The Dallas Stars are no doubt the most surprising team of the season.
After struggling all of last year, the Stars have jumped out to an incredible start to this season. Heading into Monday night’s game, they sat tied with the Washington Capitols for the overall NHL lead with 50 points in just 33 games. The last time they did that, the season ended with the team hoisting in the Stanley Cup in 1999.
But Dallas has yet to really earn the respect that they deserve. Yes, those that do weekly power rankings have them at or near the top, as they should, but the hockey-knowing fan outside of Dallas likely could care less about the Stars being so high up in the standings at this point in the season.
This next stretch of games, however, could change that.
Starting with Saturday night’s win at Montreal, the Stars play a couple of playoff contending teams, most of which are Central Division opponents. They host the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks tonight and follow that with a home-and-home against the St. Louis Blues. With a six-point lead over second place in the division, the next week or so could be that opportunity to earn that respect.
And the Stars have a great shot at doing that, especially against the tougher opponents. This team has been scoring goals at a breakneck speed. Dallas boasts of scoring 3.42 goals per game, with a .23 advantage over second-place Boston. The team has scored three or more goals six times since the start of the month, including two games with six goals.
The Stars also boast of some of the top scorers in the league as well. Jamie Benn leads the NHL with 22 goals and is tied for second with 44 points. The Stars are also a plus-15 with him on the ice. Tyler Seguin isn’t too far behind with 44 points as well and 18 goals. He and John Klingberg are tied for third with 26 assists each.
Plus, the Stars aren’t really a team that let’s a loss get them down. Yes, they’ve taken some pretty bad and shocking losses, but at the same time, they haven’t lost back-to-back games yet this season (which I’ve probably just jinxed). They are a very resilient group, which will serve them well going forward in the season.
The one thing that will keep them from earning that respect, however, will be their defense. The offense is so good because it has to be so good. The Stars are still in the middle of the pack giving up 2.55 goals per game. Kari Lehtonen and Annti Niemi haven’t been really that good at all in net, allowing 2.54 and 2.47 goals per game respectively. And the defenseman in front of them have been known to make a dumb mistake every now and then.
But this is the best opportunity the Stars have had to really announce themselves to the league, to make their presence as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender known. This stretch of games leading into the New Year is their opportunity to finally earn the respect they deserve for what they’ve done this year.