Dallas Stars Up/Down: Western Conference-Leading Edition
The Ups/Downs is taking a little break from our usual weekly glimpse. Instead, let's savor the taste of 18 mostly wonderful games from our favorite team. Spoiler alert, the taste is good. Very good.
The Stars are 14-4 and at the top of the Western Conference with 28 points. They're 8-2 in their last 10 and just dropped a pair of division rivals (Winnipeg and Minnesota) in thrilling, albeit unconventional fashion. Two Stars are chasing the league's scoring lead and a third has skated his way into Norris Trophy consideration. Yes, there is still a bucket full of games to play, but let's take in the good times for a second.
In the spirit of good times and letting them roll, I've decided to look through the season to-date for this week's evaluation. Bigger numbers, bigger impact, more to brag about. You know, the usual journalistic stuff. This column is the Jamie Benn of integrity.
Jamie Benn (12 G / 25 Pts / 57.2% CF) - Recent bursts by Patrick Kane and teammate Tyler Seguin have ousted Jamie from the league point lead, but he's The Man in the NHL right now. Like Ric Flair always said, that won't change until somebody beats him. One more interesting stat? Benn is starting 63% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
Tyler Seguin (26 Pts / 17 A / 72 SOG) - One point up on Jamie for the team lead, one point back of Kane for the league lead. We all expected he'd do it with assists, right? This is the start of a huge year.
John Klingberg (20 Pts / 9 PPPts / 56.59% CF) - You could rock a baby to sleep on one of Klingberg's silky, blue-line-walking toe drags. Speaking of putting things to bed, I'm assuming you saw the game-winner against Minnesota. What if we all agreed to stop the whole "Next Sergei Zubov" thing and replaced it with the "First John Klingberg?" It feels more appropriate.
Jason Demers (10 Pts / 2:40 ASHTOI / 26 H) - Leads the team in short handed ice time and is second on the defense in points. Throw out the two guys fighting for the league scoring title and Johnny "Cornrow Norris" Klingberg, and is any Star having a better season? Heck, don't throw ‘em out. Relative to expectations Demers has been tremendous.
Alex Goligoski (23:38 ATOI / 49.77% CF / 38 Blks) - Fourth on the team in scoring chances for (226), leads the team in scoring chances against (228), and only Tyler Seguin has had more shots blocked than Goose's (23). Since the guys behind him are playing better, can we finally admit that Goligoski is a valuable part of a pretty good defense.
Kari Lehtonen (9 GP / 2.39 GAA / .921 SV%) - Thank goodness. It feels like Lehtonen is thriving with a more qualified partner to lean on. After carrying a struggling Stars team for so long, it is nice to watch him enjoy a little success.
Vernon Fiddler (50.22% FOW / 32.08% ZSO / 9 Pts) - Fiddler has been trusted with 52 short handed faceoffs, which is by far the most on the team. Seriously, Cody Eakin has 19 in second place. Oh, by the way, Vern is currently on-pace for a career-high 41 points.
Mattias Janmark (3 G / 12% S / 97.11 PDO) - Sixth among Stars forwards in average time on the ice behind the guys you would expect: Seguin, Spezza, Benn, Sharp, and Eakin. I included the PDO and Shooting Percentage to illustrate nothing ‘weird' is going on. What we're seeing from Janmark is completely sustainable.
Patrick Sharp (7 G / 15 Pts / 18:16 ATOI) - Sharp made fans wait eight games to his first goal, but has been lights out ever since. Crazy. Not like he's a tenured vet with a history of success or anything.
Jason Spezza (61.35% CF / 13 Pts / 63.75% ZSO) - He's winning faceoffs (53%) and chipping in at a reasonable offensive clip. He's also a huge part (3:11 APPTOI) of the Stars power play that purrs like a kitten.
Jordie Benn (45.96% CF / 15:44 ATOI / 47.50% ZSO) - Steady Jordie. Boring Jordie. He's just a dude you put in the lineup and forget about. The cataclysmic mistakes seem to have died down this season, leaving Stars fans with the sort of reliable hand contenders always seem to have.
Colton Sceviour (13:18 ATOI / 5 A / 20 H) - Is Sceviour a play-maker? Maybe. Sceviour is a churning pair of legs with a willingness to initiate physically and enough skill to create offense for his team.
Jyrki Jokipakka (14 GP / 14:45 ATOI / 52.15% ZSO) - We all thought there'd be a dogfight at the bottom of the Stars defense. Instead, we've been treated to a steady diet of Jokipakka. Still a little bit sheltered, but he's keeping a pair of promising young players on the bench on his own merits.
Johnny Oduya (19:49 ATOI / 2:38 ASHTOI / +5 Penalty Differential) - Tied atop the Stars in penalty differential with Jamie Benn, Eakin, Goligoski, Spezza and Sceviour. Watching Oduya sort of explains why the Blackhawks have enjoyed some success in recent years, and why they'll have less now that he's gone.
Radek Faksa (14 GP / 11:53 ATOI / 1 G) - Lasted 14 games before injuries cleared up and he got sent back to Austin. That's not an indictment, by the way. In his quick cameo the Stars learned they've got an NHL-er on their hands in Faksa. Now, an expanded role with the Texas Stars will teach them what sort of NHL-er he might be.
Patrick Eaves (3 GP / 8:00 ATOI / 0 Pts) - Timing is everything, and you have to wonder if an early season injury coupled with the unexpected emergence of Mattias Janmark has ended Eaves' run in the top six.
Antti Niemi (10 GP / 2.80 GAA / .907 SV%) - Niemi has played twice since the calendar kicked into November. He hasn't given up fewer than three goals since October 22nd. This is why the Stars have two goaltenders (finally).
Valeri Nichushkin (1 G / 3 Pts / 54.04% CF) - Nuke seems perpetually on the verge of a serious breakout, doesn't he? The young Russian has been good, whatever expectations we might have as fans. He's a weird case. Watch him play and he's a play-making beast with deft hands and a willingness to drive the net, but none of that appears to be translating to the scoresheet. Yet. Yet?
Jamie Oleksiak (4 GP / 12:04 ATOI / 22 years old) - The Big Rig has been unable to crack the lineup so far this season. It's a quandary.
Patrik Nemeth (2 GP) - He's seen even less ice than Oleksiak. Worrying, especially after ending last season on such a high note.
Cody Eakin (44% FOW / 5 G / 1:42 ASHTOI) - On pace for a career-high 22 goals, so that's a good thing. Really, it's window dressing on a season in which Eakin has struggled to find a consistent spot. He contributed, sure, but it's telling he's spent as much time each game (1:40) on the power play as he has short handed. Who is Cody Eakin?
Ales Hemsky (11 Pts / 12:00 ATOI / 1:06 APPTOI) - A quick start has Hemsky on-pace for 53 points. That would be Hemsky's highest total since 2008-2009. After that quick start, however, things have been a little uneven. In the minus column is Hemsky averaging a career-low in ice time, and seeing a full minute less on the power play versus last year.
Curtis McKenzie (1 GP / 0 Pts / 1 H) - A hip injury in his first (and only) game this season has forced McKenzie to miss all the fun. He's back in Austin now with the Texas Stars, which is good, but you have to wonder what has to happen to get him back up to Dallas.
Travis Moen (4 GP / 5 H / 0:49 ASHTOI) - Another veteran getting ready to make a return from injury. He'll be a depth player for the Stars.
Antoine Roussel (7 Pts / 2 GWG / -2 Penalty Differential) - His ice-time has dropped this season, and so far his live-on-the-edge style is tilted ever so slightly in the "against" column. Still, two game-winning goals from three attempts and on-pace for 36 points (a career high). Calm down, Rooster, just play.