The highs and lows of Dallas Stars hockey are back, so let’s break them down.
Last season saw the emergence of Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger. In keeping with the J-themed names, it’s only fitting that Jacob Peterson made a statement in his first NHL game. On his first shot he scores the team’s first goal of the season on a beauty of a backhand. The young Swede made his way onto a roster that tends to carry more defensemen and forced the team to carry fourteen forwards due to his stellar training camp and preseason.
Overtime curse be gone! Miro Heiskanen secured the Stars a win in the season opener with his intelligent and calm goal post regulation. He has been the team’s best player through three games, shouldering a heavier workload with the injury to John Klingberg. He is one of the elite defensemen in the league and if he can increase his offensive production on top of his reliable defensive play, he will elevate himself even further.
New father Radek Faksa is channeling magic dad energy into his game. His freshly rehabbed wrist seems to be much better. He does not normally have a role on the powerplay, but when put on, he scored a goal. He is also creating offense that leads to goals like the Joe Pavelski one against Ottawa. Depth scoring is important in playoffs but also during the regular season as top line players may go through slumps. Faksa continuing to produce and forecheck hard will be important wherever he plays in the lineup.
Goaltending was the biggest question mark throughout all of training camp. Braden Holtby has taken the number one position, with Anton Khudobin reverting to the steadfast backup he is known to be. Both goalies have looked excellent through three games. Aside from a dehydration issue in the season opener, Holtby has been steady with excellent saves including robbing Ryan Strome. Khudobin was able to slot in seamlessly in the third period of game one and had a strong performance against the Ottawa Senators as well. Oettinger has also been excelling in the AHL, putting up 43 saves in his most recent game leading the Texas Stars to victory.
Jacob Peterson, Radek Faksa, Miro Heiskanen, Luke Glendening, Michael Raffl, and Joe Pavelski all have one thing in common. They have scored a goal this season. Six goals from six different players and only one of them plays on the top two lines for this team. The offensive production has been nonexistent from the top-six, save for Pavelski’s goal. They have not created the chances that they should, and the fault lies in a few places. Rick Bowness has talked about the effectiveness of Jamie Benn at center since he moved there last season and broke his scoring slump. With Robertson out of the lineup due to an upper body injury, Bowness reverted to these lines:
Benn – Seguin – Radulov
Peterson – Hintz – Pavelski
Raffl – Faksa – Gurianov
Kiviranta – Glendening – Kero
That top line, which has been a beast for the Stars in the past, is simply not producing at the moment. There is no reason for it to exist since Peterson has shown he can play well on Seguin’s wing and Joel Kiviranta was the original left winger to slot in there during training camp. Benn and Denis Gurianov have established strong chemistry when Benn moved to center and they were able to help each other find offensive production again. The decision to keep Benn at Seguin’s wing is puzzling since a better option exists and could increase production.
Alexander Radulov came alive in game three which is an encouragement. He has a special ability to drive a game and flip momentum with a well-timed goal, and the Stars will need him to continue this in Pittsburgh in order to finish this road trip with a .500 record. The top two lines need to drive scoring for this team to have sustained success. Some grace should be given to Hintz and especially Seguin as they are returning from major surgeries, but if this pattern continues it will be a concern.
Injuries abound… again. Robertson and Blake Comeau did not join the team on the opening road trip as they deal with upper body injuries. Klingberg went down hard in the first period of the season opener, played in the second period, and did not return for the third. He has been listed with a lower body injury ever since. Health is paramount for an aged Stars team and unfortunately, they are still not finding good luck in that department.
The Stars will have played four games in six nights all on the road which is reminiscent of the previous season’s compressed schedule. Perhaps some rest and the comforts of home will revive them for the home opener on October 22.