What are the Dallas Stars?
Since the end of last December, upper management, the head coach and the team’s star players have all produced unique, strong and sometimes contradictory answers.
While some fans and media members have called this “saga”’ dysfunctional, there is at least one common thread. The status quo is not acceptable.
The front office has made a few minor trades so far. And it’s possible a couple smaller deals could be on the way before the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
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But unless general manager Jim Nill really decides to break from his pattern of more conservative roster moves, then the lineup you see is the lineup you’re going to get for the remaining 32 games this season.
The more important question might be this: who are head coach Jim Montgomery’s Stars? On paper, this team, by the admission of the fans, media, players and head coach, has been the poster child for inconsistency. Their place in the standings is proof.
Entering the first contest after Saturday’s All-Star game, the Stars were tied for fourth place in the Central Division with the Avalanche. Before Wednesday night’s action, Colorado, Dallas and the Vancouver Canucks also shared seventh place overall in the Western Conference.
The home team’s 1-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center is unlikely to make or break this group’s playoff chances. But it is a clear window into their identity.
This team can hang with any opponent on any given night. At least when the players are executing Montgomery’s vision and plan in all three zones.
The upstart Sabres’ entry into the playoff field has been a bit of a surprise up to this point. Buffalo is still at least a year away from being a real threat in the playoffs, but the Stars were able to grind their way to another victory.
The overall shot total (27) doesn’t necessarily herald the consistent, high-octane offensive pressure Montgomery craves. But it was the combined fore-checking effort of Jamie Benn, Blame Comeau and Taylor Fedun, that led to the captain putting his team up 1-0 in the first period.
The sequence is reflective of what Montgomery wants, but really has not gotten for most of this season. And the numbers reflect that. Entering Wednesday’s contest, the Stars had the third-worst in goals-per-game average of any team in the NHL (2.6).
Ben Bishop, much as he has all season, once again proved that the backbone of this team is its goaltending.
Prior to Wednesday night’s game, his goals-against average (2.37) ranks third among all goalies. And while the Sabres put forth a consistent effort you might expect from a young, talented offense coming off a break, Bishop’s teammates didn’t give up much room for error.
But he still stopped every shot that came his way, including a flurry of high-quality chances with just under five minutes to go in the third period.
Well, except for the time he got run over in front of the net. That puck found the twine, but it was ruled no-goal on account of a textbook goaltender interference call.
The Stars will return to action on Friday night for a massive home game against the Minnesota Wild.
After the win over the Sabres, Dallas trails Minnesota by one point for third place in the Central Division.