Wednesday, November 24 2021

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Sunday night’s 6-3 final loss to the Canucks gave the Stars an opportunity: beat Vancouver to win five of six points on the Canadian road trip, or stay trapped in the mediocre middle with a defeat.

A penalty-riddled and defensively loose performance ensured the Stars would still be stuck in neutral, unable to find their game consistently and looking for their first full game nearly a month into the season.

“We’re not even close to being the Dallas Stars we need to be,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “We’re trying to play run and gun, that’s what it looks like.”

Anton Khudobin scored five goals as Vancouver scored three times on the power play, a unit that came in scoreless Sunday night in its last 17 tries. Roope Hintz remained in his prolonged slump despite more dangerous opportunities on Sunday.

Jamie Benn scored for the third game in a row as Joe Pavelski and Luke Glendening also added goals. The Stars (4-5-2) will play nine of their next 11 games at the American Airlines Center after opening the season with eight of the top 11 on the road.

But, the change of scenery will mean nothing if the Stars continue their inconsistent and uneven playing model. The fact that the Stars have even 10 points so far is puzzling given their rank in several NHL categories. Consider these:

– Dallas does not have a regulation victory this season having already covered an eighth on the calendar. It’s the only NHL team that doesn’t.

–Dallas have spent 85.2% of their games tied or lagging behind, which is the third-highest rate in the league. The only two teams with higher rates reside in the Central Division basement: Arizona (92.3%) and Chicago (85.3%).

– The Stars haven’t had a two-goal lead since October 14: the first game of the season. Since Dallas led 2-0 in New York 26 minutes into the season, they haven’t opened up a two-goal lead.

– The Stars have scored 12 5-5 goals, the fewest in the NHL. Last year they placed 24th. In 2019-2020, they were 30th.

– The Stars led a game after two periods, the least in the league. They lost this game in overtime.

“It’s not good,” Pavelski said of the Stars’ lack of regulatory wins. “It’s crazy to think that. So, it’s on all of us. We have to find a way to be better. We have to win a 1-0 game, a 2-1 game. We need that mentality.

“Sometimes we can be a little more patient. Whatever the reason, there are nights when it seems like you’re probably trying to do too much. We really need to re-establish ourselves in our team game and work together. “

Sunday’s performance in Vancouver – in front of owner Tom Gaglardi – wasn’t even close to what the Stars have looked like in recent years. There were defensive zone ruptures. There were weird rushes allowed. There were turnovers that led to goals.

The team that prided itself on locking down matches and crushing teams? It wasn’t at Rogers Arena.

“We are fighting,” Bowness said. “When you do these things you just fight and make it easy for the opposition, and that’s what we’ve done tonight in a lot of ways. And we will fix it.

The longer the Stars go without a regulatory victory, the more concern grows about a viable team in Dallas. In the first 11 games, the Stars have arguably been the better team twice, maybe three times, nowhere near what a veteran team feels they should be. The longer the slide, the faster the decisions.

The organization is in the final season of a window which includes Bowness, Pavelski, John Klingberg and Alexander Radulov. The team will have decisions to make behind the bench. The team will have to make choices around the trade deadline. And the current trajectory of the Stars does little to erase either scenario.

“Obviously we’re all very disappointed,” said defenseman Ryan Suter. “We show glimpses of being good. We haven’t put together a complete game. I have the impression that our team game, 5 against 5, is improving. I think over the season here we’ve improved a bit. It’s such a long year, but we have to get there sooner rather than later here.

There are still 71 games left on the calendar. It’s time for the Stars to find something to lean on that isn’t Braden Holtby’s goalie or some hot power play. Because they play so many close games, the Stars have shown the propensity for wild jumps in results over the past few years, and they are looking for the next jump on the upside.

He just didn’t come to Vancouver.

“We’re going to have to fix the shortage,” Bowness said. “We’re going to have to correct the discipline. And we’re going to have to correct the consistency with which we play the game.

“We’re just going to have to get their attention and get them back into buying. If they don’t buy, they shouldn’t play.”

Find more coverage of the Dallas Morning News Stars here.


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