Bill Meltzer: Star Gazing: Dallas Needs to Hit Reset Button After 5th Straight Loss


The Dallas Stars need to hit the reset button. Losers of five games in a row (0-3-2) and sitting with a 4-4-4 season record that includes just one win (1-1-4) on home ice, the club needs to get back on track.

Last year, the club played a brand of high-tempo but relatively straightforward hockey that led to a 23-11-7 record at the American Airlines Center.

Mostly on the strength of their home-ice advantage, the Stars reached the playoffs in the tough Western Conference. This season, the Stars have had all sorts of puck management issues and defensive lapses. The problems have generally been more evident at home than on the road.

On Tuesday night, the Stars sustained a 3-1 loss on home ice to the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. Dallas did some good things, generating some good scoring chances and forcing Jonathan Quick to make 33 saves (including three on shorthanded rushes for Dallas and four on Stars’ power plays).

However, at the end of the night, the Stars managed just one goal for the third straight game. Just as important, there were a lot of areas of concern that still need to be addressed.

Start with unforced turnovers: The Stars committed an unacceptable 19 charged giveaways in the game, two of which contributed directly to goals by the Kings. Kari Lehtonen (27 saves on 30 shots) needed more support than he got from his teammates.

Special teams have been a little too sporadic this season as well. While there are normal ebbs and flows on the power play, when the Stars go cold, they tend to scuffle longer than they ought to with all the weapons they have. The club is currently in a 0-for-14 skid. Last night, Dallas went 0-for-4 and yielded a second period shorthanded goal to Trevor Lewis that badly damaged the Stars’ cause. The Lewis goal tied the game at 1-1.

Third periods have also been a problem for the Stars this season, and that is a major reason why the club has the sort of mediocre record it currently sports. With the way things are in today’s NHL, a huge percentage of game enter the third period either tied (as was the case last night) or with one team ahead by a goal. In other words, third periods are where the NHL separates the men from the boys: Win the final 20 minutes and the club is guaranteed of at least one point in the standings.

Bad third periods have already cost Lindy Ruff’s club at least six points in the standings thus far. Including last night, when Dustin Brown’s early third-period goal and Kyle Clifford’s mid-period tally forged LA’s final 3-1 margin of victory, the Stars have been outscored by a 16-8 margin. Meanwhile, the defending champions have yielded just four third-period goals all season thus far while scoring nine. The Kings step up their two-way game when the match is up for grabs in crunch time. The Stars have not done so with any regularity yet.

What often happens with the Stars is this: They go as far as the top line takes them. The club has won (or least come away with a point) when Tyler Seguin’s line has been hot and they’ve generally lost and struggled to score when none among Seguin, Jamie Benn or sometimes first-liner, sometimes-second liner Jason Spezza lead the way. Last night, Seguin and Benn were kept off the scoresheet for the fourth straight game.

There are some things from which Dallas can build. The club once again got a goal from the supporting cast — Shawn Horcoff opened the scoring with his second tally of the season. The depth should improve now that Valeri Nichushkin and Sergei Gonchar (who played his first game of the 2014-15 season last night) are back in the lineup. Additionally, the team can draw from the way it handled similar adversity at times last season. Finally, it is only a matter of time until the Stars’ top players start scoring again and, when they do, it is usually in bunches of goals over numerous games.

Ruff and company have a lot of work to do. The Stars haven’t played so badly that they’ve a deep hole that will take weeks and weeks from which to re-emerge. However, they also can’t leave the many aforementioned issues uncorrected for too long.

The club will go back to the drawing board at practice and look to re-establish the process that leads to consistent winning hockey when the club hosts Peter Laviolette’s Nashville Predators on Thursday night. Game time at the ACC is 7:30 p.m. CST.

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