Photo via Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images
Mar. 10, 2020.
The Dallas Stars, after their 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers, would play their last home game for what would seem like a century, as COVID-19 would indefinitely postpone the rest of the regular season.
Suspension. A global pandemic shows no love to any facet of society, professional sports leagues included.
Sept. 28. After the 2019-20 NHL campaign jolted back to life to begin postseason play, the Stars would vault all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, only to get shut out, 2-0 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Elimination. It is a taboo word to say in any competition, and most definitely something never muttered after losing out on hoisting one of (if not the) most prized trophy in all of professional sports.
Jan. 14. What was supposed to be Dallas’s season-opening game of the 2021 campaign swiftly got nipped in the bud. The culprit? An all too familiar COVID-19 outbreak. The spread of the virus within the organization (which would balloon to more than a dozen cases) would result in the franchise not starting its comeback crusade until Jan. 19 at the earliest.
Temptation. The sheer urge to put last season’s heartbreaking Stanley Cup behind them was certainly making its due diligence known now.
To say the Stars have gone through quite a bit over the past 10-plus months would be an extreme understatement at this point.
And so, Jan. 22 arrived. The date (a home matchup against the Nashville Predators) would mark the Stars’ first game since their Game 6 defeat. Then came a quick turnaround bout against the same opponent not even two days later. Then, there was yet another game (this time against the Detroit Red Wings) two days after that matchup.
It would not have been far-fetched in the slightest to expect a little rust under the Dallas blades. Perhaps Dallas would come out with a handful of points. Maybe they would be lucky and take two games out of three. Even still, three games in a span of less than five days would be a tough task for any team, let alone a team struggling to find a clean bill of health and practice time on top of it all.
Instead, the Stars swept the leg and sit at 3-0 heading into Jan. 28 action. The 3-0 start is their first since the 2010-11 season, and only their seventh in franchise history, dating back to the team’s inaugural 1967-68 season, when the club was known as the Minnesota North Stars.
Even when taking franchise feats out of the equation, the current Dallas team can still hang their cowboy hat very proudly. In the team’s first game against Nashville, the Stars erupted for seven goals in what would be a 7-0 shutout victory. Of those seven goals, five came on the man-advantage. The five power play goals would be the most for a team in their season-opening game since Oct. 5, 1989, when the Boston Bruins scored the same amount in a 5-4 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In fact, these two games are the only two games in NHL history where a team scored five or more power-play goals in their opening game of the season. The fact Dallas shares this honor with a powerful Bruins’ squad (that went on to collect 101 points and trek to a Stanley Cup Finals berth, mind you) is most definitely icing on top of a very tasty cake.
The Stars, however, would not stop there. In their two corresponding games, the team would score an additional four power play goals (three against the Predators in the second game and one against the Red Wings). In case you were keeping score, this adds up to nine goals on the man-advantage. In fact, the Stars’ 56.3 Power Play Percentage (PP%) ranks first among all NHL teams heading into Jan. 28 play. Small sample size or not, this is most definitely impressive.
To take it a step further, who scored those goals on the man-advantage emphasizes more on the depth Dallas still has at its disposal. Collectively, six skaters combined to score those nine power play goals (Joe Pavelski with three, Denis Gurianov with two and John Klingberg, Roope Hintz, Alexander Radulov and Joel Kiviranta with one apiece). In last season’s 69-game regular season, 11 total skaters scored at least one goal on the man-advantage.
While Dallas might have a way to go to prove their long-term legitimacy as a Stanley Cup Final contender this season, one thing is for certain. The team, through its resiliency, power-play prowess and depth, is back for redemption. In three mere games, this fact has already been proven.
Redemption. The Dallas Stars are out on a mission this season, and if their first three games are any indication, all opposing teams should heed this warning.