The Dallas Stars have had, by their standards, a disappointing start to the season. The team has the talent to be near the top of the division, but injuries and inconsistent play have certainly been an obstacle to that goal.
Thankfully, however, the team finds itself in a stretch where they will play 10 of their next 13 at home. Their record at home is an impressive 12-5-1 thus far on the season. This stretch can either make or break their season. Stock pile the points before going on the road for most of March will buy them some much-needed good will and cushion in the standings. The Stars have been inconsistent for much of the season and have seemingly offered us hope many times. Stars fans have the right to be skeptical given the teams inconsistency.
Yet, the last two games against Nashville and Detroit should give fans a reason to believe this team can and will not only make the playoffs, but make noise there as well. An impressive shutout win in Nashville, who had won five straight at home, combined with a shellacking of Detroit at home will help build the confidence and possibly propel them to cracking the Top 3 in the Central Division. The offense has ticked it up a notch and the stellar goaltending continues to be present. So, why exactly should the fans believe the Stars have turned the corner? Let us take a look.
While Seguin and Benn haven’t been having their best goal scoring seasons, as Jim Lites made sure everyone in North America was aware, the players around them have begun to step up. Tyler Pitlick has scored a goal in three straight games. Mattias Janmark has looked dangerous and has even begun to contribute by scoring goals. If the Stars can continue this trend of getting other guys to score goals, then other teams will not be able to focus in on Benn, Seguin, and Radulov.
The success of this team will not hinge on Seguin and Benn scoring goals every night – it will come down to the guys around them putting pucks in the net. When you are consistently facing the other team’s best defensive players, it makes it difficult to score goals. A consistent balanced attack will free up the big boys to do their thing more often.
Simplifying The Game
When a team is struggling to score goals, it is easy to press and try too hard. Instead of playing within their role and doing their job, it is easy for players to expand and go outside their parameters in an effort to help the team. This leads to turnovers and odd man rushes for the other team which simply adds to the growing frustration.
On Saturday night, the Stars played within themselves and their roles. They made the smart, simple plays to enter the zone and put pucks on net. When there was a shot on goal, there were players ready and in position for a rebound to try to score. The offensive onslaught put on by Dallas was not an accident – it was a product of hard work and good hockey. Pucks and players going to the net is a good recipe for success, especially when you are a team struggling to score. The team did what was natural for them and that is to just play hockey. This team is at its best when they are doing instead of thinking about doing.
The Stars power play has been anemic for over the past two months, but they did manage to net one against the Red Wings. It certainly was not a pretty goal, but as the cliché goes, they didn’t ask how, just how many. It was hard work and a strong will of wanting to score that made it happen. Shot on net, players went to the net for rebounds, and they were rewarded for it. This team needed some confidence and some good vibes, especially after Jim Lites’s comments.
We are nearing the half way mark of the season and the Stars are in a good position to secure themselves a playoff spot. They only trail Colorado and Nashville by two and three points respectively. The pressure is on the Stars to make this next stretch of games count. If they are successful, then the promise land of the playoffs awaits.
The Stars are a talented team worthy of making the playoffs. If the team can continue to improve on their recent play, then those comments by Jim Lites will be viewed as nothing more than an afterthought.
Featured Image: USA Today, Ray Carlin, AP