The Dallas Stars played twice this past week before heading out on their road trip, and did the double with victories over the Los Angeles Kings (4-2) and Anaheim Ducks (5-2). The wins were the best possible response to last week’s 0-for-3 mini skid, especially if you consider the Stars got exactly one point out of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and that Alexander Radulov Valeri Nichushkin have been battling injuries. Throw in multiple Julius Honka sightings, and fans have to be happy.
This week, we’ll look up and down the roster, and call out any tidbits we feel particularly interesting. It’s far from scientific, definitely not comprehensive, and very much open to interpretation. Here goes! (Editor’s note: Written before Sunday’s loss to Detroit.)
A first career goal gets you on the Up list all by its lonesome. Don’t be fooled, though. With or without the goal, Heiskanen has been every bit as good as advertised, if not better. The Finnish blue-liner is 19 years old and played 24:57 against the Ducks (his season average is 21:09 by the way). He appears to have skipped the “promising” stage entirely, and gone straight to being great.
With injuries and ineffectiveness afflicting Dallas’ forward group, Dickinson was given an opportunity to step up against Los Angeles (12:54 time on ice) and registered an assist. That earned him another long look against the Ducks (15:14 TOI), which earned the Stars a three point performance (two goals, one assist).
The veteran pivot has five points in his last five games (two goals, three assists), including three points in this week’s games (one goal, two assists). Spezza has provided a critical power boost while the broader team has dealt with injuries, bad luck, and ineffectiveness. Those points are coming consistently, too. Spezza has hit the scoresheet in six of the Stars’ first nine games. The key is ice time. Spezza’s 12:37 average should be higher, some would argue, but he played an average of 2:21 with the extra man. That’s third most amongst Stars forwards, and fourth on the team.
He played, and for one week, that’s enough. Some nights it’s a lot (13:58 and one assist versus the Ducks). Others it isn’t (9:38 and zip against the Kings). Sometimes it’s good (the kick-save against LA), other times it’s bad (the turnover that led to the goal-saving play). To stay in this space, he’ll need to stay in the lineup, and to stay productive
The guy everyone assumed would sit has played in seven of the Stars’ first nine games, and did you see the beauty he put in against Anaheim? Stephen Johns is getting healthy, but Polak is earning his way into the lineup. Not only that, his 2:18 ASHTOI is tops on the squad. Props.
The big goalie has played a ton (seven of nine games so far), and has played well. This week he stopped 54 of 58 shots (2.00 GAA, .931 SV%), picked up a pair of wins, and found his way onto this list.
Despite the top line either slumping or sidelined, Dallas still managed to drop nine goals on Los Angeles and Anaheim. Yes, there’s a quality of competition argument, but they can only play the games on the schedule, right?
The Penalty Kill
Dallas was a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill last week. Take a bow, boys.
On the same subject, the fine young men in Victory Green showed admirable adherence to the NHL rulebook. The Stars finished 18th in total times short-handed.
Five games without a point have Stars fans wondering if it’s time for the captain’s annual scoring slump. Not helping are his shot totals. After putting six pucks on net the first time Dallas played the Ducks, he’s managed just nine shots on goal in the next five games. Starting with Ottawa: 2, 1, 3, 1, and 2.
It’s not quite the same slump as his Mario Kart partner thanks to a single assist versus the Kings, but Dallas’ top center is also scuffling. Thankfully, Seguin might just be snake-bit, as indicated by a 97.9 PDO. So long as he keeps firing (28 SOG in his last five games), the goals will come.
The Power Play
The Stars went 1-for-6 this past week, which is good for 16.7% and 19th in the NHL. Those six chances put the Stars 13th in the league. So it’s a practice thing maybe? Getting goals throughout the lineup helped, but there are easier ways to win hockey games. More time with an extra player is one of those ways.
Scoring, In General
Yes, the Stars managed nine goals against Anaheim and Los Angeles, but they still managed to get out-chanced for the week (47.28 SAT%, 18th in the NHL). There’s a quality issue as well. Dallas sits 17th in the league with 83 high-danger chances. That’s after a pair of heavy wins. Having leads in both games is going to skew things, but it’s a trend worth watching.
Once again, the Stars entered the season as a heavy favorite to at least make the post-season. Instead, they started 5-4. Meanwhile, the division’s heavyweights are playing well (Nashville has 16 points, Winnipeg has 15 points). More worrisome is the fact that teams many expected to fall off simply haven’t. Chicago is 6-2-2 (14 points), Colorado is 7-2-2 (16 points), and Minnesota is 5-2-2 (12 points, including a win against Dallas). It’s only going to get harder.