The Euro unicorn and pony show had much of the NBA world drooling on Monday.
But if even if the newly acquired Kristaps Porzingis signs an extension with the Dallas Mavericks (he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer), it’ll be at least nine months before he joins rookie phenom Luka Doncic in a regular season game.
Until then, DFW sports fans are still left with an enticing appetizer. How satisfying that course ultimately ends up tasting remains to be seen.
But Monday night’s tasting was pretty delicious.
Heading into the third period, the Stars trailed the Coyotes 2-1. But less than five minutes in, head coach Jim Montgomery finally got the offensive explosion he’s been waiting for.
In less than three minutes, his team found the back of the net three times and earned a 5-4 win in the process.
Dallas was outshot 43-29 and goalie Ben Bishop gave up a rare soft goal (trying to play the puck behind his own net) that made it a one-goal game in the third period.
And a failure by Mattias Janmark to cover a man in front of the net led to the Stars blowing an extremely rare two-goal lead.
But with under eight minutes to go, an excellent forecheck and pass from Jamie Benn to the front of the net found Tyler Seguin. The center then snapped the puck off the crossbar for the lead and the eventual win.
Monday night’s high-scoring affair not withstanding, the strong, focused stretch of play has been cemented by elite defensive play, particularly from goalies Bishop and Anton Khudobin. It also includes wins over two of the best squads in the conference.
The victory over the Jets came before the All-Star break. But Saturday night’s road win over the Predators came on the second night of a back-to-back.
And, like this group’s other winning streaks this season, this one comes off a notably putrid stretch of play (a four-game losing streak in mid-January).
So, where is all of this going?
Has Montgomery’s team finally found that elusive “c” word? Or has this recent stretch of consistent play another mirage before a fall back to the edge of the playoff bubble?
Dallas now has 29 games remaining and that question remains difficult to answer.
If the goaltenders maintain this elite level of play, and the skaters remain disciplined in the defensive zone, the Stars could eventually secure third place in a truly difficult Central Division.
Entering Monday night, the Stars had racked up 58 points in 52 games. That number placed them third in the division.
The Nashville Predators have collected 66 points in 54 games and will visit the AAC on Thursday night. When these two teams have met this season, the Stars have produced a strong 1-0-1 record against their 2020 Winter Classic opponent.
General manager Jim Nill has made two moves already. But neither forward Andrew Cogliano, nor defenseman Jamie Oleksiak have made a noticeable difference.
The injuries and absence of defensemen Marc Methot and Stephen Johns allow for a tiny bit of wiggle room when it comes to the financial flexibility required to swing a deal.
But in terms of adding some real flavor to the current recipe, don’t expect Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin or even a lower-cost forward such as Matt Duchene of the Senators to get shipped to Dallas.
Nill’s seat may be getting warmer and moves across the league may indicate a buyer’s market. Just don’t expect to see a second-line, 20-plus goal scorer (on either the wing or at center) walk through the door by deadline on Feb. 25.
Secondary scoring will likely continue to be an issue through the remainder of this season. For reference, Tyler Seguin (20), Jamie Benn (19) and Alexander Radulov (14) are the only three forwards with 10 goals or more.
The next two highest-scoring forwards are Radek Faksa (8) and Jason Spezza (6).
The truth is, this team is capable of winning or losing four games in a row at at given point in time. Their wins over the Predators, Jets, Maple Leafs and Capitals, among others, are proof.
They might even be able to replicate that success come playoff time.
In the meantime, you better come prepared with a napkin and some Pepto-Bismol if you’re going to watch this team.