No team wants to start their season 0-2. Luckily, there’s 82 games in a NHL season, and the Dallas Stars still have 80 more to go. Although we don’t like what we see on the record, or much of what we have seen these past two games on the ice, there are some positives that should make Stars fans, on the whole, excited.
For the most part, everyone expected the Stars to take some time not only to mesh and build chemistry and confidence within these lines, but also to get used to a new head coach and a new system that is now in place. Yes, they made some great off season moves that make the future look bright, but the key is to not look so far ahead into that future and be disappointed in the here and now.
The Stars are just taking the next step in the process, taking the pieces that were added in the offseason (Ben Bishop, Martin Hanzal, Alexander Radulov, Marc Methot, Tyler Pitlick) and putting them with those guys returning (Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, John Klingberg, Jason Spezza, Mattias Janmark back from a season lost to injury, for example) and putting them into regular season games after not a single preseason game in which the full roster played together.
Team chemistry is built overtime, not just in a couple nights, and it showed out there through the first two games. The defensemen at times made bad passes moving the puck up the ice to the forwards and vice versa thinking they'd be in one spot when they happened to not be. But once that chemistry builds up through the start of the season, we will start to see those passes become sharper and more accurate as they build trust and confidence with one another.
The Dallas Stars vs the Vegas Golden Knights
What we expected: We knew the pressure would be high for the Stars in their first game of the season given their offseason moves and the hype that has surrounded them as one of the most improved teams in the league during the offseason. On paper, the Stars looked better in many aspects. (I’m not saying the Golden Knights don’t have talent, but expansion teams aren’t really expected to be contenders right out of the gates, either.)
So, in a sense, we expected the Stars to go out there and welcome the Golden Knights to league by showing them who’s boss. Many expected a competitive game (just for the Stars to pull it out and not Vegas) as you looked at two rosters that both need time to work their respective kinks out.
Vegas pulled a bunch of players from a lot of different teams and are trying to get them to play cohesively together in a new city. Dallas was coming off of a season riddled with injuries and offseason moves that were unmatched by any other. We expected the offense to be lethal and for the defense to bring some answers to the big question marks from last year. These two teams, in some ways very different from one another and in other ways very similar, was going to be an interesting game from the get go — and that it was.
What we saw: I think we all got a little bit excited through the first two periods of play when Dallas seemed to dominate play on the ice and really hold their ground. All throughout the game, the Stars offense looked potent, showering Golden Knights starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with shot after shot. The offense created a lot of scoring opportunities, but the problem was they couldn't finish on those opportunities, besides one by Tyler Seguin on the power play. They were in search of their first full strength goal the whole night, yet it never came, as Fleury made 41 saves and wiped away any and all hope Stars fans had of winning the game.
Even though the Stars dominated by out-shooting their opponent 46-30 overall, and the Stars through two periods of play were the better team, Fleury stole the show. And when Ben Bishop went down after taking a puck to the mask and suffering a cut above his eye, it seemed as if everything went down as well, as Stars let the game slip from their grasp.
The Stars did look good in many moments of the game (besides the third period) and we shouldn't be disappointed so much in the overall performance we saw. Rather, small mistakes were made down the stretch that led to opportunities for the Golden Knights that they capitalized on. What can you do but move on and focus on the next opponent?
The Dallas Stars vs the St. Louis Blues
What we expected: After the game against Vegas where we saw the Stars dominate possession of the puck and shots on goal, we hoped to see that trend continue into the game against the Blues, but with more finishing. With as much of a talented forward set as the Stars have, it’s hard to not think that they'll continue to create chances and hopefully find the back of the net more.
This was the second half of a back-to-back set for the Stars to open the season. The Blues, on the other hand, were feeling quite rested after playing and beating the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night. The Blues were rolling with a very banged up lineup, with many of their forwards out. They needed a lot of young players to step up, or their defense to play astoundingly well, as they did against the Penguins.
What we saw: Ken Hitchcock’s return to St. Louis was underwhelming, to say the least. In the first period, the Blues showed up to the game, but as much as I hate to say it, I don’t really know if the Stars ever really made it there until the second period. The Stars made mistakes out there that the opposition capitalized on... again. The defense didn’t seem to know what they were and when the going got rough, they started to buckle.
One of the three goals in the first period the Stars got caught puck watching, the Blues frazzled the defense and got three players into the corner and split the coverage with a nice pass and an open shot that found the net. The Stars offense wasn’t beautiful throughout the first period of play, either. Yes, they continued to out-shoot the Blues, but that means nothing when all of those chances go to waste. After the St. Louis got a couple goals on Dallas, the Stars looked overwhelmed and had some “deer in headlights” moments.
After two periods of play, the Stars were outshooting the Blues 28-17, and searching for their first goal of the game (and first full strength goal of the season, neither of which happened). The third period is where we saw a lot of promise, much like the first two periods of the Vegas game. John Klingberg was able to put the first points up on the board for the Stars on the powerplay, and Mattias Janmark put the second one in for the first full strength goal of the season. Defensively they looked way more structured compared to the first period of play and even made some nice plays when the Blues were on the attack.
Against the Blues, the Stars blueliners were unable to get the puck up to the forwards, and when they could, the forwards would lose the puck up against the walls and turn it over. The Stars’ inability to move the puck up the ice was detrimental, and in the third period when they were able to make some plays, they generated chances which in turn led to a couple of goals.
Something we saw through the first two periods was a lot of shots from the Stars but not shots that were funneled toward the center where the attackers could get a rebound and a second chance opportunity to drop it in. A lot of that had to do with the outstanding play from Blues goaltender Jake Allen, and yet again the Stars were stonewalled from the opposition between the pipes.
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes... Little mistakes at critical moments that led to opportunities for the opposition they just just happened to take advantage of. The Stars need to clean up the little things, and that will go a long way for the big picture of it all.
“The key thing we are going to take away from the game tonight isnt the chances, its the times we make mistakes at critical points in games. Its onlygame one, but weve got to find a way to play in those key moments and not be the first team to make a mistake” - Tyler Seguin after the game one loss.
Obviously this offense has already shown to be potent like we expected with such firepower, but the problem we are seeing is they aren’t capitalizing on the chances they are making for themselves. Out-shooting each opponent is fantastic and shows promise, but when you can’t find the back of the net, it’s disappointing.
The goalie play by both opponents so far has had a lot to do with that. But every goalie can be beaten, and the Stars couldn't figure out how to do so for two games now. The offense will come so long as the Stars can manage to keep calm and continue to produce. When you create as many chances as the Stars have so far, the puck will start to hit the back of the net. We would like to see the offense funnel the puck towards the center and create chances for more rebound goals.
The inability to generate second chances and to finish with the puck needs to be fixed, especially if the defense continues to struggle. The play of the defensemen unable to get the puck out of their zone and not making good outlet passes showed that the defense is still a work in progress. The opposition was able to funnel the puck toward the net, and when that happens the opportunities for rebound and second chances increase. The defense needs to cut down on those in a big way. You also need all five skaters on defense, ensuring they are all staying in their zone and doing their job instead of blowing their coverage assignments. Against the Blues, the five-man units of the Stars were unorganized and out of position, and the Blues took advantage of that in a big way.
Last season, a trend that we saw was when something goes poorly, the Stars had trouble stopping the bleeding. We saw the same thing through these first two games. They need to learn to remain composed and re-adjust so that the avalanche doesn't keep on falling on them and they find themselves in too big of a hole to crawl out of.
When the Stars get organized and get it together both offensively and defensively, this looks like a team that is going to be hard to beat. The problem we are seeing early on is the little things, and if mistakes happen, they’re struggling to bounce back.
The Stars have shown flashes of a pretty good-looking team.
With the kind of shooting we are seeing, Dallas will win a whole heck of a lot of games. These spurts of good we are seeing need to continue to blossom, and I believe they will. The first two games have given the Dallas Stars a good base to build off of. They’ll continue to work out some of the kinks and once they get everything figured out, I’d get excited folks.
These first two games didn’t feel like losses, at least to me anyway, so much as it felt like growth and the growing pains that encompasses. Growth is what the Stars need when it comes to meshing this talented team for the long season ahead.
Now, we want to see the Stars play a complete hockey game and not games where there are flashes of dominance followed by dum-dum moments as the first two games showed. Our hopes were high for this team to begin, and may be down at the moment, but maybe that’s exactly what they need. For the pressure to be off a little bit, so they can get down to business and show us all what we’ve been waiting for.
I’d give their performance a C+ so far. They’ve shown promise and glimpses of what is to come, but it just isn’t all quite there — yet.