Stars Midway Through the Season, Right Where They Need to Be

The Dallas Stars have a 1-3-1 record to start the new year. Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch
The Dallas Stars have a 1-3-1 record to start the new year.
Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch

By Stephen Elliott

The Dallas Stars sit on top of the Western Conference with a 29-11-4 record and  four point lead over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite their recent struggles they couldn’t ask to be in a better spot just over halfway through the season.

Their mid-season success has granted them with three representatives in the NHL All-Star Game. When the All-Star selections were announced, coach Lindy Ruff was asked about his teams success so far this season.

“I’m the benefactor of a team who has been playing real hard for 41 [42] games,” Ruff said when asked about being selected to his third All-Star Game. “I feel like I got a coaching staff that’s done a great job. Any one of these guys could be a head coach in this league and the work they put in daily is the reason we are at where we are at.”

The Stars week begins on day two of a five day break after last week’s 1-2 record. Saturday’s loss to the Wild was the Stars fourth loss (three in regulation and one in overtime) of the new year. The loss came after the Stars ended their three game losing streak in a shootout win against Winnipeg on Thursday.

The week began with the Stars shellacking loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday. It marked the third straight loss after the Stars had their first back-to-back losses of the season. The final tally against the Rangers was 6-2 and it was truly that lopsided. John Klingberg tied the game 1-1 after an early Rangers’ goal in the first period. Keith Yandle scored less than a minute later and the Rangers never lost the lead again.

The Stars travelled back to Dallas to face the Winnipeg Jets. The game was 1-1 through the first two periods after the Stars and Jets, respectively, traded goals in each period. Patrick Sharp nearly put in the game in late in the third but Winnipeg’s rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made a sprawling left pad save. Scoreless through the third period and overtime, the game was decided in shootout where the Stars scored on their first two chances (Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp) and Kari Lehtonen saved two out of three earning the Stars their 17th win at home. Kari Lehtonen had 33 saves on 34 shots earning his 13th win of the season.

The Stars hosted the Minnesota Wild on Saturday for their fourth meeting this season. Ryan Carter and Thomas Vanek scored in the second period to give the Wild a 2-0 lead entering the third. Jamie Benn scored a late power-play goal after Lindy Ruff emptied the net with nearly five minutes remaining in the game. The Stars forced 36 shots on Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk but just one managed to find the back of the net in as the Wild held on to win 2-1. That last sentence isn’t entirely true as the Stars scored a goal in the first that was later reviewed and disallowed for goaltender interference. John Klingberg wristed a shot past Dubynk as Antoine Roussel screened the goalie. However, it was overturned after Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged goaltender interference. The contact was minimal yet Roussel being in blue goal crease impaired Dubnyk’s ability to play his position.

Here’s what the NHL said:

The Referee determined that Roussel prevented Dubnyk from doing his job in his crease, in accordance with Rule 78.7 which states in part: “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Referee … determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to ‘Interference on the Goalkeeper,’ as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4.”

Rule 69.1 states that goals should be disallowed if “an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal.”

Rules have grey-area and, like rules on catches in the NFL, some rules never seem 100% clear. Yet, the goal was disallowed and the Stars lost by a one goal margin.

Short week of games for the Stars, here is their upcoming schedule.

Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
1/15  @ Ducks    9:00 pm
1/16  @ Sharks   9:30 pm