Photo via David Berding/USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Stars were a solid team last season. Despite the relatively pedestrian 43-32-7 record they possessed, they were a gritty team that found a way to slip into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. When they got there, they did not whimper to the bigger and statistically better foes on paper. Instead, they stampeded the Nashville Predators in six games and took the eventual Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues to seven games in the next round, a series they had the lead in and in game seven, went to two overtimes.
For a team that statistically was not dominant on the ice, it was an impressive postseason and season. A season you can build on moving forward. A season that can serve as a stepping stone for future success. With a team possessing a unique blend of good forwards developing and in their prime, young defensemen and a veteran goaltender this was a good assumption to make.
Fast forward six months later and, if you had money on that assumption, you would be crying to the sportsbook to cut you a break, or to at least convince them to call a cab to get you back to the hotel you cannot pay for anymore.
The Dallas Stars through the first month of the season were inconsistent to put it nicely, and abysmal to put it harshly. The Stars went 5-8-1 in October. In fact, the record would be uglier if not for Dallas closing out the month on a run where they won four of five. Through October 18th they were 1-7-1, with their lone win coming in overtime against the Washington Capitals.
Even with the hot streak to close out October, Dallas was still 25th in goals scored with 31, 27th in power-play percentage (10.0%) and 18th in penalty-kill percentage (80.0%).
Even with the hot streak to close out the month, the Stars did not look sharp. They did not play at the gritty and hard-knocking level many expected them to. Star forward Tyler Seguin led the team in points with only nine in the month. The hot streak to close the month out was a saving grace to the team’s stat lines. When Dallas was 1-7-1 the points leader on the team was forward Roope Hintz with six. Seguin only had four. Young defenseman John Klingberg only had three. No matter where you looked on offense, it was the same story.
However, that week-and-a-half stretch where the Stars won four of five would be more than a saving grace to close out the month. It would be a launching pad that would propel the Stars back to playing good and consistent hockey.
The Stars went 10-2-1 in November. From November 1st to November 25th they went on an 11-game point streak. After an overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets snapped a four-game winning streak, Dallas went streaking again, winning seven in a row before closing out the month losing two in a row.
Never mind the two losses. Looking at the entire month of November, the Stars looked like their past selves. Tyler Seguin had a 12-point month (3 G, 9 A). Seven other players had six points or more. Only six players in total were able to reach that mark in October. Goaltender Ben Bishop, after having a solid month of October (2.48 GAA, .916 Save Percentage) turned it up a notch in November, possessing a GAA of 1.90 and a save percentage of .941, both second in the entire NHL in that month (behind Connor Hellebuyck of the Jets, who had a 1.85 GAA and .944 save percentage).
The philosophy of the Stars has been to pair consistent goal-scoring with great goaltending. Because they do not possess a Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, they have to rely on consistency from the entire offense to chip in on the scoring, which will add up over time. Despite solid goaltending in October, the offense did not pick up the slack. They did not provide that consistency. In November, though, the team clicked on all cylinders. The unique blend of forwards combined with the young defensemen created the 17th highest-scoring team in November. Not elite, but just enough to make a difference.
“Just enough” is fine with Dallas. That is all they needed to succeed. That is all they will need to remain successful. That is all they needed to shine again.