Dallas Stars Up/Down: 2015 Throwback Edition
Four games, four wins. That's perfect in my book. Toss in the teams they beat and last week was a rosy one in Big D. That's a big deal as the conversation switches from playoff possibilities to playoff seeding.
They're up, then they're down, now they're up all over again. That's just how the Dallas Stars are rolling these days, I suppose. From a big picture perspective this was an excellent week. Our Stars saw off the challenge of two of the league's best team, and avoided a trap in Minnesota. For a team that was reeling heading into the new year, that's excellent news.
Is there a flip side? You bet there is.
The Stars watched commanding leads evaporate against both Washington and Chicago. Then, they struggled to put pucks past Nashville's backup goaltender. None of those are unforgivable sins. They're just going to make fans a little nervous. At least until this core begins racking up post-season success.
Ales Hemsky / Mattias Janmark / Valeri Nichushkin (4 GP / 3 G / 9 Pts) - It's a small sample size, but Janmark certainly seems like the perfect compliment to his mercurial colleagues. The line is fast, skilled, and deceptively physical.
Kari Lehtonen (3 GP / 3 W / .927 SV%) - The Big Finn's week included wins against a critical division rival (Minnesota), the Western Conference's #1 seed (Chicago), and the league's top dog (Washington). It wasn't always pretty, but he did the damn thing.
Tyler Seguin (2 G / 7 Pts / 13 SOG) - The goals, sure. Seguin is a goal-monster, but the assists have my attention lately. They're deft. His vision is astonishing, and bodes well for playoff hockey when teams can afford to focus on stopping Seguin the Shooter.
Jamie Benn (1 G / 5 Pts / 8 iHSC) - The Captain is back and rejuvenated after the All Star Break.
Patrick Eaves (4 G / 6 Pts / 17:30 ATOI) - Eaves is deservedly back on the first line. So long as the release stays quick (and he stays healthy) he should remain in the Stars' scoring mix.
John Klingberg (2 G / 5 Pts / 97.5 PDO) - I'm honest enough to admit I was worried about Klingberg hitting a wall. Now? Not so much.
Patrik Nemeth (4 GP / 3 A / 17:06 ATOI) - An entire week of games for Nemeth! That alone is worth Up status for at least one week. The good? I've been impressed by Nemeth's willingness and ability to join the rush. The bad? There have been some positioning and gap gaffes that must be cleaned up if he's going to see 17+ minutes each night.
Jordie Benn (0 GA / 61.5% ZSO / 15:48 ATOI) - Jordie avoided getting tagged last week, which for a third pairing defender is fine, just fine. So long as he keeps putting up goose-eggs, questions about whether his spot would be better served with a prospect will remain muted.
Radek Faksa (3 GP / 10 ATOI / 63.6% FOW) - This would have been much more emphatic had he finished against the Predators, but a statement was made. No, it won't be this year, but Faksa has turned into a meaningful, NHL-ready asset. I suspect he'll be a full-time NHLer by this time next season.
Johnny Oduya (-20 Scoring Chance Differential / 27.8% ZSO / +2 Penalty Differential) - Despite being buried in his own zone, Oduya got more than he gave this week. Yes, the scoring chance number is ugly, but he also had an assist, finished +1 in terms of actual goals scored, and he threw four hits.
Antoine Roussel (16:30 ATOI / 0 Pts / 7 H) - Pulled Shea Weber off the ice for five minutes in Nashville, and was his usual high-energy self the rest of the week. I love seeing this level of physicality combined with a (relatively) low number of PIMs (2 penalties taken).
Patrick Sharp (0 G / 13 SOG / 6 iHSC) - Jason Spezza's injury saw Sharp Ruffled off the top line. While his effort is still top notch, his production has tailed off. The volume and quality of his shooting suggests this will be a temporary situation.
Jamie Oleksiak (DNP) - The Big Rig has seen both Esa Lindell and Patrik Nemeth enjoy stints in the lineup recently. We're in lost season territory.
Jason Demers (-2 Penalty Differential / 5 H / 41.2% CF) - He scored, which is nice, but Demers also had some penalty issues pop up. Some misbehavior is inevitable, but this week was full of tough, playoff-type games. Power plays are a big deal this time of year.
Alex Goligoski (6 GA / 5 GF / +10 High Danger Scoring Chances) - Say what you want, interesting thing happen when Goose is on the ice. This close to the borderline is where mistakes like the Nashville turnover make a difference.
Antti Niemi (1 GP / 2 GA / .923 SV%) - The Stars would not have beaten Nashville in a shootout without Niemi. So why is he not Up? I meant my comment in the very literal sense. Yes, there were several first-class saves to keep the game in hand, but there was also that first pudgy rebound.
Cody Eakin (16:00 ATOI / 50% FOW / 54.1 ZSO%) - This is me not knowing what to make of Cody Eakin. His goal was both important and beautiful, he largely drove possession forward (51.9% CF), and he out-chanced his opponents (+7 SC). That said, he at a -2 gpal differential and saw somewhat sheltered deployment. I think I'll cop out and say he's trending up lately.
Colton Sceviour (3 GP / 11:18 ATOI / 25% ZSO) - Very limited use for Sceviour this week.
Jyrki Jokipakka (DNP) - Joins Oleksiak on the bench and down this week. It's the result of an uneven stretch of recent play. No, it doesn't undue the strong start, but with the roster this congested, it's anyone's guess when he gets back into the lineup.
Vernon Fiddler (53.8% FOW / 18.4% ZSO / 11:12 ATOI) - His ice time did not tick up as expected with Spezza on the shelf. Vern did everything the Stars asked, they just didn't ask much this week.
On the Shelf