Stars Road Show Continues against Blue Jackets

Buffalo had the feel of rock bottom. How low can the Stars bad start go?

For Dallas Stars fans, there wasn’t much for the glass half full crowd coming out of KeyBank Arena on Monday afternoon. After a promising stretch against the Calgary Flames last Thursday, that same lineup came out against the Washington Capitals flat on Saturday. One game later, that brought about wholesale lineup changes against the Buffalo Sabres, and a game that extracted the last bit of new season hope from the Stars faithful.

In sports, overthinking is a major bugaboo. It’s what gives you the prevent defense and turtling. In life, it’s what makes you stick with your original choice instead of going for what’s behind door number three. It makes you grasp desperately to what you have for fear of what might happen in the future.

The Stars took Tuesday off, missing what could have been a rare practice day at the start of the season. Hopefully not to think. Instead, I hope that they watched Tin Cup, especially the driving range scene where Romeo fixes Roy McAvoy’s shanks. Move your change to your left pocket, tie your left shoe in a double knot, turn your hat around and put a tee behind your left ear. You may look like a fool, but at least you’re hitting the ball straight.

Sometimes you have to get out of your own way, and right now, Dallas is playing like a team with too many thoughts. Thinking hockey is slow hockey. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov know how this game works. So does Joe Pavelski, especially when paired with two fast linemates. They have done this their entire adult lives. It’s time to score a goal and then go bump fists with the boys on the bench. Simple.

This team isn’t that different than the team that took the St. Louis Blues to overtime in a seventh game. Later this season, the Stars will go on a winning streak. They’ll do it even if they are as bad a team as their current record indicates. Right now, in the worst of all worlds, they are seven points out of a playoff spot with 75 games to play. Even the glass half empty crowd can see that isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

The best way to make things worse is to panic, and the best way to panic is to see things that aren’t there, hiding in the shadows. In the end, if there is something out to get you in the shadows, there isn’t much to do about it. More likely, it’s your imagination. Overthinking isn’t going to solve anything and it will probably make things worse.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are not a very good hockey team. In spite of that, they’ve managed a 2-3 record this season, including a 4-3 victory over Buffalo. After going all in at the trade deadline last year, the Blue Jackets got a first round playoff win, but have been left with a team in need of a serious overhaul.

Offensively, the Blue Jackets present a few problems. Their top line has accounted for five of their eleven goals, and Cam Atkinson is a quality winger and scorer. As evidenced by their first round playoff win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team can apply a stifling forecheck. The Stars need to be prepared for aggressive pressure, given their problems with that so far this year.

Defensively, Columbus has a top end first pair with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones. Ryan Murray is a puck moving threat when he is healthy. Otherwise, they’re replacement level.

In net, the Blue Jackets have gone with a pair of 25 year olds. Joonas Korpisalo moved up from a backup role last year into the top spot, but his numbers have been consistently average or worse. Newcomer, Latvian Elvis Merzlikins, is being groomed as the heir apparent. Neither has a save percentage above .900, but then again, Columbus is a point ahead of the Stars with two games in hand.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) -  Alexander Radulov (47)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Roope Hintz (24) - Corey Perry (10)
Jason Dickinson (18)- Radek Faksa (12) -Joe Pavelski (16)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Rhett Gardner (49) - Denis Gurianov (34)

Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Taylor Fedun (42)

Ben Bishop (30)

Columbus Blue Jackets Lineup

Gustav Nyquist (14) - Pierre-Luc Dubois (18) - Cam Atkinson (13)
Alexandre Texier (42) - Alexander Wennberg (10) - Oliver Bjorkstrand (28)
Nick Foligno (71) - Boone Jenner (38) - Emil Bemstrom (52)
Sonny Milano - Riley Nash (20) - Jakob Lilja (15)

Zach Werenski (8) - Seth Jones (3)
Ryan Murray (27) - Markus Nutivaara (65)
Vladislav Gavrikov (44) - David Savard (58)

Joonas Korpisalo (70)

Keys to the Game

When a team is struggling to score, sometimes they need a goaltender to step up to steal a win. The Stars were spoiled last year, and both Bishop and Antoin Khudobin put the team on their back on occasion. Dallas could use one of those games in Columbus.

Zone Exits. The Stars have had trouble cleanly transitioning from defense to offense. Columbus applies good forechecking pressure. If Dallas can’t skate out with possession, it may be a long night.

Play the game, don’t think the game. Dallas should be the better team, and they need to play that way.

Denis Gurianov is back in the NHL and Corey Perry may play his first game as a Dallas Star. If the top lines perform to their capabilities, those are below the fold stories.