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After Sputtering Out The Gate To Start The Season, The Stars Launched Themselves To The Top Of The Western Conference Thanks To These Three Things.

Over the last few weeks, Your Dallas Stars have continued to motor up the wild, wild Western Conference standings, and after a truly wretched start to the season, they rather improbably found themselves tied with the St. Louis Blues at the top of the conference this week.

Yes, after another successful road trip that saw interim head coach Rick Bowness’ team take five out of a six possible points, the Stars and Blues tied one another with 74 points apiece this week. It’s been a remarkable turnaround, as Dallas has slugged it’s way through 59 games to post a 34-19-6 record, fighting all along the way through coaching changes, injuries to key players and their best forward currently sitting 55th among the NHL’s top scorers.

Not exactly the most conventional trajectory to the top!

Still, the once easily flappable Stars have hardened into one the NHL’s most calm and resilient clubs. Unfazed by a goal against (or several), Dallas has repeatedly shown itself willing to stick to its guns until the final buzzer. It’s been marvelous to watch!

Honestly, the last time we felt this confident with the team’s ability to pull points out of their bums was way back during the ’15-’16 campaign, when Seggy and the bois would regularly score their way out of problems. The ’19-’20 Stars seems to be getting the same results — but in a very different, and dare we say better playoff-tested, manner.

So, what makes this team so good right now? Three things, I’d say.

1. Ctrl + S. We’ll never get sick of saying it, but the Stars have the best netminding duo in the NHL. Anton Khudobin and Ben Bishop are simply the backbone of this team, and while they get excellent assistance from the Stars’ defense-first system to restrict high-scoring opportunities against them, this pair is rarely outplayed by the opposition’s goaltender. Dobby and Bish are top 10 in just about every goaltending category in the league, and are obviously a huge reason why this team is third in the NHL in goals against with 151.

2. Blurred Lines. The forward corps hasn’t gotten much credit this season, but the Stars’ ability to roll out four legitimate lines each night — even while trailing — is paying dividends for Bowness. Dallas looks fresher late in contests than most of opponents, and has been able to churn out Victory Green™ after Victory Green™ on the heroics of its skating depth. While the Stars are one of the few teams left without a player to have cracked 20 goals this season, the team does have seven players would could possibly reach the mark before season end. No, it’s not a great attack, but it’s a balanced attack — and the team seems to be getting better at converting opportunist goals as the season progresses. Also, the off-season veteran acquisitions are finally starting to look comfortable in their new roles, and just as the young guns on the team are building confidence and putting the puck on net more frequently. The team that peaks together, wins together! Or, y’know, something to that effect.

3. Lower-Cased D. It’s a great sign that the Stars continue to win without needing its defensive group to absolutely dismantle the other team as it has so effectively done in the past. We haven’t exactly been thrilled with the defensive unit as of late, no. Wunderkind Miro Heiskanen, while still performing admirably as the team’s top defensman, hasn’t had an overtly impactful mistake-free game in a while. Is that an absurd criticism? Absolutely. But we are starting to see Miro make more and more uncharacteristic mistakes as his average time on ice has ballooned to 23:52. Wait: The kid has 31 points, 7 goals and is a +10, we’re really going to nitpick on Miro? Listen, we love Miro! But there is something ever so slightly off in his game at the moment, even if he is still playing very well. We just see so much Scott Niedermayer in the Finn that we’re ready to see Miro ascend his play to Norris Trophy-winner level already. Is that too much to ask? Our point is, as good as this unit currently is, it can and will be even better in time. Fortunately, John Klingberg seems to slowly improving and getting back to his high-volume shots-on-goal ways, and Stephen Johns is only going to improve as he skates two years of rust off. So there’s reason for optimism.

NHL HITZ PRO Player of the Week:

It was only a matter of time, folks. Yes, Tyler Seguin is back at it like a bad habit. His average ice time of 19:08 leads all Stars forwards, and he;s finally getting rewarded for all his efforts. He snapped a career-long scoring drought in his hometown of Toronto — and, wouldn’t you know, the goals have been starting to flow ever since! In his last four games, Seggy’s posted a healthy three goals and three assists. It’s good to have this ship righted, finally.

What’s Next?

What would you like to see the Stars do before the trade deadline on Monday? Grab a proven second-line scorer? Another penalty-killing defenseman? Or perhaps flip Andrej Sekera for Nathan MacKinnon? Hey, it could happen!

Meanwhile, these next few home games on the schedule almost certainly will.

Wednesday, February 19, at 7:30 p.m. versus the Arizona Coyotes (HOME): It’s Tyler versus Taylor, part 23! The ‘yotes are all in on a playoff run this season, and are holding onto their postseason hopes while currently sitting in the final wild card position.

Friday, February 21, at 7:30 p.m. versus the St. Louis Blues (HOME): Folks, we haven’t been this excited for a regular season tilt in a while. This game against the reigning Stanley Cup champs should be a great measuring stick test.

Sunday, February 23, at 2 p.m. versus the Chicago Blackhawks (HOME): Have all the “life long” Blackhawks fans moved on? Guess we’ll find out during this Sunday matinee.

Flip it. Stick it. See ya later, bye. — LehtMoJoe

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