Dallas Stars Up/Down: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Saturday night was nasty enough to wash the taste of a strong start out of Stars fans' mouths. Yes, they're still mostly great this season, but there have been two worrying wobbles. What, exactly, do we have on our hands?
Saturday night was vintage Dallas Stars. Problem was, it was that icky 2014 vintage, the one that tasted a little bit like damp socks and disappointment. It was everything Stars fans came to expect from last year's squad; a potent offense undone by suspect goaltending and disjointed team defense. A worst-case scenario game that forces fans to wonder if all the good they see is being quietly undercut by the same old flaws. So that's it, then, right? Throw the Florida homecoming in a bucket with the collapse in Denver and dump the cold water all over renewed post-season hopes.
Possibly, but one quick word of caution. Once upon a time there was another highly regarded but as-of-yet-unrewarded version of the Dallas Stars. That bunch rattled off two quick regulation wins and a draw before dropping a result against a Blackhawks team en route to a non-playoff 41-loss finish. The night before they'd tied Carolina, of all teams. The sky was falling.
Only it didn't. That bunch rebounded somewhat, went on to finish 51-19-12, and won the franchise's only Stanley Cup (so far). 1999 was a good year. Does that mean this year's squad is destined for great things? No, but it also doesn't mean the Stars are due some horrible collapse. 6-2 is an excellent start to any season. Focus on that.
Now, about last week...
Jamie Benn (3 G / 1 A / 8 H) - Leads the league in scoring. Leads the Stars, period. The Captain is now averaging 3:22 each night on the powerplay and 1:24 on the penalty kill. That's why he's the boss.
Radek Faksa (54% FOW / 26.3 ZSO% / 7 H) - Of the 9:19 he played in Philadelphia, 2:10 came while the Stars were shorthanded. He's still hovering right around 10 minutes in average ice time (10:45 ATOI), which is good considering he's an injury call-up and a rookie.
Mattias Janmark (1 G / 84.7 PDO / 3 iHSC) - The beat goes on for the young rookie, this week, on an encouraging line with Jason Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin. What a finish.
Tyler Seguin (1 G / 4 Pts / 11 SOG) - Lost (ish, I mean, is it really that lost?) in the hubbub around Jamie Benn's excellent start is the fact that Seguin is now tied for the team lead with 12 points. Seguin has been more of a provider lately. We knew he could score, we're now learning he's also a superb playmaker.
Valeri Nichushkin (1 A / 13 HSCF / 3 SOG) - Finally looked like 2013's next great thing. The shot total isn't thrilling, but there were moments of outstanding vision. Val's line accounted for six more "High Danger" scoring chances than it surrendered.
Vernon Fiddler (24 ZSO% / 11:08 ATOI / 47.8 CF%) - Another member of the "never sees the other goalie" club, yet somehow Fiddler managed an assist last week.
Jason Spezza (1 G / 62.2 ZSO% / 62 CF%) - Early returns on the Janmark/Spezza/Nichushkin trio seem to be good. Two of the three registered goals last week. That sort of secondary scoring makes the Stars a matchup nightmare. Made a bad play against Florida, but manages to stay up on body of work.
Jordie Benn (- 10 C+/- / 6 Blks / 6 H) - Six goals against in Florida, and Benn the Elder missed every single one. Still solid.
Johnny Oduya (1 GA / 1 G / 25.5 ZSO%) - Only on the ice for a single goal last week with matches his direct contribution in the other end. Very solid stuff from Oduya.
Cody Eakin (32% FOW / 27.6 ZSO% / 1:52 ASHTOI) - Barely broke ten minutes TOI against the Panthers (10:28) but in that time managed to get tagged for a pair of goals against. It seems weird for a guy with his usage profile to get PP time in each game (3:09 TOI PP).
Ales Hemsky (0 Pts / 11:48 ATOI / 5 SOG) - The emergence (and consistency) of Mattias Janmark is making it a bit tougher for Hemsky to hang in the top six. Another offensive burst would be welcome.
Antoine Roussel (35.3 ZSO% / 6 H / 11 PIMs) - Single digit minutes in two of three games this week (9:25 at Philly, 8:16 at Florida). The fact he had six and five PIMs in those games, respectively, is likely a factor. How impactful can he really be if he doesn't get on the ice?
Jason Demers (2 GP / 1 Suspension / 1 A) - It felt like a reckless, hot-headed play more than anything else. Two games is fair, and if anything, highlighted Demers' sudden importance to the Stars' defensive unit. Come back, and stay back.
Jamie Oleksiak (1 GP / 2 GA / 16:30 TOI) - Nobody came out of Saturday's game with much credit, but one has to wonder if a wholesale defensive change plus a goalie swap was the way to end a long roadtrip. Six hits is nice, but not nice enough.
Kari Lehtonen (1 GP / .727 SV% / 21:00 TOI) - Thud. Exactly the sort of performance the Stars hoped were behind them.
Patrik Nemeth (1 GP / 2 H / 2 GA) - It is perhaps unfair to judge based on a single game, but at least one of the goals against Florida resulted from Nemeth's over-aggressive play. With Jokipakka playing well, how much leash is Nemeth going to get?
Colton Sceviour (-3 Scoring Chance Differential / 0 Pts / 7 SOG) - Did you notice Sceviour this week?
Patrick Sharp (0 G / 7 SOG / 58 CF%) - Forced a dramatic save and then hit a post. That's just the sort of season Sharp is having so far. Sharp is currently playing on a line with the NHL's co-leading scorers, so his lack of individual production is more annoying than problematic.
Alex Goligoski (1 HSC +/- / 8 B / 2 A) - Still the Stars' numero uno in terms of ice time (24:08 ATOI), and honestly, still largely justifying that trust. The game against Florida was brutal, but it's been more the exception than the rule so far.
Jyrki Jokipakka (2 GP / 52.3 CF% / 5 B) - Tagged out of the mess against the Panthers. Probably a good thing for his stock overall.
John Klingberg (1 G / 4 Pts / 57.9 CF%) - Maybe it's a Florida thing. Klingberg and his traditional partner were one the ice for four of the Panther's six goals on Saturday. The case for the defense? His goal against the Penguins was stupid video-game nonsense.
Antti Niemi (2 GS / 2 W / 4 GA) - Back-to-back wins in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were good, but did you know three of the goals against back home were charged against Niemi?
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