2 Big Problems Hurting the Stars Right Now

DALLAS, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29: Filip Gustavsson #32 of the Ottawa Senators blocks a shot on goal against Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas Stars in third period at American Airlines Center on October 29, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars are 3-4-1 through their first eight games of the season. They end the month of October on a three-game skid, with disheartening losses to the Vegas Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators. The Golden Knights are plagued with injury and covid concerns, meaning they were without regular players in their lineup. The Senators, who are young but impressive this season, were coming off a three-game losing streak themselves. The Stars dominated the game in Vegas and the first period and a half in Ottawa but lost both games. Two significant themes trouble the Stars through the first month of the season, and it’s up to coach Rick Bowness to rectify them.

Puck Luck

When will the Dallas Stars ever escape the bad breaks that exist to hurt them? Ben Bishop’s injury during the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Final run, the myriad of injuries suffered last year, and now, facing unbelievable goaltending from fringe-starters. Senators rookie Filip Gustavsson and Golden Knights backup Laurent Brossoit made jaw-dropping saves on quality chances. The Stars had both the Senators and Golden Knight on their heels but couldn’t convert scoring chances in either game. Vegas scored late with the goalie pulled, and Ottawa iced the game early in the third.

Unfortunately, there is no issue with the way the Stars are playing offensively. Since his return, Jason Robertson has taken six shots over two games but has nothing to show for it. For linemates Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski, they face a similar challenge.

“We’re generating enough offensive chances to get us back in the game at the right times, but we don’t capitalize,” Bowness said on Friday after the loss. “The right guys are getting the chances, and it’s not going in for them right now.”

Miro Heiskanen leads the Stars in scoring with seven points over eight games. Under him is Radek Faska with four points, with Pavelski and Tyler Seguin tied, amongst other players, with three points. Offseason acquisitions Micheal Raffl and Ryan Suter also have three points.

The team leaders from last season were Pavelski, Roberston, and Hintz. All three averaged around a point per game but have gotten off to a seriously slow start.

So, how do you fix puck luck? I have no idea. Maybe make a sacrifice to the hockey gods? Bowness looked flustered during his post-game press conference on Friday, and I don’t blame him. The strategies are working. The offense has abandoned play off the boards and started cutting to the net. They are shooting more, outshooting opponents 105-71 during their three-game skid.

Sekera/Hakanpaa line

Jani Hakanpaa and Andrej Sekera are two players who could see their role diminished. Hakanpaa and Sekera are average defensemen who are responsible for the heavy hits on the defensive end. Some of the faster and younger teams can outmatch the two bruising defensemen. While the Stars defense has had some trouble transitioning into their own zone this season, Hakanpaa and Sekera lack the speed and skill to keep up. They are a considerable step down from the other defensive pairs. The duo has been making questionable decisions as of late.

Hakanpaa took exception to Drew Doughty of the LA Kings during their meeting on Oct. 22. Hakanpaa initiated a knee-to-knee hit on Doughty in the Stars’ zone after Doughty got rid of the puck. He was given a 5-minute major for kneeing and a 10-minute major for the injury. Hakanpaa already has 21 penalty minutes on the season. Last year he had 37 penalty minutes in 57 games with the Anaheim Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes. Hakanpaa was out of the lineup on Friday, being replaced by Joel Hanley.

Down 3-1 in the third period against the Senators on Friday, Sekera dished out a heavy hit on winger Tim Stuzle. Sekera took himself out of the play, and a retreating Radek Faska couldn’t cover as a defenseman. Connor Brown scored the back-door goal, putting the game out of reach.

Bowness keeps both men in the lineup for defensive draws. According to Hockey Reference.com, Hakanpaa spends 78 percent of his faceoffs lined up in the defensive zone. Sekera is at 63 percent. Both players are penalty killers where the Stars are ranked 16th right now. They are only two ranks higher than last season.

The Texas Stars, who play in the American Hockey League, give Dallas a few interesting options. Thomas Harley posted 25 points through 38 games last season in the AHL. He only has one point through three games this year but impressed coaches during the preseason. Andres Borgman has a reputation as a hit-heavy defenseman. He posted 121 hits through 48 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2017-18 season.

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