Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 10/14/11
One reason the Dallas Stars were even in position to make their 2011 season finale matter at Minnesota back in mid-April was because of the solid start the 2010-11 club got off to last year under Marc Crawford. Last year's team came out of the gate swinging and even at one point had spent over 70 days atop the Pacific Division standings. Those points in the bank proved invaluable as the Stars staggered down the stretch in the wake of fatigued and injured players. Fast forward to this year, the first under new Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan and while the sample size thus far is very small, four games to be exact, Dallas is off to a 3-1-0 start. They are currently 2-0 on their current homestand and will look to make it 3-for-3 on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the American Airlines Center. Gully is happy to have 6 of a possible 8 points from his club's first 4 games but admits there is plenty of room for improvement. "Whenever you go through a season you're going to have games you should have won and didn't and you're going to have games that you shouldn't have won and did. Right now, we're going through maybe the games we shouldn't have won and did," Gulutzan said. "The hockey gods watch these things pretty closely, so we're going to have to pull up our socks right away. We'll take the three wins here at home because we need those points but our game's still evolving." His players, especially the ones who have been in Dallas for the last few seasons, completely agree that getting the season off to a favorable start is key. "These games in October are just as big as the ones in March. We need all the points we can get," winger Jamie Benn said. "We want to get those points early. We did have a pretty good start last year. We want to do the same this year and continue it for all 82 games." Alex Goligoski hasn't only been with the Stars since February after coming over from the Penguins just before the trade deadline but he's played in the NHL long enough to know banking points early in the season whenever possible is never a bad thing. "It's big. It's no fun trying to dig out of a hole no matter what you're doing," Goligoski said. "Gully always like to say you've got to put yourself into position to get points every night and it's so true. You look at the end of the year and the way our year ended. It always comes down to the final game. There are teams tied at the end of the year. You look back and think if we'd only had that overtime game and things like that. It's big to get off to a good start." On Monday, the Stars beat Phoenix 2-1 in a shootout in a win that can best be described as gritty. With the visitors leading 1-0 late, Dallas got a goal late in the third to force overtime and in the shootout, Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was stellar, stopping two of the three shots he faced as Mike Ribeiro's goal in Dallas' third attempt was the deciding blow. And in Thursday's 3-2 win over the Blues, the Stars led 3-0 in the second period before St. Louis scored two unanswered in an outcome that was never certain until the final horn sounded at the AAC. Their head coach was happy to get the two points but also acknowledged afterwards that almost blowing a three-goal lead is never a good thing. "Don't turn over the puck is one way we can cure that," Gulutzan said. "We keep wanting to force the issue. I think the team needs to truly believe they're a good team. I think they need to believe that hey three goals is probably enough to win if you're playing a certain way not that we're going to back off, play a trap or anything like that. But if you play simple, keep putting pucks behind the D, keep slashing and keep putting pucks on net, if you play that way for 60 minutes, you're hard to play against and you have an identity. We don't. That is a habit and that is a mindset that needs to be changed with this hockey club." But that's not the only area where he wants to see some changes. "We need to start winning some more battles," Gulutzan said. "We need to win some more face-offs. We're always starting 180 feet from the goal so they might as well spot it to the other end and start on a breakout but we need to do that a little better. We need to shoot more. We're going to try to shoot more and get set up. It's going to come. We're a work in progress." Something else he'd like to see right itself is the fact that his club seems to play differently depending on if the game is tied, if they're trailing or if they're ahead. "It seems like we change the way we play. Whether we get up or down, then we'll change the way we're approaching the game," Gulutzan said. "Good teams don't do that. They just play the same way for 60 minutes. We're not there yet." Still, a 3-1-0 start for the Stars, especially in what some, including many national media, see as a rebuilding year, is a solid way to begin the season. Hopefully Dallas can log win number four on the young season Saturday night, which should give them some confidence heading into next week's road games at Columbus and on the West Coast.
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