Three themes From the Stars’ Loss to the Coyotes

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 20: Jason Robertson #21 of the Dallas Stars skates with the puck ahead of Clayton Keller #9 of the Arizona Coyotes during the third period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 20, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Stars 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars’ two-game winning streak ended on Sunday, as they lost in frustrating fashion to the Arizona Coyotes. The Stars couldn’t capitalize on the numerous scoring chances they had on net. Arizona scored two flukey goals and added an empty-netter to win 3-1 over the Stars. The loss was more degrading than important but dropped Dallas a few spots out of the second Wild Card playoff position. Here are three themes from the Stars’ loss to the Coyotes.

Wedgewood Was a Brick Wall

Scott Wedgewood made 32 saves against a Dallas team that was threatening every time they came down the ice. The Stars quickly established offensive zone time and cycled the puck until a shooting lane opened up. However, much like the luck-stricken Stars from last season, Dallas could not score. Whether they hit a post, Wedgewood made an amazing save, or the puck missed the net entirely, they could only muster one goal against a depleted basement-dwelling Arizona team.

Even that goal was weird. Roope Hintz got credit for his 22nd goal of the year when his shot banked off of Coyotes defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere’s skate and past Wedgewood. Hintz’s goal came 57 seconds after Lawson Crouse gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead. Crouse’s goal was also peculiar, as his shot weaved through traffic and trickled past Jake Oettinger, who made the initial save with his pad.

“He played a phenomenal game,” Stars forward Jason Robertson said about Wedgewood. “This is hockey. Goalies get hot.”

The Stars never had the lead in this game, with Nick Schmaltz scoring the eventual game-winner with 2:55 remaining in the second period. Wedgewood has put together back-to-back stellar games, as he made 38 saves against the Colorado Avalanche in a 3-2 shootout win back in early February.

Missed Opportunites

The Stars top line produced the only goal for Dallas but had many chances to tie the game. Robertson and Hintz had two separate chances at sure goals. In the third period, Hintz hit the post on a one-time shot while Wedgewood was out of position. Robertson’s shot was even juicer, as he missed an open side of the net. The pass from Pavelski was rolling on the ice, and Robertson couldn’t settle it in time. As Robertson looked to the ceiling, those two chances would be the closest the Stars came to tying the game.

“It was disappointing,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said. “Missed too many scoring opportunities in the third. Could have won that game. Missed an open net. Had some grade-A chances and just didn’t capitalize.”

The Stars’ powerplay was unimpressive as well. Dallas went 0-2 with the man advantage, including a powerplay in the first six minutes of the third period. Dallas generated minimal chances and blew an opportunity to tie the game.

Lower Lines Need Depth

The top line can’t do everything. The reliance on Pavelski, Hintz, and Robertson separates the Stars from being an elite team. They can beat a legit cup contender like the Avalanche when the top producers score multiple points, and they’ll lose to teams like the Coyotes and Canadiens when those three can only produce one point.

In a tight Western Conference playoff race, the Stars may need to make some depth moves to contend. We know Jake DeBrusk is on the market, wanting out of Boston. The Islanders, Canadiens, and Coyotes also seem to be shopping players for picks or prospects. While Dallas usually reframes from trading draft capital, Joe Pavelski can be an unrestricted free agent next year and is not guaranteed to play as well at the age of 38. The Stanley Cup-caliber team may be right in front of Stars management with the addition of a quality piece or two.

John Klingberg spoke up about his frustration with the Stars going quiet on contract-extension talks. The Stars signed Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, and Ryan Suter to long-term contracts over the past two offseasons, and Klingberg’s talks with management broke down around the beginning of the season. Klingberg is an elite defensive scoring threat and would cost a decent haul on the trade market. If traded, Klingberg could go for an NHL-caliber d-man and an upgrade for the Stars bottom six. If the Stars keep him through the season, he could also leave in free agency.

Jim Nill, who spoke with Pierre LeBrun of the Athletic, said that team management is still going through the trials and tribulations to determine whether the Stars should go all-in or not. If they become sellers at the deadline, they could realistically break the trade market if Pavelski and Klingberg, among others, are shopped around near the deadline. If Tyler Toffoli went for Tyler Pitlick, a first-round pick in 2022 or 2023, a future fifth-round pick, and a conditional fourth-round pick imagine what Pavelski would go for?

The Stars are still in the feeling-out process and probably will still be contenders at the deadline. Nill said in LeBrun’s article that he will wait until two or three days before the deadline and see where his team is at. If they don’t sell, they need to be buyers and focus on the bottom six. Players like Luke Glendening and Radek Faska need help around them, whether that be scorers or grinders.

What’s Next?

The Stars will face the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday night in Dallas. The Stars sit four points out of the second Wild Card spot with one game in hand. This will be the third meeting between the Stars and Jets. The two teams have split wins across two matchups, with both games ending 4-3 in overtime. In their last meeting, Jason Robertson scored the game-winner, and Jake Oettinger was in net.

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