One full month into the season and the Dallas Stars are currently 8-5-1 at sit tied for 3rd in the Central Division. They have gained a few much-needed wins in the past few days with the first road win of the year coming on October 30th.
There are many things that have contributed to both the success and drawbacks of the team this year. The team does miss Russian winger Alexander Radulov who has only played in seven of the teams 14 games this year. Despite his absence, he is tied for third on the team in points. In addition, he is tied for second in goals.
However, injuries are out of the team’s control. Along with Radulov, Martin Hanzal and Stephen Johns have yet to make their season debuts. Connor Carrick and Marc Methot have missed time this past week due to injuries with Carrick going on the injured reserve.
So far this season, there have been three key players that in my eyes have contributed to the early success of the Stars.
The biggest surprise this season to this point has been the play of Devin Shore. Shore is entering his fourth season with the Stars and scored the opening goal of the season for the Stars back on October 4th against the Arizona Coyotes. He went quiet for a few games until a home matchup with the Los Angeles Kings. In the seven games since, Shore has two goals and five assists with two multi-point games.
Shore is a center by trade but due to a surplus at the position, he has spent a majority of his time at the wing. Projected as a bottom six guy at the beginning of the season, Shore has played his way to a top-six role. Currently, he shares a line with Tyler Seguin and Mattias Janmark. Shore’s versatility makes him one of the more versatile players in the lineup. A great trait to have.
The Stars have Shore under contract until the end of next season. It may be wise to consider an extension before letting him hit the open market.
Every time you turn on the T.V to watch a Stars game, Miro Heiskanen is always there to impress the viewers. At just 19-years-old, Heiskanen plays like he’s a seasoned veteran. He is third on the team in TOI/game and has logged over 20 minutes of play in each of the last seven games. Against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals, Heiskanen was on the ice for 27:10. His highest total of the year.
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While he may not fill the stat sheet as much as we would like, he does the little things right. Considering he is only 13 games into his NHL career, it’s not the end of the world.. The offense will come and his game will progress. Need I remind you, he’s only 19. The Stars have high hopes for the 3rd overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft and so far he is proving his worth in the NHL.
Jason Spezza is in his 5th season with the Dallas Stars and 16th overall. During his time in Ottawa, Spezza was primarily the team’s number one center and in Dallas, he is slotted at second right behind Tyler Seguin. Last year you could say was a bit of a down year for Spezza. There have been three times in Spezza’s career where he has failed to put up at least 50 points in a season. Take out the one year he only played 5 games and you are left with two seasons. One of those instances was his rookie year where he played 33 games and recorded just 21 points. The other? Last season where he played 78 games and only recorded 26 points.
Naturally, that raised questions like whether or not Spezza has lost his game. With his play so far, it appears as though those questions are being squashed.
To this point, Spezza has tallied three goals and seven assists in 14 games. He has recorded a multi-point game in three of the 14 games he has played. In addition to contributing offensively, he is doing his part in the faceoff circle. He is first in the NHL winning 62.25 percent of his faceoffs. Another key factor to the offense’s success as a whole. Last season, so far, seems to be an anomaly.
The goaltending has been phenomenal. Both Ben Bishop and backup Anton Khudobin have been solid between the pipes. Posting a .923 and .929 save percentage respectively.
With that said, it is only a month into the season meaning there is plenty of hockey left to play. From what we have seen from the Stars so far there is a reason for optimism going forward.
Cover photo credit: sportsday.dallasnews.com Chris Bugajsky covers the Dallas Stars for Full Press Coverage. Follow Chris on twitter @CBugajsky14.