The Dallas Stars seem to be on cruise control. They are winning at a rate that has them hovering in second or third in an NHL Western Conference that the St. Louis Blues are running away with.
The Stars have also survived the routine nicks and bruises of a season, not to mention the sudden firing of a head coach.
Of course the challenges of 2020 are just beginning, and possibly the biggest challenge of all lies just ahead: the month of February. We’ll get into that later. First, let’s take a look at how the Stars stand.
The Old and New
First of all, no one should mind having Rick Bowness at the helm as interim head man. It may not be where he expected or even wanted to be when the puck dropped in October. But he’s certainly as good as anyone to be filling this role.
At age 64, Bowness has coached in more games than anyone in the league, both as an assistant and closing in on 500 games as a head coach.
But this Stars outfit is a balanced team that practically runs itself. There’s the potential for almost anyone on any of three lines to go on a tear.
We could list the names – it’s a long one. But I’ll start with two players, young and old, as examples of the potential this team has for getting contributions from anywhere.
Hintz and Radulov
For instance, where did Roope Hintz come from? The 23-year-old Fin was
the 49th pick in the 2015 draft, and here he is the leading goal scorer on a team of goal scorers. He may not be the leader this time next week; that’s the type of balance this team has.
But Hintz is an example of a relative unknown coming from nowhere to be a major contributor.
At the other end of the age spectrum is 33-year-old Alexander Radulov.
We certainly knew more about him coming into the season, most of his reputation gained from international and overseas league play.
But this may be the first full NHL season in which he’ll be a major contributor on a playoff caliber team. He has stepped forward to become second in points for the Stars. His plus/minus of 13 is the team’s best.
We could go on about the other contributors and bigger names on this Dallas squad, but those two are in the running for surprise players of the year.
Now for the February thing. In case you haven’t checked your Dallas Stars schedule, there’s a long Valentine’s month ahead, and it looks like a nationwide tour.
During the month, the Stars have 10 road games and just five at home. They include a couple of back-to-back sets in New York and Canada. And there are two games in St. Louis.
So if you want to pick up tickets to Stars games, you might want to consider a couple of testy home dates this month, before the team hits the highway.
Dallas hosts Tampa Bay on Monday, Jan. 27, and Toronto on Jan. 29. The Lightning seem to have gotten back on their high horse after a slow start, and the Maple Leafs are right there chasing the Bolts in the East.
If the Stars emerge in March in good shape, look for them to get home advantage in postseason. But we all know how streaky a long season can be.