After falling in overtime to the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 5, the Dallas Stars dropped to 0-1-5 in goals decided by one goal.
If you have followed this team in previous seasons, the nightmarish visions of their 14 losses past regulation in 2020-21 were likely dancing around amidst the sugarplums in your head.
Fast forward to Dec. 19.
The Stars hold off a late Columbus rally and beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 to close out a five-game road trip 3-1-1. With the win, their record in one-goal games improves to 4-2-6.
Now, that record is far from elite. But over that span, Dallas has gone 4-1-1, a tremendous improvement from their horrendous 0-1-5 start.
“That’s huge,” Jake Oettinger said. “We’re going to have to play with leads. We’re a good team and we usually give ourselves a good chance to win. If you can play with the lead and shut it down in the third, you’re going to be a good team. I think we have that.”
On the five-game trip, the Stars took down the Washington Capitals 2-1, the New Jersey Devils 4-1 (with two empty-net goals), and the Jackets 2-1. Their losses came with 30 seconds remaining in regulation in Pittsburgh and in overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes, two of the streakiest teams in the NHL right now.
33 games in, the Stars have found every way to win games.
They ran away from the competition in the first 12 games, found ways to come back late at home, and now have developed a more secure style and structure when playing with the lead or in a tight game.
Finding ways to win and the ability to lock down a lead are both integral parts of a successful team. These moments serve as lessons for the players and coaches and those lessons can be integrated as the season moves along.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these same lessons can be the difference between a first-round exit and a deep run.
“Every time you win a game like this, you learn some things,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said following the win in Columbus Monday. “Guys get put in situations. I liked our patience. That’s a game where you can really force it, trying to look for another goal. I thought we did a good job. We were patient and didn’t overextend ourselves looking for the second goal.”
With the wide array of winning styles that Dallas has developed, the Stars have put themselves in a position to be a very dangerous team.