Stars Face Biggest Test of the Early Season

Valeri NicHushkin has scored six points (two goals) in December (six games). Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch
Dallas Stars’s Valeri Nichushkin has scored six points (two goals) in December (six games). Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch

By Stephen Elliott

Three months into the (just over) six month NHL regular season, and the Dallas Stars are leading the Western Conference by six points.

In the NHL’s group of death, the Stars hold an eight point lead over Chicago and St. Louis and are three points clear of Montreal for the most points int the NHL. The Stars took the conference lead on Halloween and have not lost the lead since.

Hard to imagine the team that did not scratch the top 18 teams a year ago is position to compete for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Last week, the Stars faced their toughest test yet this season against the St. Louis Blues, the conference winners from a year ago. The Stars were shut out by Blues’s goaltender Jake Allen in a 3-0 in St. Louis. The game was 1-0 for most of the game until the Blues tacked on two late in the third period.

This game featured captain-on-captain fight with fast paced, aggressive skating topped with great goaltending on both sides.

Jamie Benn talked about the game against the Central Division rivals.

“They came out hard,” Benn said. We knew they would come out hard, they always do in this building. They’ve got good fans here and they obviously feed off that.”

The next meetings between the two will be on the 26th and 27th as a part of a home-and-away back-to-back (mark your calendars).

The night before the Stars played the Flyers in Dallas. Antti Niemi and the Stars allowed one goal in a 3-1 victory. Antoine Roussel scored the game winner in the second period. Flyers’ goaltender Michal Neuvirh faced 43 shots and continues to have one of the league’s highest save percentages.

Tuesday, the Stars held off a massive comeback from the Carolina Hurricanes. The Stars lead 4-0 and 5-1 in two separate periods (1st and 3rd) but Carolina tied the game 5-5 late in the third. Patrick Sharp’s goal in the final seconds saved the Stars from a devastating defeat.

The Stars have surrendered two recent 3+ goal lead in the third periods. Lindy Ruff talked about the struggles in the third after the Carolina game.

“There’s some things we got to do better,” Ruff said. “In our puck possession, we were dumping a lot and changing and we gave them a lot of possession. We gave them a lot of time to come up ice and we didn’t finish our shifts.”

In the latter part of the month, the Stars face top playoff contenders. The next three feature the Blue Jackets, Flames and the Montreal Canadiens. Then, they face three central division foes in the Wild, Blackhawks and the Blues, twice. These last games of the month will be the Stars toughest game stretch of the season so far.

Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
12/15  vs Columbus    7:30pm
12/17  vs Calgary        7:30pm
12/19  vs Montreal      6:00pm