Stars coach Jim Montgomery on the return of Martin Hanzal
Finish this sentence.
The Stars are....
Perhaps the best answer is: heating up.
When Dallas beat the Edmonton Oilers, 4-1, at the American Airlines Center on Friday night, it provided the team its second three-game winning streak of the 2018 season.
As that win proved, things are seldom going to be pretty with head coach Jim Montgomery’s team. But this group has done enough to keep pace with a crowded Western Conference field in the standings.
In the five games prior to the mini-run, the Stars had only claimed three points. Then came what might be an early season-saving turnaround.
But how much does it really matter in the moment?
After practice in Frisco on Thursday, Montgomery acknowledged the big-picture realities of the season.
“Did I expect us to be really good against Edmonton? No,” Montgomery said. “Since we were coming back from a long, successful road trip, we didn’t have a lot of time to recuperate. But the good news is that we’re finding a way to win those games, now.”
For forward Devin Shore, not a whole lot.
“You always try to focus on the task at hand” Shore said. “You can learn from what’s happened before, wins or losses, and you can keep things rolling with that confidence. But when it gets down to it, you need to focus on the next opponent.”
Many other players would likely echo those sentiments.
Montgomery said he and his staff worked on those small details, including strengths (hustle and compete), as well as weaknesses (timing and spacing in the offensive zone and neutral zone).
But he did say that he liked his team’s jump from that morning and that he expected a good effort on Friday night.
The Stars will need it, too.
The Sharks have won their previous two games by a combined score of eight to two.
San Jose currently occupies third place in the Pacific Division and considered by some to be a dark horse capable of claiming the top spot by season’s end.
And for as much as the players and coaches will analyze match-up advantages, at least part of this group’s strength seems to be focused on looking inward.
When asked about a number of his players smiling at a December practice, Montgomery said this.
“I think we’re believing and trusting in each other. That goes hand-in-hand... We get paid to either coach or play a game. And they are acting like it, which is a good feeling.”