With training camps set to begin on July 13 as part of Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, NHL.com is taking a closer look at each of the 24 teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Today, the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas Stars were 37-24-8 (.594 points percentage) and will play in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in the Western Conference against the St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, .662), Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, .657), and Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, .606) to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Following a slow start (1-7-1), the Stars went 36-13-5 and had the highest points percentage in the NHL (.713) from Oct. 19-Feb. 25. That's reason enough to believe they can take the next step after being eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blues in a double-overtime loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round last season.
Dallas' strengths are its defense and goaltending. The Stars were second in the NHL in goals-against per game (2.52) behind the Boston Bruins (2.39), and No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop was 21-16-4 with a 2.50 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and two shutouts. He was supported by backup Anton Khudobin, who was 16-8-4 with a 2.22 GAA (tied for second in NHL) and League-leading .930 save percentage (minimum 25 games).
With those numbers in mind, Rick Bowness, who replaced Jim Montgomery as coach Dec. 10, said he has a specific objective before play resumes.
"We clearly have to improve our play with the puck, and there's going to be a lot of focus on that during this training camp," Bowness told The Dallas Morning News on June 27. "We can teach the defense, the players know it. That is going to be the easier part for us to realign and teach during training camp, our play without the puck."
Being well-rested also might help the Stars, who have the oldest roster in the NHL with an average age of 29.8. That appeared to catch up with them before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Dallas was 0-4-2 in its last six games, including losing its final three in regulation, when it was shut out twice and outscored 7-2.
Player to watch
Joe Pavelski signed a three-year contract with the Stars as an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019, with the hope his experience and knack for scoring in the playoffs would help them in the postseason. The forward, who turns 36 on July 11, scored 100 points (48 goals, 52 assists) in 134 playoff games with the San Jose Sharks and helped them reach the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
Although Pavelski started slowly with Dallas, scoring three points (two goals, one assist) in his first 13 games, he appeared to get more comfortable as the season progressed and finished with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 67 games.
Video: CHI@DAL: Pavelski scores in 1st period
Can the Stars score enough? Creating offense was a challenge all season for Dallas, which was 26th in the NHL at 2.58 goals per game. Rookie forward Denis Gurianov led the Stars with 20 goals, the fewest by a team leader in the League, and center Tyler Seguin led them with 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists). Seguin was the only Dallas player to score at least 40 points (every other team in the NHL had at least two players reach 40).
No injuries to report.
Jason Robertson might get a look in training camp after he led Texas of the American Hockey League with 47 points (25 goals, 22 assists) in 60 games. The 20-year-old forward made a good impression during three games with Dallas in February. He made his NHL debut against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 13 and had an assist on Seguin's game-winning power-play goal in a 3-2 victory.
Jamie Benn, who was second on the Stars with 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 69 games this season, has 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 32 NHL playoff games. The forward's average of 0.94 points per game in the postseason is the best in Dallas history (minimum 10 games).
Video: CAR@DAL: Benn scores PPG in 2nd period
They said it
"The team has been in the top 10 all year. We've done a lot of good things, so we prefer to look at the positives. We have confidence in our players, confidence that we were going to turn the corner very quickly." -- coach Rick Bowness
Jamie Benn -- Tyler Seguin -- Corey Perry
Mattias Janmark -- Joe Pavelski -- Alexander Radulov
Roope Hintz -- Jason Dickinson -- Denis Gurianov
Andrew Cogliano -- Radek Faksa -- Blake Comeau
Esa Lindell -- John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen -- Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak -- Andrej Sekera