NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas Stars know how close they were last season to advancing to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2008, and they're determined to get there this time around.
The Stars, who missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs the previous two seasons, qualified in their first year under coach Jim Montgomery. Dallas eliminated the Nashville Predators in six games in the first round before losing to the St. Louis Blues in double overtime of Game 7 the following series.
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"I think you always use it as motivation because we were that close, yet we were so far," Montgomery said. "I think everybody knows the hardest part to win a Stanley Cup is making sure you make the playoffs. That's our outlook right now -- to get off to a great start in October so we don't have to do what the Blues did (go from last in NHL standings on Jan. 3 to winning the Stanley Cup)."
If they hope to achieve the ultimate goal, the Stars will have to start a trend; they have not qualified for the playoffs in consecutive seasons since making five straight appearances from 2003-08.
To increase its chances, Dallas signed forwards Joe Pavelski (three-year contract) and Corey Perry (one-year contract) on July 1 with the hopes of improving an offense that tied for 29th in the NHL with 209 goals last season.
Pavelski led the San Jose Sharks, for whom the 35-year-old played his first 13 NHL seasons, with 38 goals last season, including 12 on the power play. Perry had the final two years of his contract bought out by the Anaheim Ducks on June 19. The 34-year-old had 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 31 games, limited because of surgery for a torn meniscus and MCL. However, he has scored at least 30 goals six times in the NHL.
Video: Joe Pavelski signs three-year deal with the Stars
"What those guys mean is more gritty goals in dirty areas," Montgomery said. "Part of our team process is to win the net-front battle, and we should be able to do it at a higher success rate this year than we did last year.
"That's on the ice. But off the ice, it's how to be a pro; it's the details, the work ethic that it takes to be a high-level player in this League in the regular season. Not for 60 of 82 (games), but for 82 of 82."
Where each player slots into the lineup remains to be seen, but Montgomery was not afraid to experiment last season. The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov scored 42.6 percent of the Stars' goals (89 of 209).
Video: DAL@NSH, Gm2: Seguin, Benn connect for opening tally
Wherever Pavelski plays, he's confident he can make an impact.
"I think I've proven over the past few years that I can score some goals and I can score around the net," he said. "You know, every year is a little different as far as how teams can score and create offense. Not putting too much at stake about what happened last year, but I'm sure there will be adjustments being made here and there."
Perhaps as important was the addition of John Stevens as an assistant on July 1. Stevens, whose relationship with Montgomery dates to their playing days with Philadelphia in the American Hockey League in 1997-98, coached the Los Angeles Kings to the playoffs in his first season in 2017-18 before being fired 13 games into last season following a 4-8-1 start.
"If you look at his pedigree, he's won championships as a player and as a coach at multiple levels, and that's not something that's easy to do," Montgomery said. "I think where John is going to help us the most is going to be our 5-on-5 play, especially in the offensive zone, and on face-offs."
Those changes should complement Dallas' defense, which allowed the second-fewest goals (200) in the NHL behind the New York Islanders (191) and will again be led by goalie Ben Bishop, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist, and defensemen Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg.
Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Bishop
"I think we're all excited, but at the same time you have to just hit the reset button. Every year is different," said Bishop, who had a 1.98 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage in 46 games last season. "Having certain people on your team doesn't really mean much.
"You're just going to have to go into training camp, get familiar with these new guys and try to be at the top of your game going into the season and not try to play catch-up."
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