The Dallas Stars are off to a solid start to the season, but they know there’s plenty of room for improvement as they get set to host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
The Stars are 4-1-1 after suffering their first regulation loss of the season, 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. Slow starts have been an issue for Dallas, which has yet to hold a lead after the first period and has scored only two goals in the opening frame — both coming in the same game.
They’ve also struggled on the power play, with just two goals on 18 opportunities and a measly 11.1 percent success rate that ranked among the bottom four in the NHL.
“We’re just not executing,” Matt Duchene said. “We’re either not breaking in, or when we’re breaking in, we’re not making that second or third play to get set up. When we get set up, we’re dangerous, but we’re not getting set up enough.”
It’s been an equally slow start for Duchene. The center, who signed as a free agent with Dallas after being bought out by the Nashville Predators, has just two assists through six games. But while the offensive numbers aren’t there, coach Pete DeBoer isn’t worried.
“He’s been way better than his stat line says,” DeBoer said. “If you’re looking at the stat line, I think you’re making a mistake. I’m very happy with his play. I think he’s been as advertised. He’s an elite centerman that can drive a line. He’s got great skill, he’s been great in our room. He’s fit in really well.”
The Blue Jackets arrive in Dallas looking to get back on track after a 2-0 setback against the New York Islanders on Saturday. The loss ended Columbus’ four-game point streak, in which they won the first two games before dropping the next two in overtime.
The team has pumped 190 shots on goal over its past five games, including 54 in a win against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 21. They’ve surpassed 30 shots in four of those contests and had 29 in the other.
“We’re in a better spot as a team right now than last season, so I’d say personally I’d rather be in this position,” Johnny Gaudreau said. “We’re getting looks. We’re getting chances. It’s just not going in right now.”
Coach Pascal Vincent likes that his squad is getting shots on goal but would like to see his team make better decisions on the attack.
“We’re shooting from bad angles at times,” Vincent said after the loss to the Islanders. “We want to create some O-zone (time), we want to have a shooting mindset, but there’s lots of things we can improve, defensively but also offensively. … I thought we didn’t select the right plays offensively. Makes the goalie look good, but he played well, really well.”
After being held off the scoresheet through his first four games of the season, forward Emil Bemstrom has started to find the back of the net, scoring three goals in the past three games.