We continue to get deeper into this NHL season, and your Dallas Stars are not going anywhere from their spot on top of the Pacific. After slipping some by ending the 2010 calender year by losing 4 out of 5 games, and all of those losses coming at home, the Stars have found a way to turn it around through the first half of this month.
While Dallas started to get attention in December from the media and blogging world for what they are doing this season, it was actually a down month for the Stars. Besides ending the month with the four straight losses at home, the Stars all struggled a bit in the month. They went 8-5-3 for the month, which looks decent but really breaks down to being 8-8 with 3 extra points. Every point matters and is needed in the West, but they just seemed to be fighting through and sometimes dragging through the month. The Stars still continued to struggle with playing full games each night, and often disappeared for a period, which some nights cost them points.
But the Stars have turned things around this month, and did so on the road. Dallas started January off with three of four games and put up four goals in each game while allowing only four total in those three wins. Kari Lehtonen has bounced back after some rest, both from days off thanks to Raycroft and from a light schedule, and in five starts has allowed two or less goals every game except for a shootout loss. The Stars have gone 5-0-1 in their games this month, and has started to build a lead on a couple of the Pacific teams. The should-be cellar Stars have a 10 point lead over the Kings and Sharks going into tomorrow night’s matchup with the Kings. Wait, weren’t those the two teams everyone picked to win the Pacific and be top teams in the West? Yea and right now the Stars are outplaying both of those teams and now hits the back half of the season with a decent chance of winning their division and very good chance at least getting into the playoffs.
A big part of the Stars trending back upwards over the last two weeks is the return of the offense. Dallas have outscored opponents 23-9 this month on the way to that 5-0-1 record, averaging just a shade under four goals a game while giving up very little. The offense has come back alive after having some off nights in December, lead of course by the Stars two All-Stars in Brad Richards and budding winger Loui Eriksson. Both have been consistently getting points and leading the attack. And the addition of right-handed shot Jamie Langenbrunner and the leadership he can add only improves the Stars up front and on their powerplay. Speaking of the powerplay and offense, has anyone else noticed their recent success? During this streak of six games, the PP has gone 9 for 19 capped by scoring on four of five chances on Saturday night. Richards is again mastering the art of leading the powerplay and he seemingly creates at will most nights.
The Stars have an important stretch ahead with six straight games against conference foes over the next two weeks, but if they keep up the play they have shown for the better part of these last six games then they should be fine. And I mean playing the Oilers twice and Flames should help. But the offense and powerplay have stepped it up, and with some consistency the Stars could continue this solid play for the rest of the month.