The Dallas Stars are in a bad way and there’s no sugarcoating their recent 0-3-3 stretch. Four straight home losses are packed into this segment of the season, and for a team with designs on earning those two extra wins in the summer, it might be a minor miracle if they make the playoffs at all.
The off day news for the Stars wasn’t kind to the club either. In fact, it might be worse than that 53 shot drubbing they endured on Monday night. Had it not been for a heroic performance by Anton Khudobin, the Stars are staring at a crooked number. On Tuesday the NHL announced the amended schedule for the remainder of the Stars season.
In one word the schedule is brutal.
The NHL has updated the #GoStars schedule - lots of shuffling around so look closely (including this current 5-game Florida road trip now a 4-game trip).— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) February 23, 2021
Final 43 games will be played in a span of 76 days. pic.twitter.com/iEXXAWKHt1
It is no secret that the COVID-19 outbreak earlier in the season did the Stars no favors with their schedule. The devastating winter storm in North Texas last week was arguably far worse for the remainder of the schedule. The club will play every single Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday in March, and will play every Saturday for the remainder of the season. Add in the fact that the Stars are 1-4-4 against all teams not named Predators or Red Wings and the schedule becomes even more daunting.
The Stars will also have to play the Tampa Bay Lightning eight times in the latter part of the season. If the Stars are going to turn it around and scrap their way into the playoffs, it will arguably be a feat worthy of note. The Stars are facing the toughest remaining schedule in the league and it isn’t close. Mix in the reality of injuries, the past of bad losses, blown leads, and points left on the table, well the picture of the current predicament is painfully clear.
Jason Robertson has been a really good player for the Stars as of late. The young 21 year old forward is rolling along with a five game point streak (2 goals, 3 assists) and has been reliable in all three zones. His point streak is tied for the longest by a rookie so far this season. If this level of play sustains itself, look for Robertson to earn himself some buzz as the season goes along.
Ty Dellandrea has cooled off recently and it seems the coaching staff has cooled on him as well. When Head Coach Rick Bowness called out young players who looked overwhelmed, it was hard not to think about Dellandrea. Make no mistake, he is a good young player who has the tools to be successful. He showed those tools earlier in the year. Since his awesome start the coaching staff has decreased his ice time to as low as 8 minutes against the Carolina Hurricanes. A good road trip for the young center would go a long way in helping his confidence.
Top End Players and Veterans really need to step up for this club if they are going turn it around. Bowness called out the young players, but that should be seen as a huge indictment of the top end players and veterans. Teams take on the identity of the veterans and star players, younger players will follow their example. If the level of the room needs to be raised it needs to be raised by those who drive the ship. Denis Gurianov is scoreless in his last five games, Roope Hintz has tallied twice, Jamie Benn is scoreless with one point, and Joe Pavelski has only scored twice with a -3 over the last five games. That is simply not good enough and it’s no wonder why this club is struggling.
Miro Heiskanen needs a breakout game on this road trip. The young superstar defenseman only has eight assists on the year with no goals. The Stars succeeded in the playoffs because, Heiskanen simply asserted himself on the game. When Miro seemed to run out of gas in the finals, the Stars ran out of gas with him. Heiskanen is the type of defenseman that can drag teams along during tough stretches. The Stars need Heiskanen to drag this team along right now.
Dallas Projected Lines
Jamie Benn (14) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Joel Kiviranta (25)
Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Blake Comeau (15)
Justin Dowling (37) - Radek Faksa (12) - Ty Dellandrea (10)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Mark Pysyk (13)
Anton Khudobin (35)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Florida Projected Lines
Carter Verhaeghe (23) - Aleksander Barkov (16) - Anthony Duclair (91)
Jonathan Huberdeau (11) - Alexander Wennberg (21) - Patric Honrqvist (70)
Frank Vatrano (77) - Eetu Luostarinen (27) - Owen Tippett (74)
Ryan Lomberg (94) - Juho Lammikko (83) - Brett Connolly (10)
MacKenzie Weegar (52) - Aaron Ekblad (5)
Gustav Forsling (42) - Anton Stralman (6)
Keith Yandle (3) - Radko Gudas (7)
Chris Driedger (60)
Sergei Bobrovsky (72)
It is an early puck drop today at 4:00 PM CST. The game can be caught on FSSW or on 1310 AM / 96.7 FM The Ticket on the radio side.