Congratulations, Stars fans – if you’re reading this, you have scored as many goals as Dallas’ forwards in the month of March.
Sounds harsh, but it’s reality. Dallas went 0-2-2 in the week-long span from Februray 29 to March 7, with losses to three divisional opponents.
The Stars’ goal-scoring dropped off a cliff. The last Dallas winger or center to score was Denis Gurianov in the second period of last Saturday’s road loss at St. Louis. Since then, defenseman John Klingberg has the Stars only two goals of the week- one tally to tie the game in that St. Louis game and the team’s lone score in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Edmonton.
The team took two black eyes in a sweep at the hands of the suddenly surging Nashville Predators on Thursday and Saturday. Dallas failed to score in either despite 33 and 37 shots on goal in 2-0 and 1-0 losses, respectively.
There’s always positives, however. The National Hockey League season moves quickly, and Dallas turns the page to a new week with three games at home, two against Eastern Conference opponents, and all three against teams currently sitting on the outside of the NHL playoff picture.
Fortunately, despite a recent surge from divisional foes at the top in St. Louis and Colorado, and below them in Nashville, Winnipeg and Minnesota, Dallas has kept itself firmly locked into third place in the Central, largely because of two separate tears in November and February.
Here’s a look of how the team breaks down unit-by-unit as we enter the final full month of the regular season:
Offense: D. Dallas’ offense is streaky. We’ve seen that all throughout this year. But this recent stretch is baffling. In mid-late February, it looked like the Stars had finally figure out the offense. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn Joe Pavelski combined for over 20 goals in the calendar month. Since then, all three have been completely absent, and the team hasn’t seen any production from its forwards. The only positive has been the play of John Klingberg, who put up points in four consecutive games from Feb. 27-Mar. 2, including three goals. Currently, Dallas ranks 26th in the NHL in goals per game at 2.59 and dead last in the league in five-on-five scoring.
Defense: B+. You can’t watch the Stars and say its defense doesn’t give them a chance to win the game. Dallas ranks second overall in goals per game at just 2.50. In losses this week alone, Dallas gave up two, two and one goal. Even an average offense would easily win games with that kind of backchecking. The Stars have also seen more production offensively from its blueliners, not only with Klingberg’s recent tear, but second-year player Miro Heiskanen also broke a lengthy scoring drought with a goal against Boston.Special teams: B. Once a strength of the team, Dallas’ penalty kill has slipped to the bottom half of the league, currently sitting 17th at 79.5 percent. The powerplay continues to be above average at 20.9 percent, and it’s been a boost to a unit that seemingly can’t score in five-on-five situations.
Goaltending: B+. Interestingly, Dallas turned to solidified backup Anton Khoudobin for four consecutive games not long after starter Ben Bishop was blasted for four goals at home against St. Louis Feb. 21. After getting the nod on a short-rest trip to St. Louis, he went on a tear, allowing just one regulation goal against Edmonton and made 32 saves against Nashville on Thursday. Khoudobin ranks just .04 goals allowed behind Boston’s Tuukka Rask for the league’s lead in that category at 2.22 per contest. Even with Bishop’s step back, he still ranks in the top ten with a 2.46 GAA.
Coaching: B-. I’ve had a hard time evaluating interim coach Rick Bowness because of his title, but I firmly believe this upcoming stretch will define his tenure in Dallas. The Stars currently aren’t likely to retain him in the full-time vacancy next year with big names like Gerard Gallant and Bruce Boudreau on the open market. Dallas saw a similar sour spell in March 2018 that resulted in missing the playoffs. Bowness’ ability or inability to right the ship over the next three weeks will go a long way in determining his future.
Standing: 82 points, 6 points back of second-place Colorado, 8 of first-place St. Louis. Tied for 8th in NHL overall standings.
Up next: Tuesday vs. New York Rangers, Thursday vs. Florida, Saturday vs. San Jose.
Other: Forward Justin Dowling made his return to Dallas’ active roster Saturday as a replacement for late scratch Alexander Raudlov…. Dallas faces New York and forward Mika Zibanejad at American Airlines Center on Tuesday… Zibanjead now has a 39 goals, good for third in the NHL and leads the league in goals per game at 0.71… he added a whopping five goals in Thursday’s win over Carolina, becoming just the third player in the team’s 93-year history to do so.
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