2021-22 Dallas Stars’ Report Card Through Ten Games

VANCOUVER, BC - NOVEMBER 07: Vancouver Canucks Right Wing Nils Hoglander (21) takes a shot on Dallas Stars Goalie Anton Khudobin (35) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on November 7, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars need a wake-up call. Sitting at 4-5-2 through their first 11 games of the season, Dallas has struggled to perform during pressure moments. The offense missed wide-open chances and lost to underwhelming goalies. Miro Heiskanen and Ryan Suter are two of the most consistent in the lineup, but the Stars have still felt incomplete as a team. Braden Holtby put up a solid first few games but has allowed three or more goals in his last few outings. Overall, the Stars are off to a rocky start this season, so let’s grade the offense, defense, and goaltending in an early-season Stars’ report card.

Offense

The Stars offense has stutter-stepped into the season, as they are ranked 29th in goals per game. A lot of the Stars’ missed chances come from lousy puck luck. The team lost four straight games from Oct. 25 to Nov. 2. They versed goalies; Eric Comrie, Filip Gustavsson, Laurent Brossoit, and Elvis Merzlinkins. Besides Merzlinkins, these goalies are backups. Gustavsson and Brossoit both made incredible saves on Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski.

Hintz has been struggling to score since the beginning of the season. After he battled a hip injury and was considered day-to-day for most of the season, Hintz took a while to get going this season. Over the past three games, he has been creating numerous chances but has either hit the post or a goaltender’s pad. What’s the answer to Hintz scoring woes? The same answer to Pavelski and Jason Robertson’s struggles; wait for them to break out.

Where the Stars are offensively successful is in the bottom six. Compared to last season, the Stars are getting some help from their third and fourth lines. Jamie Benn, Radek Faksa, and Micheal Raffl all have four points this season. They each have as many points as Robertson and are outscoring Hintz by one point.

What coach Rick Bowness should be focusing on is keeping the Stars’ confidence up. During a post-game press conference, Bowness said he knows his players are getting chances, but the goals aren’t coming. If the Stars’ forwards lose their edge, Bowness and general manager Jim Nill may look to move some pieces with a trade if there are no improvements.

Defense

The top two pairs of the Stars defensive lines are elite. Ryan Suter and John Klingberg are excellent on the top pairing and would only be better if the top lines can score off their chances. Suter is a tried and true shooting defenseman, and the lack of scoring undermines his value.

Thomas Harley has been an interesting addition to the defensive unit. Jani Hakanpaa and Andrej Sekera have been too aggressive with their hits, leading to Harley’s promotion. Harley has skill on both the offensive and defensive sides of the puck. He has only played two games, and it’s too early to tell how ready he is for the NHL.

Miro Heiskanen is the best Stars player right now. Braden Holtby is a close second, but Heiskanen hasn’t had a bad game this season. He is starting to make his case for the Norris Trophy for best defenseman. Heiskanen has 11 points through 11 games, but his plus/minus is a -2. He did not gain any votes on last year’s ballot.

Goaltending

Braden Holtby was a surprise signing this offseason, as Jake Oettinger was impressive in his rookie season. Management chose to send Oetting to the American Hockey League before the season started. Holtby had played fewer games than both Oettinger and his current tandem-goalie partner Anton Khudobin, as he struggled on the Vancour Canuks. He was then given the opening night start against the New York Rangers, but left the game due to dehydration.

Holtby was impressive over his next three starts, only allowing five goals and making 107 saves. His last three starts weren’t as remarkable, as he allowed ten goals on 84 shots. Bowness was riding the hot hand with Holtby but look for the Stars to use Khudobin with a more significant share of starts.

The Verdict

The Dallas Stars shouldn’t be panicking, but things are not going to plan. The top scorers from last season are having trouble putting the puck in the net. Coach Rick Bowness has continued to jumble the lines to no avail. The Stars have seen big portions of their point production come from players in the bottom six.

The defense, specifically Miro Heiskanen, has played great and will likely continue to be one of the highest-scoring defensive units in the NHL. On the goaltender front, Holtby has been up and down through seven starts. He has been slightly over-used, and the mix of Khudobin in net will keep Holtby fresh. Sitting at 4-5-2 through 11 games, the Stars will look to turn their flat start to the season around.

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