The Dallas Stars used to fall apart when they had to tread the line between emotional and rational play. Recently, that fine line seems to be their happy place.
As a child, when I heard the phrase “don’t let your emotions get the best of you,” it was like a madly waving red flag warning me that I was probably about to do something stupid. As a child, of course, one seldom heeds these warnings and goes on to do the aforementioned stupid thing. In this case, your emotions got the best of you.
And while the phrase has a negative connotation, if anyone can name it and claim it and turn it around, it’s the Dallas Stars. In a not too distant past, their feet were planted firmly in the negative connotation camp. Time after time, we’ve seen the Stars’ emotions get the best of them.
But lately, and especially in their tilt against the Florida Panthers, the Dallas Stars seemed to let their emotions literally bring out their best. Although the Stars aren’t the fighting-est team in the NHL, they certainly seemed like a top five in the fist category on Tuesday night.
It probably didn’t come as a huge shock that the Stars and Panthers didn’t see eye to eye. These two teams don’t mean very often, but when they do, things can get explosive. There’s definitely not something so defined as a traditional rivalry, but the teams share history and hold some grudges.
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One of the biggest grudge-factors that I see clouding the waters was a long-standing ill-will based on Tyler Seguin‘s 2015 injury. It was a particularly dirty shot by Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov that seriously injured Seguin’s knee at a crucial point in the season. It took Seguin a long and agonizing time to return, which hurt the team as a whole.
But Kulikov has since moved on to the Jets and Seguin is back in action with a hot Stars offense. Still, these are the kinds of grudges that, in my opinion, don’t ever go away completely. It reincarnated itself on Tuesday when the Panthers felt as though Roussel had roughed up their goalie (replay proved our boy was clean), and all hell broke loose after that.
There have been eras in the Stars’ history when intimidation and rough, threatening play like the Panthers adopted would have gotten in their heads and shut down their dominance. Clearly, that was a pitfall that Dallas avoided in its 6-1 win.
The way that the Stars persevered through the skirmishes and came out on top was taking advantage of all the penalty situations and high emotions instead of letting it take advantage of them. Despite the issues the Stars have had even this season with special team pushes, going 5-6 on their penalty kill and capitalizing on a 5-3 stretch.
But what is most impressive for me to see in this team at this point in the season is the togetherness and identity that they are forging in the midst of high-pressure, high-intensity, emotional situations like Tuesday’s game.
After an offseason of things really being shaken up, new guys added, new outlooks being grafted in and really a new team being born, you have guys like Dillon Heatherington, who after only three NHL games played with the Dallas Stars, is already dropping gloves and dishing out blows in defense of his teammates. These Stars are really finding who they are as a team, and they are finding that the identity of this team is together.
The Stars have responded to change in much less productive ways in the past. So I, for one, am hoping to see the Stars let their emotions get the best of them many, many more times in the near future.