It has come much later than they would have liked, but the Dallas Stars seem to have finally found themselves.
After a nearly debilitating start to the season, where they often found themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Stars have found a way to string together some wins and earn some valuable points. More importantly, they seem to have finally learned how to right some of their most egregious wrongs from earlier in the season.
A Closer Look at the Stars’ Numbers
Over the past six games, the Stars earned a 5-1-0 record that has pushed them back to within striking distance of a playoff spot. Starting on December 13, they defeated the New Jersey Devils at home and earned wins against the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues on the road. Not necessarily the strongest of competition in that stretch, but rather a good mix of varied opponents that tested the Stars.
In the six-game span, Dallas scored 18 times, 13 of which were registered by someone not named Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn, and they surrendered 16 goals. They outshot opponents in four of the six games. The Stars slightly improved at drawing penalties, but continue to struggle as they take too many. In the past six games, they drew 17 penalties and took 20 of their own. The power play clicked at 17.64%, an improvement compared to their season average of 16%, including two in the win over the Blues
Turning Things Around
Dallas is still slowly learning to break the bad trends that put the team in the hole they are in. The inability to close out games seems to have been overcome. The Stars gave up as many goals as they scored in the third periods of the last five games, which definitely helps. Four of the Stars’ past six wins have been by a one-goal margin, and the Stars scored the opening goal four times. Defensive zone turnovers still plague the team, but not as often as earlier this season. Kari Lehtonen’s play of late has also helped turn away several more of those turnovers.
Lehtonen continues to struggle, but his.910 save percentage and GAA under three in those six games show a slight improvement on his season numbers. More so than his numbers, Lehtonen has looked more like himself lately, and the defense has helped him a little more. His second shutout of the season (a 2-0 win over the Canucks) was solid, but his third period performance against the Blues Saturday really showed what he is capable of when he is on his game with several glorious chances robbed by the big Finn as he helped shut the door and earn the 4-3 victory against one of the Central’s best.
One of the biggest positives taken out of the winning streak was Dallas’ first division win. Before defeating the Blues, the Stars were 0-7-3 against Central Division opponents. Wins are never bad, but only defeating non-conference opponents can and will come back to haunt you in the form of tie-breakers and an inability to make up ground on those ahead in the division. The video below perfectly shows the intensity and determination the Stars need more of, especially in games against division opponents.
Next up is a three-game home stand against the red-hot New York Rangers Monday night, the struggling Arizona Coyotes and the Minnesota Wild.