Following a 3-1-1 road trip and gaining 14 of the last 20 possible points, the Dallas Stars return to the AAC with some newfound lessons about their team. Asking around the room at morning skate on Wednesday, there was one word that was thrown around constantly: resilient.
“We’re resilient,” Stars forward Ty Dellandrea said. “We feel that we can win every game when we play the right way. We’ve found a bit of confidence in our game and are starting to work on things and do them every night. I think we’ve been pretty structured and playing a clean game.”
On the five-game road trip, Dallas found just about every way to pick up points.
They rode Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood for wins in Washington and New Jersey, overcame two multi-goal deficits to get a point in Carolina, and shut down a hungry Columbus team when they had a one-goal lead in the third period.
That, all coming after three comebacks on home ice and the team’s first shutout, is a pretty impressive bit of work.
“You’ve got to win all kinds of different ways,” Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we had a real good foundation of defending on the trip against some high-octane teams. We really defended hard and that gave us a chance in all those games to hang around.”
Finding ways to win and pick up points is what separates the good teams from the great teams, and Dallas has certainly vaulted itself into that conversation as we near Christmas.
For DeBoer, the upcoming Christmas break marks another milestone on the long-term plan that he and the coaching staff put together over the summer. At American Thanksgiving, they felt they still had areas to improve, and as winter begins in Texas, the team and their coach feel that they are right on schedule.
“We’ve talked about priority stuff since day one,” DeBoer said. “It was getting out of our zone cleaner, which would set up our neutral zone. Recently, we’ve been spending time on our forecheck and O-zone play and we’ve seen a bump in our O-zone numbers and share. When you lay out the plan in the summer, we’re probably right where I was hoping we would be.”
While DeBoer states that the team is where he hoped they would be, it is hard to believe that the fans, media, and even the players truly believed they could be this successful, this quickly.
Think about it for a second.
The Stars brought in an entirely new coaching staff that wanted to play a much faster and more offensive style than the team had over the past five seasons. They lost some big pieces in John Klingberg, Michael Raffl, and Braden Holtby, added a handful of new faces in Nils Lundkvist, Mason Marchment, and Colin Miller, and were putting their trust in a bunch of youngsters like Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger, Miro Heiskanen, Wyatt Johnston, and Ty Dellandrea.
Yet, 33 games in, the Stars sit atop the Central Division, have a one-point cushion on their former Coach Rick Bowness’ Winnipeg Jets, and trail the Vegas Golden Knights by a single point for the top spot in the Western Conference.
That growth and the rate at which everyone involved was able to get on board and play the way they wanted, is nothing short of incredible.
And this success does not feel like a hoax. This team has everything needed to have a sustainable season and a long playoff run. The best part: they should only get better from here.
"Throughout an 82-game season, you've got to win different kinds of games, different kinds of ways," Jani Hakanpaa said. "That's probably going to give us that extra little confidence going down the stretch here at the end of the year, knowing we'll be in different situations."