Dallas Stars Continue To Exceed Expectations


The Dallas Stars’ early season march continued during another successful home stand.

Despite losing on October 10th to a Toronto Maple Leafs team that clearly has their number, the Dallas Stars rebounded nicely in the last two games of their most recent stretch on home ice. Wins over the Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild on November 12th and 14th, respectively, helped vault the Stars to a 14-4-0 record.

What this means is the Stars are tied for the top point total in the entire National Hockey League. They have the most wins in the league. They are second in goal differential at +18. Center Tyler Seguin is tied for first in points. Left winger Jamie Benn is tied for first in goals. The reversal of the Dallas Stars’ fortunes are astonishing, especially when compared to this point last season.

The most important aspect of last week, though, was winning two games against divisional opponents. Beating the Jets and Wild provided a small sample size in proving the Stars can compete with their bunk mates in the NHL Central. This was a severe challenge last year, and they struggled to hold their own. If fact, their paltry 8-14-7 record versus their division directly contributed to the Stars getting shut out of the NHL Stanley Cup tournament for the sixth time in seven years.

While there are a ton of games left to play, an early season showing of this magnitude is reason enough to expect big things from this team. It also must be taken into account that the NHL season is almost at the proverbial opening quarter. In other words, if this was a horse race, the Stars have established a pace blistering enough to even make American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah jealous.

What remains to be seen now is how the Stars handle their current front-runner status. They seem to be able to win a game in any number of ways, and Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Wild was a case in point.

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After skating to a 2-2 regulation tie, the Stars and Wild engaged in what has to be the best change in overtime play in recent NHL history. Teams now skate 3-on-3, which opens up larger sections of the ice surface and creates greater scoring opportunities. This new wrinkle in play is allowing games to mostly steer clear of the gimmicky shootout format, and early returns have provided a lot of back-and-forth that is vastly more enjoyable to watch.

This was in crystal clear focus in the extra period on Saturday, as Stars’ defenseman John Klingberg calmly deposited a crisp Seguin pass into the Minnesota net for the game winner. What’s obvious about the 3-on-3 format – at least for teams like the Stars – is that it favors an aggressive approach. In fact, if a team decides to play the overtime conservatively, it almost certainly means the chances for a win decrease dramatically.

Conversely, if a team employs a smart counterattack, chances of winning increase exponentially. The Stars definitely fall in this category. And when your first options in the overtime period are Benn, Seguin, and Klingberg, the new format is seemingly tailor-made for their style of play.

No Stanley Cups are given for being the champs of October and November.

To be sure, Saturday night’s delirious moment of awesome started when Benn won a battle in the defensive zone and deflected the puck to a transitioning Seguin. As Seguin drifted into the offensive zone, he was joined by Klingberg on the rush. By the time the puck met Klingberg’s stick, a Stars goal was a foregone conclusion. Young Klingberg’s play is even garnering Norris Trophy rumblings from the Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika.

No Stanley Cups are given for being the champs of October and November. But the Stars have served noticed to the rest of the NHL. They’ve become a strong third period team. They’re learning how to win in a multitude of ways. Their defense is vastly improved. And even though their goaltending is middle-of-the-pack, it’s still a lot better than it was in last year’s disastrous campaign.

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What it all means now is that the Stars have built a very sturdy foundation for the remainder of the season. The law of averages dictates that their divisional foes will find their footing and stalk their way back into the race. But if the Stars are one of the true thoroughbreds of the National Hockey League, they’ll be able to show their quality and withstand the onslaught.