The Stars started this season with absolute domination on both ends of the rink. But over the last few weeks, they have come a bit more down to earth.
Despite picking up points in 10 of the last 12 games, Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer has seen some habits that he doesn’t like. The most notable is the fact that Dallas has allowed four or more goals in five of the last seven games.
After watching those games, the reason is pretty clear: the Stars have been very loose in their defending around the net.
“Finding sticks, little heavier, little harder,” DeBoer said following the 4-0 loss to Toronto on Tuesday. “For sure that’s been something that’s crept into our game a little bit recently and those have ended up in the net. We’ve got to clean that up.”
This has not all been in the last seven games, either. When Dallas did allow goals early in the season, these types of goals were usually the culprit. They simply scored enough to offset the bad.
But that is not a recipe for long-term success, and DeBoer knows it.
So how can they fix the issue? The first step is to address it.
“We’ve been a little soft around our own net,” DeBoer said on Wednesday. “The things that jump out at me: soft around the net and penalties. I think we’re starting to clean up the penalty problem, which obviously puts a lot of pressure on the goaltending. And the front of the net stuff is something that we’re talking about and spending time on.”
One issue with the Stars being as tight to the salary cap as they are, is that they have to be smart with how hard they practice.
Dallas only has 12 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies. Because of that, more guys have been taking maintenance days and the team has been forced to hold less physical practices. That makes it really difficult to work on hard defending.
With their current roster situation, most of the improvements will need to come in the video room.
“We look at a lot of video,” DeBoer said. “We were looking at some analytics today on where we’ve given up goals. It’s tough to practice that. We’ve got a 21-man roster and guys banged up. If you’re going to go full contact and net front battles, you’re jeopardizing getting healthy to the next game. I think we’ve got a smart group, we can talk through it and they can fix it.”
Finding a fit on the second Line: Radek Faksa skated in his fourth game as a center on the Stars second line Tuesday night. Faksa is the fifth player to fill in that spot alongside Mason Marchment and Tyler Seguin this season.
Since the change, that trio has accounted for just three points but DeBoer has liked their chemistry and is likely to keep them together on Thursday against Ottawa.
“I like it. I think it’s been a slow build. I thought last night [Tuesday] they might have been our best line,” DeBoer said. “They created a lot of chances, some really good shifts in the offensive zone. They’ve been building it game in and game out. It’s definitely the best solution I’ve seen so far.”
“Tyler needs guys that can get him the puck in certain spots and are willing to go in there and win battles and retrieve pucks.”
Jake Oettinger and Radek Faksa took maintenance days on Wednesday. Oettinger skated before practice and both players are expected to be healthy moving forward.