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Shooting (and Scoring) Stars

A three-game winning streak is starting to wash away the taste of the season’s first week. Why are the Dallas Stars suddenly winning, and is it sustainable?

NHL: Dallas Stars at Arizona Coyotes
Tyler Seguin likes scoring goals.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

This’ll be a short one. It’s the end of the week, after all. That said, the Dallas Stars roll into the weekend on the back of three straight wins. It feels like time to celebrate, at least a little bit, and to look at a couple of trends that might explain the sudden up-tick in fortunes.

Secondary Scoring

Countering an apparently site-wide theme (Robert is worried about Antoine Roussel, David challenged the wingers to produce, and I drudged up memories of the AHL in 2014), the Stars seem to be rounding out offensively. Through the first four games of the season, Dallas could boast five individual goal-scorers. Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg led the way with a pair each, while Martin Hanzal, Mattias Janmark, and Jamie Benn had each managed a single tally (though Hanzal’s was of the ENG variety). That’s a short, top-heavy list, and the lack of secondary scoring was a source of early concern.

Skip to the present, and things look much brighter. Seguin (3 goals) cares not for such mundane concepts as save percentage, and Benn (2 goals) is goal-woke. More importantly, they’ve been joined by Radek Faksa (2 goals), Esa Lindell, Alexander Radulov, Dan Hamhuis, and Stephen Johns (1 goal apiece) at the weekly Rubber Abuse focus group. Though they’ve not tallied directly, Devin Shore and Tyler Pitlick have added a pair of assists each to the cause.

To summarize, the Stars’ best offensive players are scoring a lot, and they are getting support elsewhere in the lineup. That’s sustainable hockey, folks!

Ben Bishop

Also helping is the fact that the Stars’ big offseason goaltending splurge appears to be paying early dividends. A puck to the face likely cost Ben Bishop a win in his debut (he’d made 19 saves on 19 shots by that point), but since returning to the lineup, he’s been stellar (pun intended).

Four wins in six games is nice, as is a .929 Sv% / 1.93 GAA split. It’s also impossible not to give Bishop at least a little credit for the so-far fantastic PK (88.9% / 3rd in the league as of writing). More than that, it’s the saves he’s making. From finishing flurries like Detroit to long stretches of inactivity (Arizona the first) to crazy road weirdness (Arizona redux), the large netminder has done the job.

His performance begs the question: how good can this Stars team be when they only need to score twice to win?

Quality of Competition

Finally, let’s take an honest moment. The Stars have not, exactly, faced a murderers row to start the season. By points percentage, they’ve lost to a pair of top-10 teams in the St. Louis Blues (.750 / 6th), and take a deep breath, the Vegas Golden Knights (.833 / 4th). Their third loss also came within the league’s top 15 (Nashville sits 11th with a .643 P%). Those are, based on what we know so far, sort of good teams, and the Stars have lost to them. There are worse things.

Meanwhile, they’ve bettered the league’s lone winless squad twice as well as the disjointed Colorado Avalanche. The Arizona Coyotes (two of the Stars’ wins) sit dead last in the league with a .071 P%, while Colorado is 22nd at .500. The Detroit Red Wings would represent the “best” team Dallas has defeated, but even then they’re the definition of middle-of-the-pack (.571 / 16th).

It’s still early, so take those percentages with a massive grain of salt. Also, as the saying goes, you play the team in front of you. Ugly goals and ugly wins are still beautiful, and the Stars, after an early stumble, have begun to take care of business. Saturday’s showdown with Carolina could be very instructive, but for now, points are flowing.