After a rough start to the year on the road, the Dallas Stars are leaving the AAC for a six-game stretch up north. But when looking at the schedule, it’s clear that the next ten days will offer them a steady upward progression in competition that should offer time to adapt.
On Saturday afternoon, the Dallas Stars boarded a flight for Detroit, Mich. to kick off a six-game road trip. And as the team looked out the window as the plane took to the skies, they caught their last glimpse of Texas for 11 days.
This six-game swing up north will be the Stars’ longest road trip of the season. They will visit six different states/provinces over the span, go up against six Eastern Conference squads, and try to improve on their 5-4-0 record.
Long road trips for hockey teams have always fascinated me. Not only do they have to pack accordingly, but they also have to say goodbye to any family they might have for up to two weeks. That’s a long time and many people don’t think about just how much of a toll a long road trip can take on athletes.
But it’s not just about being away from home. Hockey players also have to gain the right mindset going into an extensive trip. They have to be able to prepare for different kinds of opponents, deal with travel time and short rest, and be ready for various conditions and situations. It’s a grind that helps test just how good a hockey team is.
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The Stars endured this same test in March 2018. Following a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas hit the skies for a six-game trip. They were sitting in a good spot in the Western Conference playoff picture and looked to be a postseason contender.
But by April 1, they had been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoff race. And though it was due to a few different reasons, fully flunking their road trip played the largest role in their demise.
The Dallas Stars posted an 0-4-2 record during that swing, gaining two of a possible 12 points. They suffered losses to some good teams like Toronto and Washington, but also collapsed at the hands of poor teams like Ottawa and Montreal. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. As a result, the Stars fell short of the postseason for a second straight year.
It just goes to show how important a season-long road trip can be. It provides a different and unique challenge to a hockey team and carries a lot of weight with it. Whether it happens in the first or last month of the season, it means a lot.
And it just so happens that this year’s trip will once again determine a lot for the Dallas Stars.
Dallas started their year off on a sour note in terms of road play, picking up losses to Ottawa and New Jersey for an 0-2-0 record. And though they have salvaged it with an impressive 5-2-0 record at home, they won’t play their next game at the American Airlines Center until Nov. 8.
It seems as though the Stars simply have an issue with road play, and there’s nothing that can be blamed more than their mentality. Home ice advantage isn’t a heavy factor for any team at this point in the year and it’s not as if the Stars change anything when going on the road in terms of their style. They just cannot seem to get it done and pick up points. Maybe it’s just something between the ears like Monty talked about following the loss to NJ a few weeks ago.
This road trip might be scheduled out perfectly for them to do just that.
The Dallas Stars will open up the trip in Detroit on Sunday. Following their matchup with the Red Wings, the Stars will visit the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, and Columbus Blue Jackets (in that order).
If you haven’t already noticed, that scheduling offers a steady progression in terms of talent and success.
The Red Wings come into Sunday afternoon’s game with the worst record in the NHL. They are 1-7-2 on the season and haven’t won since Oct. 20. The Wings could very well finish the year as the worst team in the league as well as they open up a franchise rebuild.
Following that, the Stars will head to a Canadiens team that is off to a surprising 6-2-2 start. After trading away two of their best forwards in Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty over the summer, many expected Montreal to be in for a rough year. Whether this is simply an early season spark or not has yet to be determined, but the Stars typically match up well with Montreal and should be in for a good fight.
After the first two contests is where things step up a notch. The Stars will head to Toronto to face off with an 8-3-0 Maple Leafs squad that already defeated them in the first week of the season back in Dallas. The Stars should have a better grasp of what to expect this time around (i.e. a red hot power play and high-flying offensive attack), which can help them prepare better.
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Two days later, Dallas will be in Washington to take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Though the Caps aren’t out to the hot start that you would expect from the defending champs, they are 5-3-2 and have one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league with 3.80 goals for per game.
Finally, the Stars will close out the trip on a back-to-back against the Bruins (6-3-2) and Blue Jackets (6-4-0). Both teams are in the top halves of their divisions and made the postseason last year. They are well-rounded groups that will provide a tough challenge for a Dallas team that was outscored 7-1 in their first back-to-back road scenario of the year.
The Dallas Stars need to turn their road woes around and do it fast. The first month of the season is almost over and they are just a notch above .500 in the standings. While that can be expected with a new head coach and new lineup, now is the time where consistency becomes expected instead of hoped for.
We’ll see what the Stars have in the tank to start things out at 4 p.m. when the puck drops at Little Caesar’s Arena in the Motor City.