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Morning Skate: Stars Flying High With Confidence Into Matchup With New-Look Senators

The Stars are 4-0-1 and playing with a high level of confidence as they head into Ottawa for a date with the Senators on Monday.

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So much emphasis has been placed on the start for the Dallas Stars this season. 

Over the past few years and even a large portion of the last decade, Dallas has had notoriously slow starts. They were 6-7-2 in their first 15 last year and after going 4-0-0 to begin the 2020-21 season, they stalled to a poor 7-8-5. 

These poor starts have been a massive part of the “just get in” mentality this club has faced as they have scratched and clawed their way toward a wild-card spot in the postseason. 

So far, Pete DeBoer and the Stars have gotten points in all five games (4-0-1) and know the importance of getting points while they are hot. 

"I'm not looking at it too closely," DeBoer said. "You want to put as many points in the bank as you can. Guys are enjoying it, but there's a lot of work yet to be done, and a lot of areas we've got to continue to get better at."

Not since 2006 have the Stars gone five games without losing in regulation. That club, under Dave Tippet, lost their next game 2-0 but eventually improved to an 11-2-0 record in their first 13. Unsurprisingly, Dallas made the playoffs and was one Marty Turco shutout away from defeating the Sedin Twins in Vancouver. 

For this team, the biggest difference has been quite obvious: they are making plays. 

Whether that means holding onto pucks longer, entering the offensive zone with possession, or the high-skilled goals we saw in Montreal, there is a different confidence around the puck that we haven’t seen in Dallas for a long time. 

“Coaching staff encourages us to be creative, make plays,” Jamie Benn said. “We want to hold onto the puck and do what we do best. There is a lot of great skill in this locker room and we try to bring it out on the ice.” 

Confidence and encouragement are a big deal in hockey and all sports. If you look at the Jason Robertson power-play goal in Montreal on Saturday, you can see that confidence in action.

While this is not the most complex passing play in the world, it is full of quick decisions and anticipation. Countless times last season, a Stars forward would get a puck in a danger area and nothing resembling a scoring chance would come of it. Here, Benn makes the immediate pass back while Robertson finds the open space and Dallas puts another “pretty” goal on the board early this season. 

“Just simple hockey, give and go,” Benn said. “It might look pretty but it's really just simple. I think that was one of those plays where we knew what was going to happen before it even happened.” 

While it has only been five games, this newfound confidence and swagger with the puck has really pushed the Stars into a different category offensively. It has also boosted them into the first spot and best goal differential in the Western Conference. 

Starting goaltender: Scott Wedgewood is expected to make his second start of the season. He has an 0-0-1 record with a .930 save percentage. 

Stars Projected Lines

  • Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski
  • Marchment-Seguin-Peterson
  • Benn-Johnston-Dellandrea
  • Faksa-Glendening-Kiviranta
  • Heiskanen-Miller
  • Suter-Hakanpää
  • Lindell-Lundkvist
  • Wedgewood
  • Oettinger

Note: Denis Gurianov will be a healthy scratch tonight. He is the only Stars skater to not be on the ice for a goal for this season. (minus-1). 

"For me, it's just consistency," DeBoer said. "There's been real good flashes, but you're not a young player anymore. Veteran guys, if you are going to establish yourself in this league, it's about consistently bringing your best game to the rink every day. Right now, it's flashes and we need more than that."

Senators Scouting Report 

This Ottawa Senators team is drastically different from the one we have seen over the years. While they are still in a rebuild, General Manager Pierre Dorion and his staff have transformed the roster into one that looks pretty dangerous on the ice.

The Sens added Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, and Tyler Motte this summer to an already solid group up front. Captain Brady Tkachuk leads the way with eight points in five games (4-4-8) while DeBrincat (1-4-5) and Giroux (2-2-4) have been good with their new club.  

Fun Fact: Dallas is winless in their last five trips to Ottawa dating back to March 2016. 

Sam’s Three Keys

  • Three or fewer penalties
  • Three of fewer penalties (yes, twice) 
  • Roll four lines with back-to-back games Monday/Tuesday

He Said It 

"When your systems are aggressive, you're in confrontations more and quicker, but it shouldn't be a reason for more penalties," DeBoer said. "My history with it is that we've always been one of the least penalized teams in the league. It's just a matter of getting used to being aggressive without taking penalties."

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