One of the bigger surprises so far this season has been the Pacific Division leading Dallas Stars. On Monday, the Stars defeated the San Jose Sharks in a shootout to maintain their slim lead in the Pacific. A quick look at the standings will tell you that its the Stars’ dominance on home ice that’s helping them sit atop the division (the Stars are 11-3-1 at American Center), and surprisingly – they’re just 4-5 versus their Pacific Division brethren.
Two of the Stars’ four wins versus divisional opponents have come against the fickle Sharks while wins against Phoenix and Anaheim round out the Dallas’ divisional victories. So, if they’re not necessarily getting it done in their division, then who are the Stars beating?
Dallas’ 9-8-2 record versus Western Conference teams is impressive, especially considering pre-season prognostications and the club’s ongoing ownership mess. The Stars have found some success when playing Central Division teams (they’re 4-2-1), although, 3 of those wins came against one club – the St. Louis Blues.
The Stars record at home isn’t the only outlier at work here, though. They’ve absolutely dominated Eastern Conference teams as well, but, the quality of competition they’ve faced from the East may have helped pad their record to this point. Sure, the Stars beat up on the Pittsburgh Penguins on November 3rd winning 5-2 – and they’ve also knocked off the Washington Capitals. Other than notching wins against HBO’s favourite teams, the Stars have taken games from five Eastern Conference teams that currently hold sub-.500 teams, and also beat the 12-12-4 Carolina Hurricanes on two separate occasions.
We’re not trying to take anything away from the surprising Stars here, but they’ve had some luck with the schedule early on – and if their +4 GF/GA differential is any indication, then it’s reasonable to predict they’ll encounter some struggles eventually.
To this point, it’s been solid goaltending and timely scoring that’s helped the Stars win. Both the penalty kill and power play have been underwhelming (26th and 19th in the NHL, respectively), and the only current division leader who’s scored fewer goals than Dallas is the Montreal Canadiens. The Stars’ next 20 games should give us a good indication of what kind of team we’re dealing with as 17 of those contests come against Western Conference opponents. The three Eastern Conference opponents on the horizon are no slouches either – a trio of similarly surprising clubs in Monteral, Atlanta, and New York.
What do you say, are the Stars a legitimate contender or have they over performed through their first 30 games?