The Dallas Stars are now 9-0-1 in their last 10 games, tied for the best in the league over that time frame with the New York Islanders out east. They might be the hottest team that’s not being talked about enough right now, likely because of the whole Toronto Maple Leafs firing Mike Babcock thing.
But it could also be due to the fact that Dallas is doing it in a multitude of ways. It’s easier to lose sight of the trend line when the games aren’t dominant win after dominant win. They’re finding it in different ways.
As the team is on a good roll, it’s a perfect time to examine what isn’t always going well. The results are coming even if things aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, allowing for a more critical eye.
Which is what led captain Jamie Benn to a rather philosophical moment about tonight’s game in which the Stars blew a three goal lead late in the game but mounted an epic comeback off an individual effort by the man himself.
“I mean, I wasn’t having a very good game, if we’re being honest, and even started that shift with a turnover,” Benn said after the game. “But I was thinking about, after they scored, my dad taught me a pretty good lesson in baseball. You go 0-for-3 you’re bummed, but you have another chance to go up to the plate and get a hit, and you could be a hero so...I kind of went out after they scored for that shift, and I figured this was my chance to make a difference. And that’s what I tried to do. I came off, sat down, kind of thought of my dad, had a little chuckle there and kept on going with the game. You know, it’s funny things your parents can teach you in life and that’s one of them.”
It was a pretty quick first period. Though both teams were scoreless in the first 20 minutes, it was far from a boring period. Miro Heiskanen alone recorded four shots on goal in the period, buzzing early and often. He was playing head and shoulders above everyone else on the ice. (That’s not really news here in Dallas, but it never gets old recognizing his great play either.)
Heiskanen had the best chance of the period but rang it off the post. Both Ben Bishop and Connor Hellebuyck had a few moments of sparkling goaltending, and it looked like it was setting up for an old fashioned goaltending duel.
The Dallas Stars said not so fast. They erupted for three goals in the middle frame.
The first came off of a great shift by Corey Perry and Mattias Janmark. They worked the puck down low for a while, wearing the Jets down. Then the puck gets passed out to Andrej Sekera for a point shot. Hellebuyck kicks out a rebound, and Janmark was in the right spot to put it in the back of the net.
The goal was eventually challenged by the Winnipeg Jets because it appeared that the Stars were offside on the play. Apparently, thing we learned, you can enter the zone before the puck if you’ve got possession of the puck. Because the play wasn’t broken up by an opponent, Dickinson was deemed to have possession throughout this play:
Perry figured in the Stars’ second goal when he cycled the puck to Taylor Fedun for a point shot just two minutes later. Fedun’s shot was redirected by Jason Dickinson (not with his face, for a change!). Perry topped off his three-assist period by starting the play that saw Faksa score. After a deflection, the puck went up into the air and landed on the goal line behind Hellebuyck, who put it into the net with his skate. The goal extended Faksa’s active consecutive game streak of recording at least a point to eight (and counting).
It wasn’t all fun and games in the period, though, as Dallas surrendered the shutout busting goal just 39 seconds after Faksa’s goal. Benn turned the puck over inside the offensive blue line, and Mark Scheifele pushed the puck through neutral zone. As he hit the Stars’ zone, he found Kyle Connor streaking down the wing and got the pass over Heiskanen’s stick as he tried to get back. Connor beat Bishop five hole.
Though Dallas played decently at the start of the third period, that lead eventually evaporated.
The second goal was just a weird one, because Patrik Laine can’t play the Stars without scoring a goal. This one was a shot that he took from Tucker Poolman into the torso, which bounced out and into the net past Bishop. Though it was a pivotal moment, it didn’t seem to effect Dallas immediately.
But slowly the momentum started to shift towards Winnipeg. It culminated in Luca Sbisa getting a wide open net to score into as he was completely uncovered in the Stars zone and the team — and Bishop — got caught puck watching a bit.
“I think it’s good for us to go through spells like that,” head coach Jim Montgomery said after the game. “You’re going to have to win a lot of different games to have success in the regular season, but also to help prepare you for the playoffs, which hopefully we’ll be a part of.”
Now, I’m sure Montgomery would have preferred to not watch his team surrender a three goal lead. But over this 12-1-1 stretch here, Dallas is figuring out how to keep resilient and bounce back after things don’t go there way every game, every shift. It’ll be something they can draw upon when things eventually turn again — which the law of averages says is bound to happen. Not unlike that analogy Benn used to pull the team back to a regulation win.
He was looking to be the hero. Or, as Montgomery put it, “He was refusing to let us lose.”
*Shoutout to the dudes in the corner nearest the end of the press box tonight. Hope they drank dome water or they’re going to be hurting tomorrow.
*Spotted in succession: St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators (3), New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, and an Atlanta Thrashers jersey. Just some hockey fans out having a good time tonight I guess — maybe they aren’t aware of what city they’re in. This group merged with the group mentioned in the first point above to have a pretty fun third period. The scouts and media had a good chuckle at their antics.
*The Minnesota Wild did Dallas a solid by beating the Colorado Avalanche tonight in regulation. Dallas now has the same number of points as Colorado, though they hold a game in hand. However, it signals that Dallas is firmly back in the race for a top three spot within the division. It can’t be understated enough how out of reach that would have felt three weeks ago.