The Dallas Stars are 3-0. They have dominated three divisional games and currently lead the NHL in points and goal differential. The team has played a much faster-paced, more dangerous game that has produced 13 goals in three games.
Is it too early to really judge them? Or are these new Stars for real?
The Stars went 4-0 in 2020-21 but missed the postseason. That same year, the Chicago Blackhawks were a playoff favorite halfway through the season until reality hit. The 2021-22 Philadelphia Flyers began 5-2 before finishing nearly last. Heck, the Anaheim Ducks were in a playoff spot for much of the season and ended up 23rd in the league.
On the flip side, the Montreal Canadiens started last season with five straight losses and that trend absolutely continued until they were the 32nd team in the standings when the year ended.
So what does 3-0-0 mean for this team? And is it actually a good look into what they will be this year? I think it is. My main reason: Pete DeBoer’s mindset.
The veteran coach has been consistent in his responses when asked about the hot start and excellent play that his team has shown. His priority remains in getting better and finding the true potential of the Dallas Stars.
“We found a way to win, we did some good stuff, but everything we’re doing has to get a little better,” DeBoer said. “It's early in the season, that’s normal. You wouldn't want to be peaking right now and I don't think anybody is. But you can't look at the standings and go ‘oh, we’re in a good place’. When you watch the tape, it becomes obvious all of the areas we still need to get better at, and that's everywhere.”
“We are just trying to keep building on the foundation here.”
It is very challenging to implement an entirely new system and style of play, especially with a club that has played vastly differently for over five years now. Outside of getting better, DeBoer knows how important it is to have success while learning.
Being undefeated to start the year and seeing the benefits of the new system right in front of you can be the difference between players second-guessing and being fully bought into everything they are doing. So far, the buy-in has been apparent.
With that success, comes yet another challenge. Mentally, it can be difficult to maintain a growth mindset when you are winning. It’s only natural. But let’s make one thing clear, this is not the best Stars team we will see this year. It is not even a playoff-caliber Stars team. What we are seeing is a team that is playing above their opponents at this point of the season. Other teams are all going to get much better and it is important for the Stars to do the same.
So for the Dallas players, maintaining their confidence at a reasonable level and continuing to improve on a daily basis is going to be key. For DeBoer and his staff, that balance is something they are faced with all season long and isn’t something that only comes with a lot of change.
“That’s always a challenge in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “That’s why streaks end. Your game starts to slip, you start to get a little bit sloppy, you get comfortable. Whether that is right out of the gate with a new coaching staff or middle of march. The key to a great season is getting on these runs and not letting that slip, making sure we keep it in the right place.”
The Stars will be tested to keep this run going on their upcoming four-game road trip through Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, and Boston. I believe we will learn a lot in those games and will have a much clearer picture of this team when they return to Big D next week.