Last week the Dallas Stars took six of six possible points in three games. After dominating a young Edmonton Oilers team, the team pounded the Tampa Bay Lightning into submission and beat a feisty Florida Panthers team. Jamie Benn hasn't failed to score this year and Jason Spezza has scored from some funny places. Also, Tyler Seguin is awesome.
But the National Hockey League doesn't care about last week, and another challenge waits behind every door. This week, the Stars will wrap up a four-game Eastern Conference trip, then Saturday begin a four-game home stand. Let's dive in.
Tuesday 10/20/15 - Dallas Stars @ Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers will host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, looking to build some momentum after blanking the Chicago Blackhawks last week 3-0. Philadelphia will be coming off of a six-day hiatus and should be well rested for their clash with the Stars.
Brayden Schenn and Matt Read lead the team with two goals a piece. Philly has not scored more than three goals in any one game, but they have pitched two consecutive shutouts to the Blackhawks and the Panthers. It is hard to get a read on the root of the defensive success they have enjoyed, but Michal Neuvirth has sparkled sporting a 0.964 save percentage in almost three games played (173 minutes).
Of course, the stars of the show in Philly are Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. Neither has had a breakout game to date, but they are dangerous players expected to compete for a scoring title. Voracek in particular had a fantastic season last year scoring 22 goals and 59 assists.
The Wells Fargo Center is never an easy place to play for anyone, and the Flyers love to grind on teams on their home ice. When the Stars played the Flyers last year, both were very physical games and played very fast. Expect nothing less from the men in orange this year.
The key for the Stars is going to be controlling the middle of the ice on defense. Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds traditionally makes a living in front of the net, and Giroux is a menace between the circles. Forcing long distance shots and controlling the sticks of the net-front forwards will be the key to playing spoiler on the road. Neuvirth has been spectacular this year, so expect a close and physical low-scoring game.
Player to Watch: Jakub Voracek No. 93. One assist and a team leading 16 shots on goal this year for Voracek. He will continue to unload the clip, and the Stars better bring their body armor to keep him off the score sheet.
Thursday 10/22/15 - Dallas Stars @ Pittsburgh Penguins
Ah, the first rematch of the year. Remember all the way back on opening night when the Stars and Antti Niemi shut out the Penguins 3-0? Yeah. So do the Penguins.
Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin were stymied by Niemi on multiple scoring chances, and Sidney Crosby did not attempt a shot. It was nearly a perfect game by Dallas in front of a hungry crowd, but don't expect the Penguins to forget that abysmal start to their season.
The Pens started out 0-3-0, but have won their last two games against the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. The offense hasn't come in the bushels the pundits expected, but all signs point to a team starting to figure each other out.
The pleasant surprise for Penguins' fans has been the performance of the defense. This appeared to be a team that would need to win 7-5 every night, but the defense has held its own through five games giving up nine goals.
The game plan will probably look the same as opening night for Dallas. The Stars need to win board battles and stay out of the box. Opening night was fun, but the Pens will be looking to exact revenge. Crisp zone exits will be the backbone to the Stars transition game. This one should be good, and the Stars will need to bring their best effort. This is the last game in a four-game trip, and the team will be looking to fly back home on a good note.
Player to Watch: Patric Hornqvist No. 72. He is a traditional Stars-killer and a perpetual annoyance.
Saturday 10/24/15 - Florida Panthers @ Dallas Stars
The Stars will begin a four-game home stand Saturday when they face another familiar opponent, the Florida Panthers.
Dallas and Florida will play each other exactly seven days apart and will wrap up their season series. It was an odd game last Saturday, but the Stars prevailed 4-2 by exerting their offense prowess on the young Panthers.
Early in the game, the pace favored the Panthers. It was a start and stop, slow night at the arena for 30 minutes. Florida asphyxiated the Stars offensive play and were able to force the Stars into a boring game. Obviously, the Stars eventually woke up and cranked the pace.
If you are Gerard Gallant, the coach of the Florida Panthers, you show the team the first thirty minutes of film and say, "do this for 60 minutes". Easier said than done against this Dallas team, but it will be required if the Panthers want to stick around.
The Stars will be favored to win this game, but we saw what this team looks like when a team is able to hold them down. Will the Stars push the flow of the game, or will the Panthers grind things to a halt? The answer to this question will decide the outcome of the rematch.
Player to Watch: Nick Bjugstad No. 27. Such skill, very dangles, wow.
The Stars took care of business last week and looked especially good against the Eastern Conference favorite Tampa Bay Lightning. They will look to continue their early season roll this week. It's early, but this team seems to have jelled much faster than last year's squad.
This week, pay particular attention to Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya. Sharp in particular has been slow to the scoresheet, but both former Blackhawks have been a real pleasure to watch. They are both very technical players, and have been better than advertised in their own end. Loose pucks, odd man rush defending, winning board battles, these guys have done it all for Dallas. Personally, I am so happy to have these guys wearing victory green. The stats don't always paint the picture, and they certainly haven't with these two.