A five-game win streak will do that, as well as two months of solid play that has gotten the team back in the middle of the playoff race.
“We’re winning and that’s all that matters,” said Loui Eriksson
. “It’s fun to come to the rink every day. I think all of the guys in here feel the same. We want to keep it rolling.”
Seemingly left for dead in early December, the Stars scratched and clawed their way out of the cellar of last place in the West and approached the All-Star Break with an opportunity to pull into the top eight.
The Stars are tied with the Red Wings for the third-best record in the Western Conference since Nov. 30. One of the keys to Dallas’ turnaround has been defense and penalty killing. The Stars are allowing nearly one full goal less in their last 27 games (2.78 per) than they did in their first 22 games of the season (3.77). Additionally, the club’s penalty killing is at an 80 percent clip over the last two months, up nearly five percent from October and November.
The key has been getting back to true team play and finding some consistency.
“We try to fore-check hard and back-check hard and turn pucks over,” said Jere Lehtinen. “It’s been much better. The beginning of the season was pretty tough, but even then we played good games and we knew it was there. We’ve finally found some consistency.”
Marty Turco has been a big difference maker as well. The Stars’ net-minder has gone 6-1-0 in his last seven games with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. His numbers have steadily increased over the last two months, as he is 15-5-3 in his last 23 games, with a 2.40 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage. Turco's slow start was uncharacteristic, as he entered this season with a career goals-against-average of 2.15, never having finished a season higher than 2.55.
“Marty has been great,” said Lehtinen. “He’s been huge in all of these wins in the last month and a half. I think the whole team is playing more confident but he's been a big part.”
Turco has been getting some solid team play in front of him. Dallas is playing very well in its own zone and that can make the difference between winning and losing.
It’s the little things.
“It’s been a great sight to see, guys doing whatever it takes to win games - blocking shots, clicking on the power play, good defensive positioning,” said Turco. “It’s been a lot of fun and we are still in a clump of teams fighting for position. It’s, ‘One game at a time,’ no matter where we are in the standings. We are starting to see what we are capable of now and I think I'm coming around. I'm feeling good lately.”
With 10-of-13 games in the month of February at home, the Stars are looking to keep their hot play going. Dallas is 9-1-1 in its last 11 games on home ice. The Stars have also gone 11-2-1 in their last 14 home games.
“We're at home here for a while and we’re starting to put points together and wins together and it’s fun to be around the rink right now,” said James Neal. “Stuff's starting to roll for us and we're playing good hockey. A lot of that is the result of starting to put some good lines together.”
With 33 games left in the regular season, the Stars are not about to let up. Currently sitting in sixth place in the conference, just two points back of fifth place Anaheim, they want to seize the opportunity in front of them.
“We are playing well without the puck and we are doing the things that allow us to win,” said coach Dave Tippett. “Our special teams have been good, Marty has been excellent and we are doing things right as a team.
“We’d like to continue to play well and build on this.”