After a potent start to the abbreviated 2021 season, the Stars were bound to fall back to earth at some point after a 4-0-0 burst at puck drop.
Fortunately for Dallas fans- the fall was graceful.
The Stars took points in three out of four games in the past calendar week, highlighted by a 6-3 onslaught at Columbus on Tuesday. Despite taking an overtime loss on Super Sunday, the Stars showed an ability to make a comeback- not unlike the prior week’s third period rally in Carolina.
Even in Thursday’s regulation loss, Dallas finished within a goal of a desperate Columbus team. Here’s a look at how each unit breaks down going into the third full week of the season.
For the most part, this group has exceeded expectations- especially given the amount of injuries that the Stars have seen significant players face. Jamie Benn has missed significant time- along with Tyler Seguin, Blake Comeau, Alexander Radulov, and Radek Faksa- among many others.
Though it was fooled by Chicago goalie Malcolm Subban for nearly 50 minutes of game time in Sunday’s overtime loss, Jason Robertson’s first career goal was a highlight. Dallas, for the most part, has been able to get game-tying goals when it needs it- and Tuesday’s goal-scoring explosion in Columbus saw several different lines and units get timely goals.
It didn’t shine against Columbus, allowing seven goals in two contests at Nationwide Arena- but it’s still been a strength of the Stars’ overall attack and a pillar to the team’s gritty style of play. A rematch against a potent Hurricanes forward group will be a great litmus test in this weekend’s rematch.
Special Teams: B+
After starting a lethal 8 for 12 with the man advantage, the Stars entered last week at No. 1 in the NHL at a white-hot 67 percent. The team has had success flipping Pavelski to the Power Play unit so far this season- a refreshing development after going through several cold stretches during the regular season last year.
Normally, there’s a disparity between teams with an especially strong power play and their penalty killing units, and through the first two weeks, that wasn’t the case the case with Dallas. After starting off the year with an embarrassment of riches and both special teams ranking top-two in the league, the penalty kill has come down to earth, now ranking No. 3 on power plays and 19th killing penalties after a rough week with the disadvantage- but still is killing a respectful 80 percent of opponent power plays.
Anton Khoudobin made headlines for the wrong reasons this week when he was suspended for Sunday’s game after arriving late to Saturday’s practice. Frankly, as much as Dallas is going to need to rely on him until Ben Bishop’s possible return in March, a skipped start is not the worst thing in the world for the darling of the Stars’ Stanley Cup run that made a whopping 25 total starts in the Edmonton bubble.
Jake Oettinger has already made three starts and has looked extremely poised in net, allowing just. He looked stellar against Chicago, recording a record 33 saves in the overtime loss.
Rick Bowness has pushed all the right buttons in the first few weeks of his career as the Stars full-time head coach. He has been extremely flexible adjusting the forward lines in response to the plethora of injuries. He’s also done a nice job rotating Khoudobin and Oettinger through the first nine games.
Taking at least point against Chicago is expected- but a regulation win would set the tone as the Stars host the burgeoning Carolina Hurricanes for a weekend series. Going into the season, however- Dallas fans would’ve absolutely taken 12 out of a possible 18 points through the first nine games- especially given the early injuries.
Upcoming schedule: Tuesday vs Chicago, Tuesday vs Carolina, Thursday vs Carolina.
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