Early in this season, there is a common theme in Dallas. No doubt the Dallas Stars are a good team, but they’ve also struggled playing against the NHL’s best. An early season trend they definitely want to break if they want to be playing in June. The Stars have struggled vs the league’s best, but an 82 game regular season is a marathon and not a sprint.

Oettinger’s struggles

Jake Oettinger is a good goalie. But his play as of late has seen it’s ups, and downs. In particular after yet another shellacking hosting the Vegas Golden Knights. Most of Oettinger’s struggles this past month were against some of the NHL’s best. Giving up another six goals to Vegas isn’t a good sign for a team who wants to be playing this coming June. Neither is getting scored on five times in losses to the Colorado Avalanche, and the Florida Panthers. Despite his shortcomings in big games, Oettinger seems confident early in the season.

“It’s easy to say that I haven’t gotten the bounces, but I feel like I really haven’t,” he said. “I could let in 10 goals over the next five games, but I’m never going to stop believing in myself that I could be a great goalie for this team. … I’m not going to change anything about who I am or how I work or how I prepare for this job. I’m doing the right things, so it’s going to come.”

Defense has been a problem too

While Miro Heiskanen is a solid two way defenseman, but the rest of the blue line aside from Thomas Harley has its problems. While Dallas has been able to score it’s way out of problems vs sub par teams like the Ottawa Senators, the defensive coverage vs the likes of Colorado and Vegas simply isn’t good enough.

Stars’ head coach Pete Deboer bears some responsibility for the D lacking in Dallas too. While fans are happy to see more goals being scored since Deboer took over for Rick Bowness as coach, the system allows for more liabilities in goals against. With a more aggressive offense, Oettinger or Scott Wedgewood don’t get as much help from the guy’s back checking.

Lack of grit in Dallas?

The Stars have a lot of skill, and often burn opposing teams on the power play. However, the team isn’t very physical. Jamie Benn has often been the guy to lead the team physically. But in the last couple seasons it hasn’t been good enough. Such as this incident in last seasons western conference finals.

The Stars miss Jamie Oleksiak. He was a big guy, and wasn’t afraid to keep opposing players honest with either his hits, or fists. Back in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, Oleksiak put opposing players on notice who would take shots at his teammates like this hit. That kind of physical play brought energy, and confidence to the team. It’s that x factor that a team wants to contend with the best.

Photo credit: Smiley N Pool/Dallas News

The Vegas Golden Knights, and the Colorado Avalanche. Two of the last Stanley Cup champs. Both teams had guys who played a physical, and mostly clean game. Vegas has Paul Cotter, and William Carrier while the Avs have Nathan MacKinnon, and had Nazem Kadri. For Dallas to make another deep playoff run somebody in Dallas needs to step up in that category. If Benn, or Mason Marchment can’t do it, a trade before March 1st may be optimal.

Featured photo: Tony Gutierrez/AP

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