Why Dallas Stars went from ice-cold to red-hot

Why Dallas Stars went from ice-cold to red-hot
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What a difference a month makes. A month ago, the Dallas Stars were sputtering, leaving Rick Bowness searching for answers. Now, the Stars take a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday’s game, and they’ve also won nine of their last 10 games.

So, does that mean all of their questions have been answered?

Not necessarily. You know how people say “the truth is somewhere in between?” That feels especially appropriate for the Dallas Stars.

During a season between extremes, it’s fitting that the Stars remain out of the Western Conference playoff picture. Naturally, even that doesn’t tell the whole story, either. The Stars possess games in hand on most of their Central Division/Western Conference brethren, leaving them right in the thick of things.

Let’s look at the big picture and specifics of this hot streak. How much of it is luck, and how much of it might just be a sign of a formidable Stars team?

First, the big picture of the Dallas Stars’ hot streak

The short version: the Dallas Stars’ hot streak is powered by a deadly scoring line (Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jason Robertson) and a red-hot goalie tandem of Braden Holtby and Jake Oettinger.

We’ll delve into those driving forces shortly. Zoom out first, though. Check out the difference in simple stats (via NHL.com) and underlying numbers at even strength (Natural Stat Trick) between roughly the first month of the Stars’ season and the second, hot one.

Why Dallas Stars went from ice-cold to red-hot chart

[Dallas Stars rising in PHT’s Power Rankings]

Broadly, there are some similarities. Even during this hot streak, the Stars focus on quality more than quantity (the latter seen in stats like Corsi For% [CF%]). Interestingly, their power play was dynamite during the slump, and remained strong (23.3 percent tied for ninth-most efficient).

As usual, the changes are more interesting.

  • Unsurprisingly, the Stars’ puck luck started off dismal (that 5.72-percent even-strength shooting percentage ranked second worst in the NHL). Lately, that luck swung drastically. They more than doubled their shooting percentage (12.02) and received elite goaltending.
  • Their penalty kill went from one of the worst, to unsustainably stingy. Most likely another case of the truth being between two extremes.
  • Amid the good and bad bounces, the Dallas Stars have also “made” their own luck — to an extent. After struggling in quality areas like expected goals percentage and high-danger chances, they played like a top-10 or even top-five team in those areas during this hotter month.

No, don’t expect the Stars to get so many saves or shoot so efficiently for the rest of this season. But there’s a lot to like about their process; they’re owning the high-priced real estate in the high-danger areas.

Let’s go deeper on that hot line, and keyed-in goalies.

No denying it: Hintz, Robertson, Pavelski drive Stars’ offense

Through 12 games, defenseman Miro Heiskanen was the only Stars player at double-digits in points (12). Every other Stars player generated seven points or fewer.

Then again, Jason Robertson only played in six of those games (tellingly generating five points).

During their hot streak, the Stars are witnessing — once again — the power of the Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson trio. If you missed it last season, that line was absolutely deadly — when Hintz was healthier enough to complete it.

In the past 10 games, Hintz and Robertson lead the Stars with 13 points, while Pavelski is just behind them with 12. No one else scored more than seven points during that 10-game span.

Questions of balance, and the future

Ideally, the Stars would love better scoring balance. After all, in a playoff series, a strong opponent might nullify (or at least slow down) Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski.

It’s worth noting that some of the top-heavy scoring is somewhat by design. As Hockey Viz’s Micah Blake McCurdy recently noted, Rick Bowness slices up roles in very deliberate ways, setting the table for that trio to score.

In the margins, maybe you can spread the wealth a bit. But as McCurdy also noted, feeding Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski chances is generally wise.

Perhaps the key would merely be to squeeze out more of a good thing? Even during this hot streak, Jamie Benn‘s receiving average ice time (17:16) than Pavelski (17:09), Hintz (16:47), and Robertson (16:13, less than Radek Faksa‘s 16:18).

Obviously, the Stars have to be careful with Pavelski, who’s somehow 37 years old. But Hintz (25) and especially* Robertson (22) should be able to handle a larger workload. Worst case scenario, you try it out, then dial it back?

* – Considering Hintz’s injury issues last season.

Generally speaking, the Stars clearly have a great thing going in Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski. In a more hockey-mad market, they’d be getting more press. To get to the next level, the Stars should aim for some combination of more out of them, and more out of those around them.

Bad news for the rest of the NHL: Stars’ goalies are red-hot again

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Dallas Stars have had a knack for manufacturing strong-to-elite goaltending. No doubt, much of that comes from being one of the stingiest defensive teams from Jim Montgomery’s run through to Rick Bowness. (Ken Hitchcock likely didn’t hurt, there, either.)

As usual, the Stars’ defense nurtures a goalie’s stats.

Yeah, it’s a bummer that Anton Khudobin rapidly slipped from feel-good story to the trading block. But the Stars were clearly wise to roll with a Holtby + Jake Oettinger combo instead.

For the most part, Holtby gave the Stars chances to win during that slump. Khudobin, not so much.

Over the long haul, Holtby and Oettinger generated unsustainably strong goaltending over the last month-ish …

Unless the Stars have two secret peak Dominik Hasek clones in Oettinger and Holtby clothing, even that defense won’t generate .950+ save percentages often. We don’t see .940+ very often, either, really.

(Frankly, the best Khudobin + Ben Bishop years already seemed tough to replicate.)

Yet, if the Stars can count on Robertson + Hintz + Pavelski more often than not, and put their goalies in position to succeed, they could be a scary opponent. We’ve seen formulas like these work in the playoffs, and this team isn’t that far removed form that 2020 Stanley Cup Final run.

Just don’t expect the Dallas Stars to stay this hot.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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    NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

    Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

    Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

    “The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

    The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

    A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

    “We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

    Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

    The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

    They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

    Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

    Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.