3 takeaways from the Stars’ Loss to the Senators

OTTAWA, ONTARIO - OCTOBER 17: Josh Norris #9 of the Ottawa Senators shot is saved on the goal line by Anton Khudobin #35 of the Dallas Stars while his teammates Jani Hakanpaa #2, Michael Raffl #18, Joel Hanley #44 and Radek Faksa #12 look on in the first period at Canadian Tire Centre on October 17, 2021 in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)

For the second time in two days, the Dallas Stars lost on the road. Ottawa Senators winger Chris Tierney scored two unusual goals, and the Stars could not tie the game in the final minutes. The Stars were lax in letting the Senators into the zone for a team focused on tight defense. They could keep pace with a young team, even knocked them around a bit, but that is a moot point if the result is a loss. Micheal Raffl and Joe Pavelski notched their first goals of the season in a game that the Stars should have won. Here are three takeaways from the Stars’ loss to the Senators.

Alexander Radulov

Radulov is playing the heardest of the top-six right now. He is coming off of a core-muscle injury that he suffered 11 games into the season last year. Radulov was held off the score sheet in his first two games but has looked fierce on the ice. Against the Senators, he assisted on Micheal Raffl’s opening goal four and a half minutes into the game. Radulov is what the top lines need right now, a player that isn’t afraid to cut to the net instead of setting up for a pass.

Pavelski scored a goal in front of the net in the third period. He was cleaning up a shot by Radek Faska, but Pavelski was in the right position to score. Hopefully, that is a wake-up call to the 37-year-old, who wants to replicate the 70-point pace from last season.

Coach Rick Bowness mixed up almost every line during that game. Radulov’s hard work is paying off, as he got minutes on the top powerplay unit. His intensity on the ice needs to be shadowed by players on the top two lines. He is combining his physical play with an offensive prowess missing from the rest of the Stars’ top lines.

“The first period, we had 11 shot attempts. The second period, we had 25. So I think it started in the second period, and it carried over into the third,” Bowness said to the media after the game.

Stars are playing too open

The Senators were able to get past the Stars defense multiple times. The Stars have been pinching in their defenders a lot this season, and a side effect is allowing open ice for the opposition. With lock-down defenders like Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, you risk outmatching the defense with John Klingberg out due to injury and Ryan Suter playing top-line minutes. The Senators were a perfect team for exposing defenses because they are fast and skilled skaters.

The Stars were very lax in letting the Senators into the zone. Nick Paul, Connor Brown, and Josh Norris had multiple chances to score because they had open ice to make a play. The Stars didn’t control the ice until the midpoint of the second period, after Tierney’s powerplay goal. Tierney scored a second powerplay goal and was the dagger in the loss for the Stars.

Offense is relying on Shots from the Point

The Stars offense has been unreliable to start the season. With the shuffled lines, Faska and Glendening played more minutes than they usually would. The only thing different they are doing is shooting. During the Stars’ first powerplay, Roope Hintz opted to pass to the point instead of putting a puck on the net. While the Stars ranked in the top five in points from defensemen last season, they need the leading lines to finish chances set up by the d-men.

In a callback to the injury-plagued 2020-21 season, the offense felt the same way. Good enough to cycle but had trouble scoring. One place the Stars were winning was in the physicality department. The Senators’ offensive players got pounded into the boards on every procession. The Stars need that strength to muscle into the slot and drive towards the net. Hintz and Tyler Seguin have been almost invisible through the first three games, and getting those two into the middle of the ice would open opportunities for the Stars’ offense.

The Verdict

While it is early in the season, the Stars need more time to get up to speed. This team will need the usual point leaders to start scoring if they want to make the playoffs. Joe Pavelski scored in the third period off of a rebound because he cut to the net. The offense will build momentum if the Stars can gain position in front of the net and the slot. While they look to the defense to set up their plays, players on the top lines struggle to score. Even their powerplay has been weak to start the year.

Dallas will be off until Tuesday and possibly give enough time for injured players to recover. John Klingberg was injured against the New York Ranger, while Blake Comeau and Jason Robertson went down in the preseason. Maybe a return to normalcy can also rejuvenate the lines, with Roberston being a player who cuts to the net often. While it is still too early to doubt this team, they need to adjust the complacency within the lineup.

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