The Dallas Stars kicked off the 2017-18 National Hockey League season in a satisfying way. There is still room for improvement. After a disappointing and inconsistent 2016-17 season, the Stars came roaring back this year. They have a record of 7-5-0 in the month of October. Let’s look at the Dallas Stars winners and losers for the month of October.
Dallas Stars Winners and Losers of October 2017
If one thing has really stood out for the Stars- its special teams. Last season, they were a mess. They were often inconsistent and were not able to be counted on. However, this season, it looks like the Stars special teams have improved. Through October, Dallas sits in the number one ranking for power-play efficiency. They are number two for penalty-killing efficiency in the entire NHL.
This is due to new personnel and new schemes. In 12 games played, the Stars have tallied 12 PP goals on the man-advantage on 39 attempts (30.8%). They have only allowed four goals on 42 penalty kills, giving them a PK percentage of (90.5%).
Top Line Offence
Leading the charge on the Stars offense are Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Both Benn and Seguin have been all over the score sheet thus far, with Benn Leading the team with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) and Seguin close behind with 12 points (seven goals, five assists). Seeing Benn and Seguin do this well this early is an awesome thing, and one could only hope that their scoring keeps up. The Stars need their top two superstars to be behind the reigns this season and keep them rolling.
Benn and Seguin’s success early on has helped newcomer Alexander Radulov to become well accustomed to his new team as well. Radulov, who has seen a majority of his ice time on the first line with them has tallied four goals and six assists for 10 total points.
When Ken Hitchcock entered the scene in Dallas this season to be behind the bench for Dallas, there was a ton of questions about him and what he could do for the team. Through one month of play, however, it seems that he was the right fit. Special teams are on fire and the Stars are winning. But, what is most surprising is perhaps how well Hitch can change line around and move players to gain results. We saw several times in October where there was a stall in production and Hitchcock would make adjusts, allowing the team to adapt quickly and on the fly and produce.
Hitchcock is familiar with the play of the Central Division and was no doubt the right man to hire for the job. The Stars are aiming to finish on top in the Central Division this season and make a deep run in the playoffs. The only way to do that is to stay fresh. Injuries happen, as we have already seen with Stephen Johns and Martin Hanzal, so Hitchcock’s methods of shuffling lines will continue to keep up.
Back Up Goaltending
Though Ben Bishop has been the go-to guy for the Stars this season, Kari Lehtonen has seen his fair share of time so far, and to be honest, it hasn’t been so great. Lehtonen has played in four games, starting in two of them and coming in as relief in two others. He has posted a record of 1-3-0 in those games with a goals-against-average of 2.91 and a save percentage of .896%. Though he may be a back-up, these numbers are not anywhere near where one would like to see them, and Lehtonen is sure to be aware of this.
“I think it’s like anything else. The goalies just need to stop the puck,” Hitchcock said in an interview with Sports Day Dallas. “How he feels and what’s going on, it’s not relevant for me. He just needs to stop the puck and help us maintain a competitive level during the game. We don’t need saving. We’ve played 10 games, we’ve out-chanced the opposition nine of the 10 times. He’s just going to have to make the saves that are there, just like Ben has to do if we’re going to be effective.”
The Stars are known for using two goalies to fill a starting role, they did it last season and it seems that it may be the case again this season. This means both Bishop and Lehtonen will split the games almost evenly throughout the year. Lehtonen needs to step up his game. If he is looking to nab the starting spot out from under newcomer Ben Bishop, he is going to have to earn it.
Total Offensive Contributions
This season, the Stars have scored 34 goals. Of those 34 goals, 26 have been scored by forwards. Of those 26 goals, 18 have come from the first line. In other words, all the scoring is done by either Seguin, Benn, or Radulov. As a matter of fact, 69.2% of the offense this season has been produced by the top line. Going forward, this means that the Stars need more contribution from the other three forward lines and their defensive unit.
If Dallas continues to solely rely on their first line to do all the work, it can almost be certain they will stall in scoring and slump. The scoring needs to start now. There are plenty of guys that have the skills to score- looking at John Klingberg, Jason Spezza, Martin Hanzal, and Devin Shore. The Stars are playing well, and if it continues, they can make the playoffs. However, like any good team, they need a full team effort. That means 200-foot hockey is needed from the forwards, defense, and goaltenders. Last season, lack of offense is what killed Dallas. Things are looking bright this season, but all four lines need to contribute.
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