The Dallas Stars have not been an exception to that rule, beginning the season 7-7-4, winning a few here, then losing a few there. They sat at the .500 mark for the first month and half of the campaign. However, the club has really turned things around as of late, going 11-4-0 over their past 15 games. They are currently tied with San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division and are looking to continue a three-game winning streak in Edmonton tomorrow night.
“It’s tough to stay consistent because of the parity in the NHL now,” said Mike Modano. “Points are points though and we’ll take them when we get them. We need to keep playing steady and consistent hockey and sticking to what we’re best at, which is playing defense. That helps us get points out of games.”
There have been several different reasons for the success, including getting scoring throughout the lineup. Several people criticized the Stars in the off-season for not adding enough scoring punch and the team kept talking about needing some people to step up in order for the club to have a “score-by-committee” approach. They also were looking to stay healthy, as Modano and Brenden Morrow
(among a few others), missed a substantial amount of time in 2006-07. Through the club’s first 33 games this season, that approach has worked. The Stars are one of only two teams in the league to have five guys with 10 or more goals on the season. Last season, the Stars had just two players score 20 goals, while this season they are on pace to have five, 25-goal scorers. Not only that, but they are third in the Western Conference in goals for, behind only Detroit and Calgary.
“We have had a lot of guys having great years and that has helped us out,” said Morrow. “Our concentration needs to be on playing well and doing what we can to get points out of games. If we do that, both the offense and the defense will fall in line from there.”
The power play has been another big reason the Stars sit at 18-11-4 right now, ranking tied for third in the NHL with a 23.4% success rate. Dallas’ power play has scored in 20 different games this year and the Stars record when lighting the lamp with the man-advantage is 13-3-4, including winning eight of their past nine outings. When the power play does not score, the club is 5-8-0.
“In general, our power play has been a big-plus for us this year,” said Modano. “It’s third or something in the league right now and has bailed us out of some tough situations. What it really does when it’s clicking is it puts the other team on their heals to not take penalties because they don’t want to get burned but the power play.”
It has been the confidence in the offensive game for the club that has allowed them to rally when trailing. Dallas has yielded the game’s first goal to their opponents a total of 17 times this season and is 9-7-1 when doing so. The nine wins are the most in the NHL this season and they are one of only two teams to have a winning record when trailing first (also Detroit at 5-3-1).
It’s the offense that gives the Dallas Stars a boost of confidence to be in any game no matter how it starts, and the defense that is still the backbone. Dallas enters tomorrow night’s game with Edmonton having won 12 straight games when allowing two goals or less and are 16-1-1 this season. In order to stay more on the “hot” end of things this year, the Stars will look to have both their scoring and their defense clicking on all cylinders. If the past 15 games have any indication of how things are going to go for Dallas in ’07-08, they should be just fine.
“The way we’ve been playing lately is the way we want to play for the rest of the year,” said Morrow. “From our power play to our penalty kill to our goaltending and to our scoring, we have played pretty good hockey, but we realize that we still have a long way to go in the season. Our challenge will be to continue the success we have had as of late.”