The New Year is almost upon us and while the Dallas Stars are looking for a deep playoff run in 2016, it is time for us to take a look back at what has been a crazy year for the team down south. 2015 has seen the Stars near the bottom of the Central, at the top of the Central and just about everything in between. They missed the playoffs in 2015 but have started the year looking like a team that won’t be playing golf early in 2016. Because it was such a strange year in Dallas it is only fitting that the most memorable moments are a mix of good and bad.
#5 – The Satisfying Comeback
The Anaheim Ducks were struggling to score so they used a remedy called the Dallas Stars. The Stars had gotten off to a fast start this season and the Ducks had gone the opposite way but Anaheim took advantage of some early turnovers in a game back in late-October. They got off to a 3-0 lead and it looked like Anaheim was finally going to be who everyone thought they would be.
Patrick Sharp scores his first as a Star and lets out a warrior-like scream to put a dent in the lead in the second period. Later in the second, Jamie Benn leads a terrific shorthanded rush down the ice after a quality chance from Ryan Kesler. He flips a blind pass back to Cody Eakin and he scores, igniting the crowd and putting the Stars within one. Not long after that, John Klingberg caught Cogliano and Bieksa not doing anything and got open in front of the net. Seguin found him and he made no mistake, tying the game at 3 before the second was over.
These two teams formed some hatred in the first-round series in 2014. With that in mind, there is only one player on the ice in this game that could win it in regulation. I’ll let Dave Strader and Daryl Reaugh take it from here.
#4 – It Works the Other Way Too
They can’t all be good moments. The craziest game of 2015 saw the Detroit Red Wings come back from two separate two-goal deficits to beat the Dallas Stars 7-6 in overtime. This game had everything. Before the 13-goal outburst even began, Jamie Benn fought Jonathan Ericsson. Not long after being released from the box, Benn scored the first goal of the game and these teams went off and running.
The Stars finished the second period up 4-2 after scoring three times in the final five minutes of the frame. Jakub Kindl would score twice in the opening two minutes of the third to tie the game but the Stars would answer that a few minutes later with two more goals of their own. Then Justin Abdelkader introduced himself to Dallas. He scored on the power play with about seven minutes left to make it a one goal game. He would then plow over Kari Lehtonen as Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-tying goal with under two minutes left in the game. I’ve seen Lindy Ruff mad plenty of times but I don’t recall ever seeing Lehtonen that outraged. No interference call was made and the call actually ended up being an example of what the new coach’s challenge would be able to overturn this season.
Lehtonen was still thinking about it in overtime as Niklas Kronwall scored a soft goal to win it for the Red Wings and Lehtonen proceeded to yell at the referee some more. You can look at the highlights from this memorable game here.
#3 – The Beginning of the End
Dallas Stars’ fans likely didn’t have a worse feeling after a win than they did on this night. The Stars beat the Florida Panthers 2-0 on February 13th, 2015 but they lost one of their best players in the process. Tyler Seguin went down with an ugly knee injury courtesy of a low hit from Dmitry Kulikov and it brought forth an ominous feeling in the American Airlines Center.
The Stars would spend the next month without their star player and fight hard but ultimately their quest to make the playoffs failed.
#2 – Signing the Veteran Trio
If you can’t beat them, take their players. Jim Nill has worked some magical offseasons and 2015 was no exception. He traded for Patrick Sharp and signed Johnny Oduya away from the defending champion Blackhawks. He traded-for then signed a former Blackhawk in Antti Niemi as well. These three players have made a world of difference in the Stars game and are big reasons Dallas is sitting on top of the Western Conference.
After a very slow start, Sharp is now fourth on the team in points with 31 in 38 games. Oduya’s forte is defense and he has provided it along with chipping in offensively with 13 points this season.
Niemi has seemingly taken over the number one goalie role in Dallas although he and Lehtonen have been swapped back and forth often this season. While Niemi’s statistics won’t jump out at you, he’s doing something the Stars lacked often last season. Making the big save at a key junction in the game. Game is tied in the third and the opposing team has a breakaway? Niemi to the rescue. He’s done things like that a lot this season and it has helped the Stars win a lot of games.
#1 – The Art Ross Miracle
It really couldn’t be anything else. Jamie Benn needed four points in the final game of the season to win the Art Ross trophy for the most points scored in the NHL season. He started quick with two goals in the first period. He was unable to do anything in the second period and for most of the third. It seemed like this magical story was running out of steam.
With just over two minutes left in the game and the Stars up by two, the Nashville Predators pulled their goalie in an attempt to come back in the game. Of course Benn is on the ice at this point (he finished with almost 23 minutes of ice time) and looking for the empty net. He gets the puck deep in his own zone and tries to flip it out towards Patrick Eaves. It hops over the stick of Seth Jones, a defenseman for Nashville, and travels the length of the ice and into the open net.
Woah, this might actually happen.
After a brief rest, Benn was back on the ice. His teammates relentlessly fed him the puck, everyone in the building wanting that final point. With less than ten seconds left in the season, it happened.
While Benn was happy, his post-game speech was riddled with disappointment as he felt he failed his team by not reaching the postseason. Maybe next year’s memorable moments will highlight a more team-oriented award.
Happy New Year hockey fans!
Jordan has been covering the Stars for The Hockey Writers since February 2015. He is originally from Iowa City, Iowa. You can follow Jordan on twitter @jordan_dix