By all accounts, the Dallas Stars have gotten off to a tremendous start to the 2018-19 NHL season. It’s the first time that the Stars have won their first two games since the 2010-11 season, when head coach Marc Crawford led his club to a 4-0-0 start. As of writing this, the Stars lead the NHL in goal differential with a +7, having outscored their opponents 8-1. They are also the only team to have played two games with only a single goal (or less) allowed.
The Stars top line and power play unit is on fire. Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov both have two goals and two assists, while Jamie Benn was tied for the league lead with five points before last nights’ games. The next highest scorer is recently acquired defenseman Connor Carrick with three assists — a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one. Miro Heiskanen, while currently pointless, has played with such poise and skill that he’s already turned heads around the league.
Miro Heiskanen's first NHL shift was pretty, pretty, pretttttttty good. (via r/hockey) pic.twitter.com/eh90GlplLN— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 5, 2018
In summary, Stars fans deserve to be happy right now. Jim Montgomery and his coaching staff have made Stars hockey fun again, and there’s not much to complain about. So by all means, close this tab on your web browser and keep riding that feeling of elation. Because to paraphrase Lemony Snicket, if you are interested in a happy story, you would be better off reading some other article.
When it comes to hockey, I can be rather pessimistic at times. It may not seem like it based on some of my previous pieces from this summer, but that’s me trying to convince myself to stay positive as much as it is trying to convince you. So while I am personally thrilled about the start to the Stars’ season, there are a few flags that stick out to me as reasons to pump the brakes on the Dallas hype train.
Secondary Scoring Is Still a Problem
As mentioned above, Benn has five points in two games, Radulov and Seguin have four, and John Klingberg has two. You can’t complain about that type of production from your top offensive players, but what you can complain about is the lack of scoring outside of those four.
Devin Shore is the only other player to score a goal so far. Connor Carrick and Jason Spezza are the only other players with multiple points. Nine players, exactly half of the team’s skaters, have yet to hit the scoresheet, including (current) second liners Mattias Janmark and Blake Comeau.
Now, given that those four top players plus Jason Spezza comprise the team’s first power play unit, you might assume that’s the reason for the lopsided point totals while writing Carrick off as an oddity. But out of the Stars’ eight goals, only three have been on the powerplay.
Of course, you don’t really need your secondary scoring to step up if your best players are going to combine for 15 points in just two games. But if the Stars’ first line cools off in the coming days, it might spell trouble for the team’s offense.
Ben Bishop has been good... too good
The Stars’ netminder started off the season with a shutout, followed by allowing only a single goal to the Winnipeg Jets. He has stopped 62 of the 63 shots sent his way, which is good for a .984 save percentage.
Even the most optimistic fan can’t pretend that Bishop’s numbers will remain that high going forward. You can certainly bet that it’ll be hard to replicate that success against the Winnipeg Jets four more times; despite the single goal performance against Bishop and the Stars, they remain one of the league’s premiere scoring teams. This is especially true against Dallas, as Sean Shapiro pointed out before Saturday’s game:
and during that time the Jets have scored at least four goals in each of those eight games. So I think key is keeping Jets under 4— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) October 6, 2018
Factor in the possibility that Bishop’s play against the Arizona Coyotes possibly made the defense look better than it was, and there’s reason for concern once Bishop regresses or if, hockey gods forbid, he gets injured.
The Lineup Could Arguably Be Better
I’ll try and keep this one short, but the thought process goes like this: Valeri Nichushkin and Stephen Johns are still out due to injury, and Julius Honka has been a healthy scratch the first two games. Most fans feel that these players will make the lineup better once they get back into action, so the obvious outlook is that the Stars will soon get even better than they’ve shown so far.
But think about it this way: Jim Montgomery is likely going to ride the current lineup until the team loses. Let’s say that he ends up replicating the Stars’ 2010-11 season under Marc Crawford* and starts 4-0-0 if not better (their fifth game is against the Ottawa Senators, after all).
Isn’t it possible then that Montgomery might become too attached to the current lineup? What if he views Comeau as a much needed presence on the second line and Nichushkin finds himself on the third or maybe even fourth line? Or what if Roman Polak becomes the new Greg Pateryn and routinely makes the lineup in place of fan-favorite Honka, making many fans’ worst nightmare a reality?
Am I grasping for straws here? Probably. But like I said, I can be really pessimistic when it comes to hockey. I even warned you to close the article back in the intro; if I’m starting to bum you out, it’s your fault, really.
*Side Note: For extra pessimism, do you know how that 2010-11 season turned out? The Stars lost the last game of the season to miss the playoffs, which led to Crawford getting fired. That last part won’t happen with Montgomery, but the first...
We’ll wrap this up with a quick look at the Central Division. Going into the season, most of us here at Defending Big D predicted the division to be a bloodbath once again. Then again, the Stars are, as of Sunday, one of only five teams to start the year 2-0-0. And one of those wins came against the Jets, who are favored by many to win the Central, if not the whole Western Conference.
So you know what? Maybe it’s time to look at the glass half full for once. The Central actually won’t be that bad for once, and even if it is, Dallas could reasonably end up closer to the top of the standings than we all expected.
I have to say, though, I am a bit curious as to who those other four teams are...
Man, I hate the Central...