Can Defense Win a Championship for the Dallas Stars?

The Dallas Stars lack a high-powered offense, but their standing in the Western Conference suggests that their defense is championship caliber.

This weekend provided an apt microcosm for the Dallas Stars’ season. There was an agonizing defeat at home on Friday night in which they lost to the mediocre Minnesota Wild with less than a minute left in regulation. But then they rebounded on the second night of a back-to-back with a thrilling overtime win in St. Louis against the defending champion Blues. If you like a pit in your gut on a regular basis, then the Dallas Stars are your team!

To be fair, though, these are the dog days of the NHL schedule. The intensity simply waxes and wanes depending on any number of factors. In fact, the Stars generally played well enough to win on Friday. But they made a few mistakes, and then those errors ended up in their own net. It’s not fun to watch, but things like that happen. But when you’re watching the standings and the scoreboards on a given night, you understand that the margin for error is almost nonexistent.

Above and beyond that, however, is the bottom line, and that is where the Stars are making their hay. I’ve moaned in this space before about how their lack of scoring is troublesome, and that is true. But consider this: the Stars are third in both the Central Division and the Western Conference despite being a bottom-six offense in terms of goals allowed. You don’t get there by accident at this point of a campaign by accident.

Further, when you take the top three squads in the East, the Stars are easily the lowest scoring team of the top six seeds in the entire NHL. It’s not even close. They’re not going to become this high-flying offense overnight, if ever, so it’s time to accept them for what they are, and that is an elite defensive team that can absolutely contend for a Stanley Cup.

This came into focus on Saturday night against the Blues. The Stars powered back from their customary early deficit to win on an overtime goal by forward Roope Hintz. Forget that they again spotted a lead to their opponent. That’s just par for the course with this year’s bunch. It was the way they stalked their way back into the game that was most encouraging. Captain Jamie Benn got them on the board late in the first period with a cheeky power play tally. From there, the sparkling goaltending–this time by nominal backup Anton Khudobin–kept them in the contest. In all actuality, the Stars severely outplayed the Blues over the last two periods. The tally by Hintz was simply the reward for the Stars’ hard work.

At the end of the day, Dallas doesn’t score a lot, but they score enough, and that’s all you want. They’re never going to be the Colorado Avalanche or any of the top-scoring teams in the East. They’ve tried that before to mixed results, at best, but they’re going to ride or die with two of the top-ten goalies in the league. If you watch this team with any regularity, then you know that this isn’t a bad thing. Ben Bishop and the aforementioned Khudobin are luxuries of the highest order.

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So strap in for the final third of the season. We have a few weeks before the calendar flips to March and the real push for the playoffs begins. Sure, the Dallas Stars may frustrate with a bewildering loss here and there. But when they can mount an effort like they did on Saturday in St. Louis, then you know anything’s possible, and that’s a good thing once the tournament rolls around.

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