The Dallas Stars are at risk of missing the postseason for the second straight season
The Dallas Stars made a lot of changes last offseason. They fired long-time head coach Lindy Ruff and replaced him with the last man to bring the Stanley Cup to Texas, Ken Hitchcock. Moreover, the Stars brought in Marc Methot, Martin Hanzal, and Alexander Radulov.
After a 4-3 shootout win on Feb. 9 over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas had an impressive 33-19-4 record. Their 64 points had them seventh overall in the NHL and third in the Central Division. However, after a 3-1 loss to the Penguins on Sunday, March 11, the Stars find themselves at risk of missing the playoffs.
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Since that 4-3 shootout win, Dallas has a 5-6-2 record. That combined with the Winnipeg Jets recent hot streak has kicked them out of the top three of the Central Division. Though the Stars still occupy the first wildcard spot (as of Monday, March 12), the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and Calgary Flames are right on their tails.
Credit should be given to Hitchcock for turning around the Stars defense. Dallas went from the 29th ranked defense to the fifth-best defense as far as goals allowed. They also allow the fifth-fewest shot attempts per hour. This focus on defense has hurt their offense.
In 2016-17, the Stars ranked 17th with 223 goals. This season, they rank 16th. The Stars averaged 2.72 goals per game last season, compared to 2.87 goals per game this season.
Dallas has been struggling over their past five games. They haven’t scored more than four goals in a game since Feb. 3 against the Minnesota Wild. Since beating the Penguins on Feb. 9, the Stars have scored more than three goals just once (during a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning).
The Stars offensive struggles are largely due to their lack of scoring depth. Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg lead the team with 65, 60, 60, and 57 points respectively. However, the next leading scorer, Mattias Janmark, has 32 points.
To succeed in the NHL, you need more than one really good forward line. You need at worst two and preferably three. Scoring lines are like rare Pokemon – you should get as many as you can. At most, the Stars have two good forward lines.
Hanzal has been a bust, for the most part. He was supposed to help turn the Stars third line into a scoring line. However, Hanzal has just 10 points in 38 games and is out for the rest of the season with a back issue.
The Stars got off to a nice lead early on. It might be enough for them to hold onto a wildcard spot. But if the Avalanche keep doing what they’re doing and the Flames or Kings get hot, Dallas is in danger of missing the postseason.