For the first time in a decade, the Dallas Stars have started the season with a 4-0-0 record through their first four games. With the Florida Panthers falling in shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, the Stars become the last team standing with a perfect record. With eight points in four games, Dallas has catapulted themselves from last in the league (thanks to a COVID-19 delay to the start of the season) to one point behind the division leader — with half the games played.
Is it too early to be worried about standings? Absolutely. Does that stop fans from doing so? No. Should the early good start be acknowledged? Yes. Because two points are two points, regardless of the point in the schedule they are collected. With a condensed schedule down the stretch, collecting points early is as valuable as wins in a tight playoff race where every game can mean a four-point swing against a divisional opponent.
SPECIAL TEAMS WERE KEY
The Stars allowed a power play goal against tonight. Their penalty kill got quite the work out, with seven opportunities for the Red Wings to put one in the net. Eventually, the law of averages is going to give one to the opponent no matter how discombobulated they look with the puck. Even with surrendering one, the penalty kill has now killed off 17 of 19 chances against, which is a good start on this side of play as well.
What stands out most about the types of penalties the Stars took tonight were that they were mostly of the “obstructive” variety — holding, hooking, slashing, tripping. Add in one of the “mental” variety (a too many men on the ice on a sloppy line change), and you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is a team that has played their fourth game in seven nights.
The other side of the special teams equation weren’t as active tonight as in the other games, but they still managed to get the job done. They went 1-for-3 with the man advantage. Power play goals now account for 10 of the Stars’ 19 goals scored to date. Those 10 power play goals in four games nearly set an NHL record, and set a record for the franchise:
The @DallasStars have scored 10 power-play goals in 2020-21, the franchise’s most-ever through four games in a season.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 29, 2021
Only one team has scored more through its first four games: NY Rangers in 1987-88 (11). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/Re93GumZa3
The Stars also sit atop the league in both goals against per game average and goals for per game average, something that is surely not likely to continue but is fun for now nonetheless.
BLUE LINE SPECIAL
The Stars had a very active night from their blueline. Jamie Oleksiak scored on a point shot that he kept low to the ice. Thomas Greiss didn’t really see it through traffic. He also likely didn’t even see the snap shot that John Klingberg let off at the end of the game, which was the seventh scored by the team tonight. It was a fantastic solo effort that went from defensive zone to offensive zone with a slight fake before Klingberg called his own number.
Miro Heiskanen may not have scored tonight, but he setup one of the prettier goals scored. It was a memorable one, too, as it marked the first career goal scored by Ty Dellandrea. The rookie forward has had several strong outings so far this season and finally found the scoresheet thanks to a very pretty setup:
Rookie goaltender Jake Oettinger admitted that he was a little bit nervous at the start of the game. It was his first career NHL start, after all. But you wouldn’t have really known it by watching him. He eased into the game, facing only five shots against in the first period. He made several key saves in the game, particularly when the Red Wings had some sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
Bowness pointed out after the game that the team didn’t give up a lot of dangerous chances in front of him. Even though the scoresheet says that he allowed three goals in on 23 shots, the three goals he let in were ones he did not have much of a chance to save. It’s one of those “eye test beats straight statistics” kind of nights when it comes to evaluating the goaltending effort.
IT’S THAT DAMN PAVELSKI. HE’S SO HOT RIGHT NOW!
Lost in the midst of a rookie goaltender getting their first career start and win and a rookie getting their first goal would be Joe Pavelski’s hot streak. The veteran forward has been leading the charge each night thanks to a string of injuries to the Stars’ forwards so far this year. Pavelski’s opening goal of the night gives him nine points in four games. Even with the small sample size, he’s in the league’s top 20 in scoring right now.