What a month of February it was for the Dallas Stars.
Despite a sour taste in the mouths of many fans after a narrow 4-3 loss to defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins on national television Thursday, the past 28 days for Dallas have been incredibly productive in establishing the team as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
The Stars went 9-3-2 in the calendar month, highlighted by a four-game winning streak in the middle of it and six wins over Eastern Conference teams. Interestingly, Dallas went 2-1-1 against teams in the Central Division, splitting two contests with front-running St. Louis.
Both Boston and St. Louis have firmly established themselves as the favorites in their conference coming off of Stanley Cup Final appearances. Two wins in a week over those teams would’ve firmly established the Stars as an elite team, but even with the losses, Dallas remains in the top three of the division.
Monday’s trade deadline was particularly active with many contenders giving up steep asking prices for talent. Even so, the Stars stayed quiet. Dallas didn’t make any trades, even though they were rumored to have offered San Jose a trade for 40-year old star Joe Thornton.
Interestingly, Stanley Cup-winning teams in the past decade have stayed relatively quiet at the deadline, including the defending champion Blues. The Stars’ management casted a definitive vote of confidence in the roster and its offseason moves. Here’s how the team stacks up by unit as the calendar flips to March:
Offense: B. Dallas saw a scoring uptick in scoring in the month of February, currently sitting at 2.69 goals per game, good for 25th in the NHL. For a team that struggled to stay out of the bottom in the category in league scoring, it’s an improvement. Captain Jamie Benn scored 7 goals in the month after just one the entire month of January. Tyler Seguin scored five after a goal-less January. Joe Pavelski mirrored Benn’s output with six tallies after just one in 2020’s first month.
Defense: A. Dallas has somehow gotten better defensively in the past month. Their goals per game is down to 2.53 per game, good for second in the NHL only behind Boston. The Stars allowed two goals or less in seven of 14 February games.
Special Teams: A Dallas’ power play has taken off. Once a principal weakness, the Stars now find themselves in the league’s top-ten for power play scoring with a 21.7% clip on the year. That ranks fourth in the West, only behind playoff contenders Edmonton, Vancouver and St. Louis. The Stars penalty kill has remained solid at 81.1%, good for fifth in the conference.
Goaltending: B+. Besides a black eye last Friday in a 5-1 loss to St. Louis, the Stars elite net-minding has remained solid. Anton Khoudobin was solid in reinforcement this week with wins over Chicago and Carolina. Goalie Ben Bishop allowed 3.20 goals per game with a 90% save percentage, his worse month of the season so far.
Coaching: B+. Rick Bowness has done a great job manning the ship in an interim basis. His season-long win total has eclipsed former coach Jim Montgomery’s wins through December. Bowness has tinkered with the defense with varying results, and after initially altering Seguin’s performance by changing his positioning on power plays, has seen it produce results.
Standing: 80 points, 3rd in Central Division. 1 point back of second-place Colorado, 6 of first-place St. Louis.
Notes: Stars captain Jamie Benn scored his 300th NHL goal in Thursday’s loss in Boston after having it taken off the board upon review earlier in the week. In Thursday’s loss, defenseman Miro Heiskanen scored his first goal in since December 3. Prior, he scored six goals in the season’s first three months.
Up Next: Saturday at St. Louis, Tuesday vs. Edmonton, Thursday at Nashville.