No doubt about it, the Dallas Stars under new coach Glen Gulutzan are in the conversation for the most pleasant of surprises in the NHL, right up there with Edmonton.
With an 8-3 start under their belts, the Stars will start the month of November in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division and a share of the top spot with Edmonton and Chicago. That start represents a +4 improvement in points over last October when the Stars finished the first month of the season with a decent 6-4 mark, but went 2-4 in their final six games of the month after starting 4-0.
From a goal differential standpoint, it's a wash as the Stars were a +5 after last October and they're a +5 this past October. However last season, they scored 32 goals and gave up 27 in 10 games last year. This year, it's 28 goals for and 23 against.
Last season, the Stars couldn't sustain that torrid pace on offense and it eventually caught up with them. This year, the Stars have embraced Gully's system that preaches more two-way play. Something that should be more sustainable as the season moves along.
After the jump, I'll break down some more metrics and miscellaneous stats comparing this past October with October 2010.
1 - The number of times the Stars have scored a goal and then surrendered one within two minutes. The lone occurrence in October came against the Blues when Brenden Morrow scored at the 14:21 mark of the second period to give the Stars a 3-0 lead. Exactly 20 seconds later, Matt D'agostino got St. Louis on the board.
Which is impressive when you consider the number of times that occurred last October. Which was...
3 - Twice against the Islanders in the second game of the year and once against Tampa Bay nine days later. Doug Weight of the Islanders answered a Morrow goal in 1:49 in the first period, then Brenden Comeau accomplished the same feat after another Morrow goal, this time in 1:33. Then Steve Downie of the Lightning scored 1:17 after Toby Petersen scored a short handed goal to open the scoring the first period.
4.498 / 5.428 - The Stars PPGF/60 - PPGA/60 splits for the first month of the year. Sure, you'd like to see this in positive territory. And part of this is due to the fact the Stars' penalty killing unit has given up PPGA's in 7 of their 11 October games.
But I wouldn't be too overly concerned with this for a couple of reasons. For one, consider what the Stars ESGF/60 - ESGA/60 splits look like...
2.168 / 1.825 - To be sure, the splits after October last year looked a little better (2.944 / 2.649). But as you can see, the Stars gave up more ESGA/60 last October than they did this October. Not surprisingly, that trend continued in the penalty killing last year to the tune of...
5.263 / 11.551 - I mentioned a few points above that the Stars have given up power play goals against in 7 of their 11 games this year. Last year, they gave up Power Play goals against in 7 of their 10 October games.
So why the huge descrepancy? Against the Islanders, they surrendered 3 PPGA. They followed that dismal penalty killing effort with 4 PPGA at Tampa Bay.
Thus far this year, the Stars have yet to surrender multiple power play goals against in a game. Forgive the baseball analogy (because yes, it still hurts, Norm), but if you look at the ledger through the first 11 games, it reads an awul lot like the ledger of a pitcher who scattered 7 hits in an outing, but never got tagged by the big inning.
As for a few more miscellaneous stats...
42 - The number of hits Steve Ott has this season. That figure leads the Stars.
25 - The number of blocked shots Nik Grossman has been credited with. Despite missing the first three games, that number qualifies Grossman for the team lead.
.5833 - Jamie Benn's faceoff win percentage, best on the Stars. If you don't count Brenden Morrow's .6667 win percentage. Which I'm doing simply because the captain's only taken 6 draws, versus the 84 draws that Benn has taken.
And speaking of Benn, again...
3.1356 - Jamie Benn's overall P/60. Yeah, he's a good good.
6 - The number of goals Loui Eriksson scored in October, good for the team lead. He's also a good good.