Stars headed in right direction despite their record

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 10: Martin Frk
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 10: Martin Frk /

You wouldn’t know it by simply looking at their 2-3 record, but the Dallas Stars look like  a completely different team. This is a good thing.

I have to admit, I carried some unrealistic expectations for the Dallas Stars heading into this season. So when they promptly rolled out to an 0-2 start, a bit of exasperation set in. The eyeball test indicated a team that dominated large stretches of games. However, they didn’t have a win to show for it.

Of course, that has changed. The Stars have won two of their last three games. While the 2-3 record isn’t glamorous by any stretch, a deeper look shows that this bunch is showing some signs of jelling under new bench boss, Ken Hitchcock. This was especially on display during Saturday night’s high octane thriller versus Colorado.

From a fan’s perspective, you couldn’t have asked for much more. Captain Jamie Benn had a goal and an assist. Center Tyler Seguin also chipped in with a goal and a helper as well. But the major surprise in this game came when Seguin dropped the gloves against former teammate Patrick Nemeth in the third period. Granted, it wasn’t the most convincing hockey fight you’ve ever seen, but all credit is due. The bench was fired up. The crowd went wild. The tone was set.

By the way, for the uninitiated, what made Seguin’s night all the more noteworthy was his first career ‘Gordie Howe Hat Trick’. This means he had a goal, an assist, and a fight. If you’ve followed his career, you know he scores goals and assists in buckets. The fight, though, was a first. So I’ll forgive him if it wasn’t an all-out brawl. He gets an “A” for effort even if it never happens again.

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The more encouraging aspect of Seguin’s newfound chippy game is how it’s symptomatic of a Ken Hitchcock-coached team. This squad has always played fast. But now, even though it’s very early, they’re playing with a bit more snarl, a bit angrier. You can already see how Hitchcock’s system is rubbing off on his top two forwards. This can only benefit them down the line. When your top players buy in and play a fast, two-way, two-hundred-foot game, the rest of the team has no choice but to do the same.

I was initially concerned when Hitchcock was named the head coach. It had nothing to do with him, though.

What worried me was how Seguin would respond. He can come off as a little too-cool-for-school, and it made me wonder how player and coach would meld. Thus far, the results are very encouraging. If Tyler Seguin goes all-in, the sky’s the limit for this team, and they can contend for a Stanley Cup as early as this season.

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The simple fact of the matter is the Stars weren’t far off. They just needed a bit more structure and some backbone on defense. They’re getting both under Hitchcock. Also, goalie Ben Bishop’s contributions in net can’t be overlooked. It’s been a while since the Stars could count on getting “that save” on a night-to-night basis. Judging by Saturday night’s performance, the goaltending situation has improved by an order of magnitude.

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Of course, we can’t go and anoint them yet. The record obviously needs to improve. But the egregious lapses on defense and shoddy goalkeeping don’t appear to be the roadblocks this year that they have been in past iterations of Dallas Stars’ hockey. I would honestly be shocked if this year’s team doesn’t find their stride an make a serious push for the NHL Central Division title.