With their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the Dallas Stars faced a daunting task heading into Saturday night’s match against the St. Louis Blues.
Not only are the Blues one of, if not the best, teams in the NHL, they are also one of the league’s top home teams, while the Stars were on the road and on the second night of a back-to-back.
Dallas, however, persevered, temporarily silencing the demons of season-long struggles on the road and in the second half of back-to-backs. They skated with the Blues all game long, stood their ground, and skated away with an impressive 4-2 victory. It was only the 10th home loss for the Blues all season long.
Amazingly, out of those 10 losses, Saturday’s was the second by the hands of the Stars, who also left St. Louis with a 3-2 overtime win on March 11.
While Dallas still sits in 9th place in the Western Conference, when you look a little closer at their performance this year it appears that the Stars might be a better team than their spot in the standings indicates.
In terms of total points, the top eight teams in the NHL right now are the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Los Angeles Kings.
What do all of those teams have in common? The Stars have beaten them all this season.
- November 5: Stars defeat the Bruins 3-2 in the shootout.
- March 29th: Stars defeat the Blues 4-2.
- November 26th: Stars defeat the Ducks 6-3.
- October 17th: Stars defeat the Sharks 4-3 in the shootout.
- December 17th: Stars defeat the Avalanche 3-2.
- January 25th: Stars defeat the Penguins 3-0.
- December 3rd: Stars defeat the Blackhawks 4-3.
- December 23rd: Stars defeat the Kings 5-2.
How have the Stars been managing to upset much stronger teams on a regular basis? A couple factors come into play.
First, team speed. From the top of their roster to the bottom, the Stars can skate. They are one of the overall fastest teams in the league, and speed can be a valuable asset when it comes to breaking things open and shifting momentum at crucial points in a game.
Take, for example, this goal from forward Antoine Roussel Saturday night. With the Stars barely clinging to a 3-2 lead and the Blues pressing hard, Roussel blew past Kevin Shattenkirk and Barret Jackman and beat Ryan Miller stick side to give the Stars some much-needed breathing room.
Secondly, coaching. Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff may only be in his first year with the team, but he brought with him a wealth of experience both in the NHL and internationally. While it’s always difficult to analyze what goes on behind the scenes, Ruff seems to be doing a great job keeping his team properly motivated and focused on the tasks at hand. The players seem far more composed in the face of pressure than in years past, and Ruff has managed to successfully address various issues with the team as they’ve sprung up. For example, the Stars were hemorrhaging shots and goals against in the first few months of the season, but have tightened up their defensive game significantly since then.
All that being said, Dallas has still struggled to find consistency for most of this season, losing certain key games at bad times, so they still has a lot of work to do to reach that upper echelon of NHL teams. However, every win against a strong opponent is a new learning experience, and the amount of those that the Stars have had this year is a notable sign that this team is steadily moving in the right direction.