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Search for answers, results continues as Stars fall again

With early pressure -- and losses -- mounting, Dallas vows to take 'playoff mentality' on road

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- There's a great scene in the Progressive Insurance commercial where Flo's sister is on a blind date and the man asks her, "So what do you do for fun?"

As she's looking at her phone, Flo's phlegmatic sibling mutters, "Not this."

Yeah, Stars fans know the feeling.

 

[READ MORE: No home remedy for Stars as power play fizzles in 4-1 loss]

 

Six games into a season that promised feelings of love and security, the folks in Victory Green seem to feel like they're on a blind date. There's some awkward hesitation, some unsure conversation, some real lack of chemistry.

That was never more apparent than Saturday when Dallas went 0-for-6 on the power play and lost a 4-1 game to the Washington Capitals to drop to 1-4-1.

Video: Montgomery says Stars lacked compete on power play

Yeah, we can talk about the fact the Stars had not lost in regulation at home to Washington since 1995 (a stretch of 13-0-4). We can talk about how tough this six-game start has been -- playing five games against teams that were really good last season in St. Louis, Boston, Calgary and Washington twice. We can even talk about a coach's challenge that didn't work out because of an obscure decision on a puck hitting a skate.

But that really only clouds the fact that the Stars are not very good right now.

They are not good, and they don't know why exactly. They are not good, and they don't know exactly how to fix it. They are not good, and they're looking for a way out of this awkward blind date.

The problem is that's where the analogy ends.

They can't just get a ride from a friend. They can't just ask for the check and leave. They have to battle through this relationship and find a way to make it work.

Video: WSH@DAL: Faksa converts on skillful wraparound

"There's no question that there's concern, but we can't worry about what's happened, we've got to worry about what's ahead," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "We've got to rally around each other. Everyone has to look in the mirror and everyone has to be better."

When you get right down to it, the Stars have a lot of the same problems they had last season.

They are starting slowly in games, they are not scoring a ton of goals, they are lacking emotion at times. While the organization added a couple of key players in Joe Pavelski and Andrej Sekera in the off-season, this still is a similar lineup to last season. While the coaching staff has added John Stevens, this still is the same trio of coaches who pushed the Stars through challenges in 2018-19.

So when the same problems creep up, the thinking is they would have the answers.

So far, not so much.

Video: Seguin: Stars taking 'playoff mentality' on road trip

The players have held meetings. The coaches have tried to push buttons at practice, at morning skates, during video sessions. They have addressed the problems, and the problems just stare blankly back.

"Everyone's got to take ownership for the ice time they're getting, the lack of production maybe they're giving, and also the lack of energy and emotion they're giving to the team," Montgomery said.

"As a coaching staff, we've got to look in the mirror and what are we doing wrong that we don't get off to better starts. We've been trying to look at it, and it's just too reminiscent of last year. Probably more like late October, early November. This year, it's happening real early."

On Saturday, Joel Hanley took a four-minute penalty for high-sticking and Tom Wilson scored 3:17 into the game for Washington. Dallas used a coach's challenge to hopefully disallow the goal because of a hand pass (one of the new challenges this season). Officials ruled the hand pass from Wilson deflected off of the skate of Jakub Vrana and then hit the stick of Wilson. Because the puck deflected off a skate, it did not change possession, and thus Wilson was allowed to hit his own hand pass with his own stick to retain possession.

Confusing, right? But, we're dealing with new rules here, so the Stars and the officials had different interpretations of the situation. Also under the new rules, Dallas was called for delay of game and had to go back and kill another penalty.

Video: WSH@DAL: Khudobin stymies Ovechkin from in close

Bottom line, Dallas has give up goals in the first five minutes of a game four times out of six. They are skating in sludge and making bad decisions that make them play from behind.

The Stars caught up emotionally Saturday and forced four penalties from the Capitals in the next 20 minutes. But each time they seemed to be getting some momentum, the power play fizzled. A group loaded with players like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen not only didn't score, they didn't really create a lot of great chances. They finished the night with five shots on goal in 12 minutes of man-advantage time and now sit 1-for-20 on the power play all season.

That's tough for a team that struggles to score goals at even strength.

"No results at the end of the day," said Seguin. "I think we're maybe one for probably 20 so far this year, so that's got to change. With the amount of power plays we usually get, you've got to bury at least one. So that's on us, that's on the big dogs and leaders in here and we've got to find a way to get something going."

So what's the answer? Well, they have to keep digging.

Video: Pavelski says 'time for production' on power play

They head out on a four-game road trip that starts Monday in Buffalo and goes through Columbus, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. They got Jason Dickinson back in the lineup Saturday and he should get better the more he plays. They'll finally get a look at free agent Corey Perry on Friday in Pittsburgh, and that transition could take a little bit of time.

Perry missed much of last season following knee surgery and was bought out by the Ducks in the off-season, allowing him to sign with Dallas. He missed the start of the season with the Stars because he had a fractured bone in his foot.

Getting him up and running will be a process, but one the team feels could be worthwhile if he regains some of the scoring touch that has allowed him to tally 372 goals in 988 career regular season games.

It's a reminder that focus, work and patience could eventually put this team in playoff position later in the year.

But as much as it's nice to look at things through optimistic glasses, the team really can't afford to do that right now. They're not having fun, and that has to drive them to dig deeper.

Video: Condensed Game: Capitals @ Stars

"This is a big road trip for us," Seguin said. "You don't want to say it's a playoff game, but everyone in here, including myself, needs to have a playoff mentality going on this road trip."

Because missing the playoffs just isn't an option for this team, and the Stars have to be able to handle the pressure of where they are right now.

What do Stars fans do for fun?

Not this.

Definitely not this.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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