Again, I have to feel the need to say sorry for not posting in a while, although I’m sure none or very, very few of you missed my blogs.
The Stars have recently gotten their selves back on track, and have jumped to the upper half of the crazy race in the Western Conference. Every team from 6th to 10th place has 53 points, and the Stars are lucky enough to be at the top. However, one slip, and Dallas could be back in 9th, 10th, or even lower. Vancouver sits in 11th with 52 points, and Colorado holds 12th with 49 points. It’s a dangerous predicament, but the Stars should be able to take advantage of their recent success and stay in a playoff spot.
Winning the division is essentially out of the question. The only team ahead of San Jose right now in terms of points has also played 3 more games and is still only 3 points ahead. However, the Stars have the chance to grab second if they play well against Anaheim, who has 57 points, but has taken 53 games to get their 26 wins, compared to Dallas’ 48 games to get 23 wins. Dallas’ only other worry in the division would be Phoenix, who’s had an up and down year but has still managed to keep in the race, putting together 53 points in 51 games.
A 4-game winning streak that the Stars hope to improve upon tonight against Calgary has been yet another sign of the Stars’ turnaround following the departure of Sean Avery. Before the past two games, the Stars hadn’t won 3 or 4 games in a row the entire year.
In the past couple of games, Loui Eriksson and James Neal have regained their scoring touches following a short slump, which makes the Stars offense much more threatening. Mike Ribeiro and Brad Richards are piling up the assists, and Steve Ott has added a scoring touch to his mean streak, racking up 8 goals in 32 games so far, on pace to break his previous career high of 11. The Stars have also received helpful secondary scoring from players like Toby Petersen, Mark Parrish, and Fabian Brunnstrom. Not to mention, veterans Jere Lehtinen and Mike Modano are still capable contributors even at their old age.
In the defenseman position, Stephane Robidas has smoothly taken the spot of blueline leader. Once thought to be a third-pairing guy who wasn’t very necessary, Robidas has taken control of the blueline this year and provided some very helpful offense. Matt Niskanen is also developing an offensive touch, while Trevor Daley seems to have been infected with Orr-itis, often rushing down to the opposing goal line to create an offensive chance. If he’s not careful, the Stars will place him in a Dustin Bfyuglien role and call up Mark Fistric. Meanwhile, Nicklas Grossman, Darryl Sydor, and Andrew Hutchinson have quietly held down the fort in the defensive end.
In goal, Marty Turco has perhaps made the biggest turnaround. At the start of the year, he was horrific. His save percentage was at the lowest of his career, and his goals-against average had ballooned to around 5 goals. In about the past 15-20 games, though, the amazing Marty Turco returned. He’s managed to lower his GAA down to 2.98, and his save percentage is only slightly bad, at %.899. Tobias Stephan hasn’t recieved much action at all, only appearing in 7 games and only getting the win/loss in 3, earlier in the year. If the Stars are locked for a playoff spot with some regular season time left, expect him to get a little more action. Otherwise it’s all Turco, all the time.
The Stars are in the middle of last year and the year before as far as general scoring. Two years ago, Mike Ribeiro was the leading scorer with only 59 points. Last year, he shot up to 83 points to lead the team again. At 43 points so far this year, he’s leading the team and will likely get more than 59 for the year, but it would probably take some gargantuan effort (or the surprise return of Brenden Morrow in the next week) for Ribeiro to best his 83 points of last year.
Despite the relatively low scoring, however, the Stars appear to have regained their usual talent and could be up in the top of the league as soon as next season, if not later this year.