Martin Hanzal got injured in the Stars’ second game of the season and played only eight minutes or so as a result.
Ben Bishop got knocked out of their first game early in the third and couldn’t return.
The Stars are 0-2-0 to start the season, and fans are understandably concerned. This isn’t what you need after a high-spending offseason following a major disappointment the season before. To cut to the chase, though, I’m not concerned. Yet.
Once again, Dallas was looking good to start the game until a breakdown was cashed in by the other team.
Once again, a prime chance by their top line was foiled by an outstanding play on the other side (Allen’s save on Benn).
These two games have—to put it clinically—stunk. The Stars are scoring 1.5 goals per game, and that’s not going to get you very many hockey trophies. Dallas’s goaltending consists of Ben Bishop (he of the 1.000 SV%) and Kari Lehtonen, whose statistics are less unblemished than that.
So, yes. This season has been disappointing, and the results are unacceptable. No one’s debating that.
But, to gently inquire, might this not be the end of the world?
Here lies the foundation of my solace, in no particular order:
-Alex Radulov is looking every bit as good as we hoped he’d be back in July
-Ben Bishop has not been the problem
-Esa Lindell is looking much improved after his rookie season
-Mattias Janmark is already back to form, and Spezza is clicking with him
-The power play is looking quite operational to start the year
You could go on if you like, but that’s a pertinent sample. The team isn’t in shambles, is what I’m saying.
Now, of course Jamie Benn needs to show up. He’ll be seeing that last shot in his nightmares right up until he scores again, and the top line can’t afford to go oh-fer in games like this. The power play is doing its job, but the Stars need 5v5 goals, and they aren’t getting them. That’s a concern.
Still, I’m hopeful. Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie aren’t going to just forget how to score on a less-injured, more systematic Stars team. Tyler Seguin is going to put up points, and you’d have to think a top line that traded Cody Eakin for Alex Radulov is going to benefit from it, which ideally takes a bit of pressure off the Spezza line. The goals can come from places. They most assuredly will do so, sooner rather than later.
This is why Seguin’s quote after the game about sticking to Hitch’s system is so important. The Stars don’t need to change their overall approach. They don’t need to radically re-shape the roster. They just need to do what they can do, only better.
Easy, right? Right. I’m glad we could solve this together.
There are worst-case scenarios, of course. Last season, for instance. But come on, what are the odds of that happening TWO SEASONSIN A R- (ed. note: Robert’s author privileges have been temporarily suspended...and restored. Ahem.)
Er, right. Anyway, my point is this. You can’t look at this coach, whose teams generally improve and rack up points when he institutes his system, and say the Stars are in trouble after two games. You can’t look at this roster, with more talent than at least 16 other NHL teams if not far more than that, and say that the Stars are in trouble after two games. You can’t look at the Stars and say there are inherent flaws, so much as practical ones.
The defense has missed some coverage assignments, yes. Kari Lehtonen has had about as much help as he did last year, so far. (The fourth goal is really the only one you can look right at him for, to be honest.) But, I mean, this was a back-to-back against Hitch’s former team, who know his game pretty well. The Blues have a good blue line (though how Joel Edmunson is scoring and playing on the top pair, I’ll never understand) and Vladimir Tarasenko, and that is going to get you some games against tired teams.
If you want criticism, how’s this? The Stars are carrying eight defensemen, so they really could only inject one fresh player into the lineup (Cracknell). I’m not saying one more fresh forward changes the complexion of this thing, but it’s certainly not super helpful, early in the season when not everyone’s acclimated, to have fewer reinforcements than you might want. I’m reaching, but hey, take it and gripe. It’s free.
Ultimately, I guess I’m just at a place where I don’t see these two games as having proven anything of consequence about this new Stars team. It turns out that Dallas can lose road games when they get robbed a couple times and play sloppily in their own zone at some inopportune moments. Who’da thunk it?
I’m no apologist, certainly. (Just ask my angry e-mail partners from last season.) There will come a point in the not-too-distant future when the results are going to indict people on this team, and that’s where writers have to get a bit more blunt. But honestly, I don’t think we’re there yet.
I could be wrong. Maybe these two losses prove that your concerns about the team were absolutely justified, and maybe this is only the beginning of another miserable year. But that’s just not something that seems likely to me, given the information we have so far. I’m not taking the over because I’m wearing green-colored glasses or anything; I’d just rather live in the reality that seems most likely to me, especially when it also happens to be the more pleasant option.
The Stars ought to be able to feast on some mediocre teams this month. Detroit, Colorado, Vancouver, Arizona and (to a lesser extent) Carolina will all come up on the docket, and if you can’t get your team rolling against those folks, then yes, I’ll be willing to admit that some panic might not be wholly unwarranted. Check back with me at Halloween, and we can write off the season then if the Stars are still scoring less than two goals per game and sitting at the bottom of the Central.
I’m just not going to jump into Panic Station two games into the season when so many signs are still looking relatively positive.
Anyway, remember: you have to save your real freakout energy for the late winter stumble, as every Stars fan knows.
(And oh, by the way, we haven’t even seen Julius Honka.)