Losses Mount as Stars Face Hurricanes

Dallas is a different team than the one that opened the season on a four-game win streak.

The Dallas Stars are not playing pretty hockey right now. They aren’t playing winning hockey either. They have been able to pull out some loser points along the way, but Dallas is setting themselves up to be one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot come end of season.

Angst within the Dallas fan base sees a return to the low-chance, boring style that has epitomized the team over the last several seasons. Missing two top-six forwards can do that, and the absence of Alexander Radulov has perhaps demonstrated his importance to the team’s ability to come out of its defensive shell.

Dallas has missed several key players at the beginning of the season, but so have other teams. It has given the team the opportunity to look at several younger players, and a few of them may turn out to be key. Given the opportunity, Jason Robertson has proven to be impactful, at least while playing with Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov.

Joel Kiviranta has also shown that his playoff performance was not a flash in the pan.

One of the advantages of having the Stars play the Carolina Hurricanes is that it’s likely that Corey Sznajder will track the game. His numbers reflect what I saw: a pretty even game, but one where Carolina took advantage of more of their chances.

During this losing streak, the Stars forecheck has been good. All four lines are taking time and space from the opposing defenders, making it difficult to exit the zone with possession. What’s been missing has been any semblance of possession offense generated off that forecheck. There have been a handful of bad pinches and a couple of stretch passes that got somebody behind the defense, but that’s going to happen unless you drop completely into a shell.

The Stars are in a stretch where they are losing close games. The question is whether that reflects a few bad bounces or if it is a sign that there is something wrong that needs to be addressed. Several years ago, Ken Hitchcock was faced with a similar decision, and he turned Dallas into the lockdown, defense-first team that has been the team’s dominant character since that point.

During last year’s playoff run, Rick Bowness unleashed an active defense, leading to a more potent attack and a Stanley Cup Final appearance. That said, the trepidation within the fanbase is understandable.

Until Radulov is ready to return, there isn’t a whole lot to change from the team that skated against Carolina on Thursday. I’d expect Tanner Kero to draw back in for Nick Caamano, but otherwise stet.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn (14) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Joel Kiviranta (25)
Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Tanner Kero (64) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Ty Dellandrea (10) -

Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Mark Pysyk (13)

Jake Oettinger (29)

Carolina Hurricanes Lineup

Andrei Svechnikov (37) - Sebastian Aho (20) - Brock McGinn (23)
Nino Niederreiter (21) - Vincent Trocheck (16) - Teuvo Teravainen (86)
Ryan Dzingel (18) - Jordan Staal (11) - Warren Foegele (13)
Jordan Martinook (48) - Morgan Geekie (67) - Jesper Fast (71)

Jaccob Slavin (74) - Brett Pesce (22)
Brady Skjei (76) - Dougie Hamilton (19)
Jake Gardiner (51) - Haydn Fleury (4)

James Reimer (47)

Keys to the Game

Goaltending. Dallas has grown dependent on a netminder who stops the easy shots and most of the hard shots. This year, they’ve been getting average goaltending, and the best way to break a streak is to keep the puck out of the net.

Control the Chaos. Carolina capitalizes on broken plays, especially in the center of the ice. The Stars need to redouble their efforts to force the Hurricanes to the outside.

Special Teams. Early in the year, it was a strength, but Carolina burst that bubble in Raleigh and that trend has continued in Dallas. Either stay out of the box or take advantage of 5-on-4 opportunities.