For today, at least, the Dallas Stars are No. 1 with a bullet. Mike Heika got plenty of questions in his traditional Monday chat, and many centered on whether the future looks as bright as the past 19 games have been.
Question: Who is a team the Stars need to look out for in the Central?
Heika: Minnesota looked really good on Saturday. They are legit. I think the Blues, Blackhawks and Predators also will be tough. It's going to be a dogfight. I think the Blackhawks could be the team to make a heavy push at the end, because they have handled Stanley Cup hangover and the Duncan Keith injury very well.
He also addressed the question of whether this stretch of great hockey will allow Our Gang to coast the rest of the way to the postseason. (Spoiler: No. No, it will not.)
Question: If Dallas plays .500 the rest of the way, will it make the playoffs?
Heika: No, I think they would hit about 92 points, and that's not enough. They need to get 100 to be safe. The cutoff last year was 97.
And he shares an insider's take on what has made this team so good so far. (Spoiler: This bit may actually be sustainable.)
Question: What's your favorite part about this team?
Heika: Right now, the ability to transfer ideas to the ice. It's a difficult thing to do in pro sports, but they have been great so far in executing their plans.
Before we proceed to the Capitals step of the Stars' current road trip, let's enjoy a flashback to Tuesday in Buffalo, with Antoine Roussel on Arena Cam.
In last night's episode of Homicide: Life in the Central Division...
- The Winnipeg Jets snapped out of their six-game tailspin with a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. [Arctic Ice Hockey]
- The Chicago Blackhawks started their road trip with a 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers. [NBC Chicago]
Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals beat the Detroit Red Wings in overtime. Braden Holtby is good at goalie-ing.
The Caps have also reunited Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on their top line. Maybe now the Great 8, scoreless for the past four games, will notch the history-maker that puts him past Sergei Fedorov as the highest-scoring Russian in NHL history. [Washington Post]
The Stars are fun to watch even in practice. Here is a video of Kari Lehtonen deking a tennis ball past international good sport Tyler Seguin.
As it turns out, Segs used to play in net during roller hockey as a kid, and he was "pretty confident in there" until the Big Finn dangled him. [SportsDayDFW]
Were you impressed by the play of Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark on Tuesday? He's one of a handful of NHL backup netminders – among them former Star Jhonas Enroth – who are trying to make a name for themselves while more established starters are injured. [Sports Illustrated]
Speaking of the Sabres, their star left wing Evander Kane – who's been out for 10 games with an MCL sprain – plans to be back on the ice against the St. Louis Blues tonight. [Buffalo News]
As to Maatta's condition, he was released from the hospital yesterday but is expected to miss the next three to four weeks of play. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
It's official: The All-Star Game will be all 3-on-3, all the time.
And with that out in the open, Scott Lewis projects each division's 3-on-3 teams. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg make it as Central Division shoo-ins, with Patrick Sharp listed among "others to consider." [Sportsnet]
You'll find some familiar names in NHL.com's All-Star divisional projections, too. [NHL]
Meanwhile, @DallasStars are like this...
the all-star game oughta be fun https://t.co/7F9NjZE6yl— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) November 19, 2015
...even as Pat Iversen requests a moment of silence for the death of the All-Star draft. [SB Nation]
New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic asked to be traded to a Western Conference team before the season started, due to family concerns. One hang-up: The team is looking for a comparable player in return. [CBS Sports]
Hamonic loves the Isles. This is personal. Wpg, Edmtn, Cgy and Van all preferred. Might expand to other west cities. Tough on Isles....— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) November 18, 2015
When Lou Lamoriello takes charge of a team, he doesn't kid around. Jonas Siegel documents the changes in culture – from game-night presentations to personal grooming to the status of injured players – since the storied GM has joined the Toronto Maple Leafs. [TSN]
Sad news: Bert Olmstead, a Hockey Hall of Famer who won five Stanley Cups (four with the Montreal Canadiens), has passed away at age 89. [USA Today]
Accelerate to attack speed! Helmets are set for Star Wars Night this Saturday. pic.twitter.com/usBWZPAuHt— Omaha Lancers (@OmahaLancers) November 18, 2015