The Stars have proven capable of raising their game to match the level of their competition, even on the road. Shutout wins vs the Flames and the Predators in their house are not feats that can be easily dismissed. The team just needs to match that level of play on a more consistent basis instead of playing down to their competition or just assuming if they show up they can win.
For whatever reason, this team plays best when they feel like they have their backs against the wall and that no one is giving them a chance. Monty has commented on how the team does not handle success well and that very well may explain their record against the bottom 10. It cannot be denied, though, that this team is capable of playing with the best teams in the NHL and that alone gives you a shot to not only make the playoffs, but make a run once you get there. This week could go a long way in defining the season and given how the Stars have played against top competition, especially at home, it’s fair to say they have a chance to pick up six out of six points this week.
We have already seen one trade go down as of this writing, as we bid adieu to fan favorite Devin Shore. In comes Andrew Cogliano in return from Anaheim, who will certainly bring a veteran presence to the team as he has played 912 career games and has only ever missed two career games. Cogliano brings more speed and adds veteran leadership to help some of the younger players on the Stars produce at a higher level. It is certainly not the big splash trade many fans are in search of, but you have to start somewhere.
After the debacle of last season, Jim Nill cannot and seemingly will not stand pat and is most likely looking to make additional moves. Even with the addition of Cogliano, the Stars need more scoring depth. Providing a change of scenery can do wonders for a player and the pressure will be on them to produce immediately. The Stars really could use depth at any forward position and the plethora of defensemen the team has both at the NHL and AHL level could prove to be valuable assets in the trade market.
The Stars have a chance to break their streak of missing the playoffs. Jim Nill cannot afford to be scared to make a big move at this point. His decisions before the trade deadline will help either make or break this team.
Despite all the anger and frustration around the Dallas Stars at this point in the season, they do still sit in 3rd place in the Central division. They have been battling injuries all year, yet are still in position to make the playoffs in a comfortable spot. They lost John Klingberg for a month and still have yet to see Stephen Johns play a minute of hockey. The coaches and players have been angry and frustrated with their struggles, but there comes a point to where you have to let go and focus on the positives.
A continuance of worrying about all the stuff you are doing wrong instead of what you are doing right is no way to live life and no way to survive a long season.
Featured Image: NHL.com