Dallas Stars season preview: They must defend this house

Kari Lehtonen needs to rebound from a difficult year in net if the Stars hope to make the playoffs.  

Jerome Miron/Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Plus: The Stars had a fantastic offense last year and they might be better scoring-wise this season. Tyler Seguin will be ready to go once again, and Jamie Benn should be healthier than he was last year, when he led the league in scoring despite requiring hip surgery after the season. The defense received a significant upgrade when former Blackhawk Johnny Oduya chose to sign with the Stars in free agency, a sign he believes the team could be of championship caliber.

Minus: Defense likely kept the Stars out of the playoffs last year. Dallas should be improved in its own zone because the Stars clearly realized the importance of defense given the focus on upgrading the personnel in the offseason, but the results haven’t been there in the preseason. Dallas allowed 20 goals through its first five preseason games, which, quite frankly, is a terrible showing for a team that says it’s making defense a priority. The Stars have two No. 1 goalies in Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, but neither have played like starters in the preseason so there is still a lot of work to do on the back end.

X-Factor: Kari Lehtonen/Antti Niemi

As Lehtonen and Niemi project to be a tandem in net for the Stars, they also seem to be the biggest difference-maker for this team. Dallas is set on offense, but if the Stars give up as many goals as they score, it will all be for naught. Lehtonen had a down year last season, and Niemi is capable of being a strong goaltender, but they both need to realize their potential in net for the Stars to succeed.

Prediction: Dallas has no room for error on defense since it plays in one of the toughest divisions in the league. If the Stars figure out how to improve in their own zone, they should make the playoffs and could challenge for the third spot in the Central, but given that four of the Central’s seven teams finished with at least 100 points last season, the Stars will miss the playoffs if they don’t improve drastically on D.