Stars Setting Sights on Central Division Lead

In the course of the last three weeks, the Dallas Stars have taken their coach off the hot seat, increased points production, reduced the amount of goals allowed per game and find themselves sitting third in the Central Division. Now the Stars need to take the next step – challenge for first. Dallas has some specific targets they need to lock-on in order to achieve their goals.

Shooting Down the Jets

Thursday night, the Stars beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-3. It was a game where Dallas willed a win. They beat the Jets in shots, faceoffs, blocks, and takeaways. Winger Corey Perry recorded three assists and Mattias Janmark announced his return with the first goal of the game. With the win, Dallas took sole possession of third place in the division.

Mattias Janmark
Mattias Janmark (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Despite the loss, the Jets have been winning some nail-biting games of late. They found wins against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators. All of those games were decided by a single goal. Scott Billeck commented on the recent results. (from ‘Jets gaining valuable experience amid nail-biting finishes,’ Winnipeg Sun, 11/20/2019)

“It’s too early to mention the playoffs in the same sentence as the Winnipeg Jets, but it’s not too early to say they’re gaining some valuable experience in that style of game.” 

Scott Billeck | Winnipeg Sun| November 20, 2019

The Stars will need to have the stamina late in games to prevent a similar fate – a fate that was almost seen Thursday when the Jets rattled off three straight goals. Gaining two points against the team the Stars are neck-and-neck with in the standings is important. The Stars will face the Jets in back-to-back, home-away games Dec. 3 and 5.

Related: Jets Are Embracing a New Work Ethic

Shutting Down Colorado’s Offense

The Colorado Avalanche has been off to a flying start this season. Colorado is second in the Central Division and has won four of their last six games. The Av’s offense is second in the Western Conference in points and tied for first in goals. Center Nathan MacKinnon is both the team’s leader and conference leader in points. Rookie defenseman Cale Makar has been helping the offense, accumulating 23 points in 21 games. Makar leads all rookies in points.

Colorado Avalanche Cale Makar
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

While the Avalanche have a potent offense, the Stars have found success in recent games. The last two times these teams met, Dallas held Colorado to only a single goal and took home wins. The Stars holding an offense of this caliber to a single goal in both games should be a testimony to Dallas’ bread and butter. If they want to continue to find success against the Avalanche, they need to stay the course on defense.

Colorado and Dallas are tied for points in the standings, but the Avalanche hold one game in hand. The Stars take on the Avalanche for the third time Dec. 28 at the American Airlines Center.

Take Advantage of Beat-up Blues

A division lead is going to be nothing short of a challenge, and it’s going to be a race with one team. The division leading St. Louis Blues are currently five points ahead of the Stars in the standings. It’s a difficult mountain to climb – only the Washington Capitals have more points in the overall standings. The 2018-19 Stanley Cup winners are also loaded with points production. The Blues are tied for first in the Western Conference in points with the Edmonton Oilers. St. Louis also has five players with 15 points or more. Winger David Perron leads the team with 21.  

The last time the Stars clashed with the Blues, Dallas lost 3-2. Mattias Janmark and Miro Heiskanen were the only Stars to find the back of the net. But that was well before Dallas’ surge of offense.

The Blues are banged-up and are missing Sammy Blais, Alex Steen, and Vladimir Tarasenko for an extended amount of time. They’ve compensated by signing 34-year-old Troy Brouwer. If there’s ever a time to make-up some ground, the Stars need to take advantage while the Blues are in band-aids. With the Stars allowing the second fewest goals in the Western Conference, managing a stonewall defense will be paramount when these two meet. They will play again Nov. 29 in Dallas.

Capitalize on Division’s Lower Half

Between now and New Year’s Day the Stars have a fairly difficult schedule, only facing three teams that are currently below .500. The good news is they also face the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and Predators multiple times. All three of those teams are behind the Stars in the division. The Stars need to make those games count.

Matt Irwin,David Kampf
Nashville Predators defenseman Matt Irwin and Chicago Blackhawks center David Kampf fight for the puck. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

When the Stars face the Blackhawks, they can anticipate an increase in offense as Roope Hintz returns from injury. Nashville and Chicago both rank in the middle of the Western Conference when it comes to goals allowed. With Dallas currently averaging 3.88 goals per game, both teams can expect to have busy defensemen. 

Related: Can the Blackhawks’ Offense Keep Rolling?

The Stars have not faced either team yet, but will get their first chance come Saturday with the Blackhawks.

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