The Dallas Stars have won 16 of their first 20 games. That's 80 percent, if you're not brainy at math. Mark Stepneski must have had a wonderful time writing his Quarter One report, because it contains more good news than a June Allyson movie.
Where do you start when you're at the top of the league? How about the Stars' 32 points in 20 games, which leaves even Lindy Ruff a little stunned:
"Those points are big. Nobody would have anticipated where we are," Ruff said. "Keeping our feet on the ground and staying motivated for that next game, these guys have done a tremendous job of putting the game away. Win a game, put it away. Even after the losses we've been able to put it away and bounce back with a win. The record we have is a credit to the fact that we didn't lose two in a row, and we bounced right back."
Then there's the Wonder Finns experiment in goal, which has produced benefits both on and off the ice:
"I think what it's done, it's given both goalies an opportunity to get some rest, both goalies to be fresh," Ruff said. "I think there is some healthy competition between the two, but I think it's friendly healthy competition. Those guys like each other. They've been spurring each other on, and I think it's been a great situation so far."
But the Stars themselves are curbing their enthusiasm until they play more games against their divisional opponents: After going 8-14-7 in the Central last year, Jason Spezza knows he and his teammates have to put more MDK in the Murder Death Kill Division:
"We've got a lot of games left against our division, so we don't want to get ahead of ourselves," said Spezza. "We feel like that's the reason we missed the playoffs last year because we didn't win enough games in our division. It's no secret how good our division is, so we're going to have to win a lot of games and we'll just keep plugging along."
There's much more at the Dallas Stars' site. Enjoy the whole thing. [Stars Inside Edge]
Last Night in Murder:
- The Calgary Flames shocked the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 with an OT game-winner by Johnny Gaudreau. [Reuters]
- The Nashville Predators dropped a shutout to the suddenly surging Columbus Blue Jackets, with a final score of 4-0. [FOX 17 Nashville]
If you're making the trip to the AAC, tonight's game is also a chance to get into the spirit of the season. The Stars are trading buy-one-get-one ticket vouchers for gifts of books and toiletries for foster and adoptive children in the DFW area.
Mike Heika says the memories of last year's bitter disappointments have helped fuel the team's big turnaround. [SportsDayDFW]
Sports Illustrated's NHL roundtable discussed the best story of the first 20 games, and Our Gang is at the top of the list. [SI]
Also in SI: Allan Muir has posted his early favorites for the NHL's major postseason awards, and it's like a monolith, because my God, it's full of Stars. [SI]
Dan Rosen studies the successes of the increasingly intimidating goalie platoon of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. [NHL]
And Steve Hunt looks at the emergence of John Kllngberg as a two-way defenseman, from the results of his postsurgical workout routine to the benefits of playing alongside Alex Goligoski. [NHL]
Fox Sports Southwest's Julie Dobbs, familiar to Dallas hockey fans as the sideline reporter for the Stars, has "much to be thankful for" this season, including a new son and a clean bill of health after a battle with aggressive inflammatory breast cancer. [SportsDayDFW]
Meanwhile, the Stars aren't the only team with a red-hot record: The Montreal Canadiens are getting close to matching the best start in their long, storied history.
Carey Price returned to the net last night to help the Habs to another victory, this one over the New York Islanders.
What goal-scoring problem? Kevin Weekes doesn't see the Stars having one, and wonders why everyone else is complaining, in his Friday Four. [NHL]
Speaking of scoring, Winnipeg Jets forward and top 5 NHL points guy Blake Wheeler left the Winnipeg Jets' Friday practice with a possibly "significant" injury after a Dustin Byfuglien shot hit the side of his head. [CBC]
Elsewhere, Columbus Blue Jackets defender Cody Goloubef has a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face during last night's victory over the Nashville Predators. With Fedor Tyutin also leaving the game with an upper-body injury, the Jackets are running on four defenders. [Sportsnet]
Future No. 1 draft pick Auston Matthews, who's missed the past four games for the ZSC Lions with an upper-body injury, could be ready to resume play by Wednesday – and in time to suit up for Team USA in the 2016 U20 World Junior Championships. [Today's Slapshot]
In the late 1990s, southern Saskatchewan was left reeling by revelations that Graham James, former coach of the Swift Current Broncos, had inflicted serial sexual abuse on some of his young players. With the debut of Swift Current – a new documentary by one of James' victims, former NHL forward Sheldon Kennedy – the community sees an opportunity to make changes for the better. [GlobalNews.CA]
Finally: Tyler Seguin has appeared in yet another list...and this time it's People Magazine's "Sexy at Every Age" compendium. As one wag responded, "congrats on being as hot as Ed Sheeran." (Some compliments should just be taken at face value.)