Hope everyone has had a great holiday season and Merry Christmas so far! Today may only be a Sunday but the sports world is right back into the full swing of things. Some great NFL games happening, the World Juniors taking place in Buffalo, and the NHL jumps back into action with a full slate of 11 games taking place tonight. Your Dallas Stars of course are returning to action in one of those games, hosting the rival Phoenix Coyotes tonight. The two teams drop the puck at 7 PM CST/ 8 PM EST and it should be a good game for Dallas to get back into the swing of things. After a busy schedule at times during this month, the Stars got a couple of days to rest or spend time with family and friends. Now the Stars get a contest against a divisional rival at home, where they have been phenomenal for the most part this season.
The Stars have not just been great at home but are 11-2-3 over their last 16 games and have continued to surprise the hockey world and I will admit myself as well. I hoped this team could be a 6th or 7th place team in the west and get into the playoffs with better goaltending then last year and some more consistency. But Dallas has done even more then that. The defense was supposed to be the weakness after being bad last year and no real changes being made. Instead it has been getting better as the season has progressed and although still the weakness at some points this season they are learning and have been at least decent. The special teams were bad on both sides to start the season, but both are starting to turn around or already have. The penalty kill has been the 2nd best in the league since Nov 16th and have jumped to 19th for the season after being in the cellar for the first month of the season. The powerplay has been great at home but struggled on the road, until they busted out a few over the last two weeks and as a whole sit at 14th in the NHL.
But past all of that, how are the Stars tied for 1st in the west when they are in the teens for many big team stats? A lot of it has been the timing and chemistry of this team. They do not seem to quit on games and in close battles they are showing signs of returning Stars hockey to the days when Dallas was one of the best in one goal contests. The Stars win one goal games, and it just seems to happen all the time this season. If they need late goals to tie a game or maybe win it, they can get it. When the game goes to OT or even past into the shootout? Dallas is winning those games too and has this confidence about them that they can win in those games. It is part goaltending, part confidence and chemistry, and part just straight talent and being able to execute. Hopefully the Stars continue these traits and continue to improve and work on their faults. If so we might not just see a team competing to get in the playoffs, but a team capable of fighting for their division and home ice in the playoffs.
Kari Lehtonen will be back in the crease tonight and d-man Karlis Skrastins should be back on the ice tonight after missing the last game with a quad injury. Coach Crawford said he has not decided who will sit so I guess we will just have to find out at game time. Also, the ‘Yotes will be without star goalie Ilya Bryzgalov as he flew out with the team but again will miss the game. Go Stars!