Dallas Stars Ups/Downs: Big Rig Punches the League Edition
They're not all up. Well, most of them are up. Spoiler alert? Listen, you try coming up with downside players on a team that went 3-0 last week, is 8-2 across their last 10 games, and sits 4 points north of second place in the Western Conference. It's a champagne problem, people. Live it up.
Jason Spezza picked up a pair of game winners last week while Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin jockey for the league lead in points. Goalies are pitching shutouts, John Klingberg is tied for fifth in points, Jamie Oleksiak may very well still be punching Nicolas Deslauriers in the head for all I know.
The point is, things are good. Over the past week the Dallas Stars navigated a tricky Eastern Conference mini trip and a tough showdown with the Washington Capitals sandwiched between a pair of classic trap games against the Sabres.
Yes, the schedule has been a little light in terms of divisional play. That's a concern. As good as the Stars have been, they could fall to the pack quickly if things go sour in the Central. Still, the gang in Victory Green is four points up on St. Louis and now nine points up on Minnesota. A gap is forming. 8-2 runs are funny like that, I guess.
John Klingberg (3 A / 7 iSC / +6 HSC) - All three assists were primaries, but none came on the power play. He's also getting drilled (11 hits taken) which is a product of always having the puck. Klingberg is also currently tied for fifth in league scoring. Astounding.
Johnny Oduya (3:06 ASHTOI / 9 B / 32% ZSO) - Another week doing the nasty stuff. Oduya cracked 20 minutes in both games against Buffalo, and managed 19:31 in Washington. His defense surrendered three goals.
Jamie Oleksiak (1 GP / 88.9% ZSO / 12:42 ATOI) - Got himself back into the lineup against Buffalo and acquitted himself well. The young defender was definitely sheltered, but any points I might deduct for that are counter-balanced by the shutout.
Kari Lehtonen (1 GP / .943 SV% / 2 GA) - Lehtonen got the nod against a potent Washington attack and skated away with the win. After so many lean years, I'm not exactly sure how to deal with this season's embarrassment of goaltending riches.
Antti Niemi (2 GP / 2 W / 1 SO) - I rated him down last week on the strength of a few wobbles. So, of course, he gets a shutout. Ole hyva, Antti.
Jamie Benn (3 GP / 4 Pts / 20% S) - #Fancystats tell me to worry about such a high shooting percentage. It'll come back to earth a bit, they say. Thing is, the assists are pretty, and he keeps getting net-front for tap-ins. His game right now is slump-proof.
Alex Goligoski (24:42 ATOI / +20 SC / 9 B) - Go ahead and tack two assists and a 58.4% CF rating onto Goose's week. Think about the change this defense has gone through during Goligoski's tenure; goaltending issues, a revolving door of defenders. Goose has been the glue holding things together.
Cody Eakin (3 Pts / 51.1% FOW / 51.8% CF) - A very good week for a player that's struggled a bit this season. Roussel, Eakin and Nichushkin? Sure, everything else has worked this year.
Antoine Roussel (2 PIM / 3 Penalties Drawn / 2 Pts) - Scored a goal on his birthday! Also rocking a +2 penalty differential and only took a single minor. Roussel is a good player. When he stays on the ice, he stays up. Simple as that.
Patrick Eaves (3 G / 65.6% CF / 13:30 ATOI) - The ship might have sailed on Eaves as a first liner, but he's important to this team. It was good to see him back.
Tyler Seguin (63.3% FOW / 4 Pts / 11 SOG) - Two points behind some jerk in Chicago for the league lead. That's not weird. What is weird is the fact that Seguin is tied for the league lead in assists. I wonder if a great goal-scorer learning to back off defenses with play-making is going to pay off in the long run.
Patrick Sharp (1 A / 1 iHSC / +6 SC) - Sharp stopped the width of a John Klingberg conrow from interfering with Washington's goaltender. That play (cunning, away from the puck) perfectly summarizes why he's so very valuable to this team.
Jason Spezza (3 Pts / 64.5% CF / 67.4% FOW) - Another strong week for Spezza. His game-winner against the Capitals was straight out of the "Veteran Savvy" handbook.
Vernon Fiddler (53.1% FOW / 47.8% ZSO / 2:18 ASHTOI) - Hey, look another week where Fiddler did what was asked of him, played tough minutes, and helped his team. Yawn.
Valeri Nichushkin (2 Pts / 14:42 ATOI / 3 SOG) - His lack of shots is a definite bucket of cold water, as are meager offensive totals to-date. Then there's the eye test. Nuke has looked like one of the Stars' most dangerous players for about a month.
Jason Demers (5 H / 2:30 ASHTOI / 32.5% ZSO) - Go read his Q&A. Don't worry, while you're gone Demers will keep on providing the Stars a steady presence in both ends of the ice and on both sides of the special teams equation. Right now, it looks like the injury he picked up against Buffalo was minor.
Mattias Janmark (16:12 ATOI / 64.4% CF / +1 PenD) - No, he hasn't turned into an elite scoring force, but that was never really going to be Janmark. Instead, he's a guy that looks like he's been in the league for 10 years. GMs make their reputations finding guys like this.
Ales Hemsky (2 GP / 1:36 APPTOI / 0 Pts) - Hemsky played a ton in Washington (14:45), but couldn't crack 13 minutes against Buffalo in either game. He's shooting the puck (5 SOG), but he's been dry since a three point night against the Jets on November 12.
Travis Moen (DNP) - Presumably healthy, but couldn't crack the lineup. If you don't weigh in, you can't wrestle. They say.
Jordie Benn (2 GP / 47.4% ZSO / 1:24 ASHTOI) - Battling illness, Elder Benn missed the second Buffalo game. Before that, he got tagged for both goals against in Washington.
Colton Sceviour (11:36 ATOI / 0 Pts / 52.6% ZSO) - Middling. Sceviour didn't do anything wrong, but he didn't make an impact either.
Jyrki Jokipakka (60.7% ZSO / 0 GA / +5 SC) - Considering how sheltered his minutes were, a little more production would have been nice. We also learned his nickname is "Kevin." Go figure that one out.
On the Shelf
Curtis McKenzie - Reassigned to the Texas Stars, McKenzie is working his way back from injury.