For stretches of time, the Dallas Stars have lost portions of a lot of games this year. But what has made this team different from years past is their ability to grind out victories when the ice is tilted against them. This team looks very good right now.
Valeri Nichushkin got off the schneid Sunday in Detroit and has continued to improve every game. His play early in the season looked uncomfortable and slow at times, but that is a far cry from where his game is now. Continuing to dominate possession, the young Russian is growing up fast.
This week will be intriguing from a few standpoints. The Stars welcome to Dallas the team that humiliated them in Toronto seven days ago (though we shouldn't forget that silly shot advantage and voodoo goaltending) and two familiar division opponents. Let's dive in.
Tuesday 11/10/15 - Toronto Maple Leafs @ Dallas Stars
Seven days ago, the Dallas Stars rolled into Toronto with a three-game winning streak. They left the Air Canada Center with their tail between their legs after a 4-1 beating.
Tomorrow, the Stars will have a chance for vengeance in their barn. The Maple Leafs have lost three games in a row after their victory over Dallas last week, and the Stars will look to keep the Leafs reeling.
The star of the show in Toronto was goalie James Reimer. He had 43 saves and generally broke hearts all night. The loss was disappointing for the Stars, but they would probably like to play a similar game tomorrow night. Dallas showed that they are capable of dominating the Leafs in open play, they will just need to capitalize on a few chances that were left wanting last week.
Player to Watch: Nazem Kadri No. 43. Kadri "drew" some calls last week much to the chagrin of the Stars and their fans. He is a crafty player and it wasn't his first time to draw such calls. Dallas will need to keep good stick discipline when chasing number 43.
Thursday 11/12/15 - Winnipeg Jets @ Dallas Stars
The Jets are currently hanging on to a playoff spot, though that could change by Thursday. The good news for Winnipeg is they have had an excellent start to the season, good for second place in the Pacific Division. The bad news for Winnipeg is they play in the MDK Central Division.
Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson have been good for the Jets (0.922 SV%). No one will accuse them of being dominant on defense, but the Jets have played acceptable team defense so far this season.
Winnipeg plays a very heavy game. They like to dump and chase, then inflict pain on the forecheck. For the Stars to win an important game inside the division, they will need poise on the back end. It is going to be a three-hour trip to the grindstone and the ability to be patient and fundamentally sound will determine Dallas' fate against the Jets.
Player to Watch: Dustin Byfuglien No. 33. The heaviest of the heavy. Byufglien is a terrifying player to face given his offensive ability and tendency to bring the wood. He will provide a great test to the Stars' ability to stand in and trade.
Saturday 11/14/15 - Minnesota Wild @ Dallas Stars
Jamie Benn bobblehead night! I wish I lived in Dallas so I could go to this game to get one.
Oh, yes. The Minnesota Wild are coming to the American Airlines Center. The Wild are a playoff team in all likelihood, and the Stars have a chance to beat back a team that will contend with them all season.
The calling card in Minnesota is defense. When you put competent goaltending behind defensive commitment, the outcome is a solid hockey team. Devan Dubnyk struggled in net out of the gate but has been playing better lately. Darcy Kuemper is the backup goalie, and he has not looked good in his 2 appearances this season (0.891 SV%).
The Wild know who they are. Ryan Suter plays almost 27 minutes per night. Looking up and down the defensive roster for Minnesota you are quickly reminded of why this team will be dangerous in April/May. Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella? That is an impressive blueline. They tow the rope every night and it can be quite challenging for teams to break them down.
Player to Watch: Jason Zucker No. 16. The 23 year-old American scored 21 goals last season in his breakout campaign. He provides a lovely bit of skill to an otherwise defensively oriented roster.
A revenge game to go with two important division clashes? Looks like fun.