The Dallas Stars have found their groove, and it’s exemplified by a top line that seems capable of almost anything.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet devoted several of his most recent 31 Thoughts to examining what the team is doing right – including what fans and foes alike may rightly characterize as a “supernova line”:
Watching Dallas put Alexander Radulov with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin against Edmonton was absolutely mesmerizing. They scored a couple of beautiful goals and dominated play.
Don’t know if Ken Hitchcock is going to stick with that, but it shows how the Stars can be a matchup nightmare, with different guys moving throughout the lineup. They are coming on. The shots for and against aren’t much different, but opponents say Dallas plays a “little slower” than 2016-17 and it’s helped. (They allowed 29.74 shots per game then and 29.98 now. But their overall ranking has improved from 12th-best to third-best, with only Boston and Carolina giving up fewer.)
Nill had praise for the stunning season-to-date performance of John Klingberg and credited defensive coach Rick Wilson with helping Klinger unlock a new level:
“[Coach] Rick Wilson deserves a lot of credit for helping John play a more controlled game,” Nill said. “Pick your spot — you’re not going to win the game every shift. Wait for the right time to make that one move you’re going to make. He’s better than he gets credit for. If he played for a Canadian team or a northern U.S. team, more people would know him. He’s a well-rounded player, still scratching the surface. He’s playing, what, 23 minutes now? There’s the potential for more.”
As for prodigal Star Valeri Nichushkin, Nill gives the impression that his return is a matter of when, not if:
...[T]he Stars “plan” on Valeri Nichushkin returning from the KHL next season. “We never looked at what happened as Dallas versus him. He was a young player, growing up and we told him going back might be the best thing for you. He’s played a lot, and might be on their Olympic team. We’ve had conversation and it appears we are heading to a return. He wants to come back.”
There’s much more – including some Dustin Byfuglien speculation – in Friedman’s latest post. [Sportsnet]
The Radu-love is spreading to fantasy leagues as Pete Jensen makes him the poster boy for “trending up” in NHL.com’s Fantasy Top 100 Forwards rankings.
And @DallasStars Twitter puts Klingberg’s NHL defenseman points lead in perspective.
Six points. @johnklingberg has a six-point lead over the 2nd highest scoring defenseman. That six-point gap from Klingberg to 2nd is the same as the gap from 2nd to 14th. #GoStars pic.twitter.com/MG0pktegPA— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 10, 2018
ICYMI, Josh Bogorad has a list of teams who are on bye week with the Stars – the Colorado Avalanche being the only other Central Division squad who’s not out there trying to rack up points even as we speak.
Around the league(s)
#Murder, They Did
Believe it or not, there’s still a lot of hockey being played out there, including in the Dirty Central. Whither the standings?
- Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor each got two goals as the Winnipeg Jets dealt a painful, painful fifth consecutive loss to the Buffalo Sabres, 7-4. [Die By The Blade]
- The Chicago Blackhawks racked up an 8-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators that included a goal for Patrick Sharp and doubles for Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews. [Second City Hockey]
- Vincent Trocheck scored twice and Colton Sceviour grabbed a third-period goal as the Florida Panthers gave the St. Louis Blues a thrashing in Scottrade Center, 7-4. [St. Louis Game Time]
- A 25-save performance from Pekka Rinne led the Nashville Predators to a 2-1 in-before-bye-week home victory over the Edmonton Oilers. [On The Forecheck]
- Mike Smith racked up a .943 SV%, but the Calgary Flames gave the Minnesota Wild a loser point with a 3-2 OT victory. [Matchsticks And Gasoline]
The Preds have extended depth defenders Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber and Anthony Bitetto. Are they blocking prospects or potential trade-deadline upgrades? James O’Brien takes a closer look.
Predators lock down depth defensemen in wave of moves https://t.co/zoZmfPHtgO— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) January 9, 2018
The Avs have gone from last season’s 48-point faceplant to a playoff position at the halfway point in 2017-18. Rory Boylen talked to GM Jared Bednar about what’s different this year.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks and the Jets make a list of five teams whose playoffs fate is still foggy. [The Hockey News]
Also at THN: The Canadian major-juniors went banana-sandwich at the trade deadline, and many transactions involved young stars fresh from the World Juniors. Ryan Kennedy has a rundown.
The major junior trade deadline has been a barnburner. @THNRyanKennedy counts down some of the big names and has some parting thoughts on Casey Mittelstadt's world junior performance https://t.co/pdV6KFvLL4— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) January 10, 2018
Greetings From Scenic Cedar Park and Beautiful Boise
Forward Max French
Dimitri Filipovic sums up The Current Difficulty in the Canadian NHL with a single well-chosen meme. Enjoy.