Dallas Stars Defense Is One Of Their Greatest Allies

Dec 17, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) in game action against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at American Airlines Center. Stars won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 17, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) in game action against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at American Airlines Center. Stars won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

For the past few years, it has seemed as though the Dallas Stars’ biggest problem rested in the back end with their defense. But over the past month, their defense has without a doubt been one of their strongest areas.

Defense wins championships. Every sports fan knows that saying because no matter what sport you indulge in, the saying fits the bill.

In other words, a team could have the strongest and most dominant offensive lineup of any team in a league, but without a competent defense, they will never get very far. So you could score five goals a game in the NHL, but that doesn’t get you very far when the defense gives up six (i.e. the 2014-15 Dallas Stars).

On the other hand, if a defense can hold the opposition to one or two goals a game, then the offense has a better shot at finding two or three goals and getting the win. And when you have a dominant offense AND defense, the rest of the league better watch out.

For the past few seasons, the Dallas Stars have been struggling to find the delicate balance between consistent offense and defense.

In 2013-14, the Stars had a relatively stable offensive attack and defensive presence. But neither had a definitive edge when matched up against other teams in the league. That’s why Dallas managed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs but fall in the first round.

In 2014-15, Dallas put together a threatening offensive attack. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and Ales Hemsky were all in the top six of the lineup and used their prolific scoring abilities to hoist the Stars to second on the goals scored list across the NHL. But their lackluster defense set them at fourth highest for goals against per game. Translation: the Stars could not score their way out of games most nights and ended up missing out on the postseason.

Looking at last season, it seemed as though the Stars might have finally found something that worked. Their offense, with the addition of Patrick Sharp, was stronger than ever, and the defense had finally found some consistency with help from Johnny Oduya and a handful of other veterans.

Dallas finished first in the league in scoring and nineteenth in goals against. Still a little higher than they might have wanted, but the efforts were enough to get the Stars 50 wins and the first seed overall in the Western Conference going into the playoffs.

But it was only good enough to get them to the second round of the postseason where they fell to the St. Louis Blues.

Another year gone, and the defensive core still wasn’t good enough. But what was Dallas to do? Their defensive group was composed primarily of sturdy veterans and sharp, young guns. On paper, it looked like as good a D-core as that of many other teams. Changing it might cause another collapse like 2014-15.

But change they did. GM Jim Nill parted ways with pending free agents Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, and Kris Russell and signed Dan Hamhuis out of free agency. He also extended Jordie Benn for three years.

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That was all, though. Besides Hamhuis and Oduya, there was no projected starter for Dallas that had played more than four full seasons in the league. That’s not an entirely trustworthy lineup. Many suspected that the Stars were in store for a similar result as in the dreaded 14-15 season.

And through the first month and a half or so of this current season, it seemed as though the speculators were sadly correct in their assumption. On December 13th, the Stars were last in the league in goals against, giving up an average of 3.20 goals per contest.

December 13th was the first day of a five-game homestand for the Dallas Stars that would carry them up to the Christmas break. After a loss two days prior, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff stated that he believed the Stars’ entire season would land on the homestand.

Dallas was faced with five strong opponents, each currently holding a spot in the playoff picture. After putting their heads down and digging in for the fight, the Stars came out with an impressive 3-1-1 record. Not a bad record to land your entire season on.

One of the biggest reasons the Stars came away with such an impressive record was their defensive efforts.

While Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen gave strong outings, the defense made sure that neither goalie was overwhelmed in any of the five games. Through the last five games, the Stars only sacrificed a total of 10 goals (2.00 GAA). That GAA is good enough for second place in the league at the moment. Sadly, it hasn’t followed the Stars through the year.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t start now.

The Stars seem to finally be finding some consistency in their defensive lineup. Esa Lindell (rookie) and John Klingberg are developing chemistry and running an efficient top pairing. Dan Hamhuis and Stephen Johns are providing aid as the second pairing, and Johnny Oduya and Jordie Benn are serving as a capable and experienced third pair.

It’s all fitting together well, and Dallas is benefiting greatly from it. They also have two capable and prepared substitutes in Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak who are always ready to step in.

Next: This Stars Team Could Be A Dangerous Playoff Team

Sure the Stars aren’t where they want to be right now. But there is still plenty of time to get back in the race, and this most recent homestand proves that they are in the process of trying to. If the defensive effort that Dallas has received recently continues to show up with each passing game, the Stars could quickly find themselves turning the tide on their own misfortunes.

As funny and crazy as it may sound, it looks like the Stars’ upcoming success will rest solely on how their offense produces. Imagine that.