Big Expectations for Big D: The Stars Prepare to Shine

USATSI_8116855_154158418_lowresThis year’s Dallas Stars seem more primed than ever to make a considerable impact in the 2014-2015 season. It’s not just a lot of talk coming out of Big D, either, as their lineup looks dressed to impress.

One considerable change will come to pass on the man-advantage, where Dallas will boast one of the most impressive and most improved power plays in the National Hockey League. Yep. I said it.

In the off-season, the Stars stacked the deck by acquiring Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza. They formed quite the duo in Ottawa with the Senators and Dallas is hoping to recapture the fire. Throw Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in the mix, who combined last season for a whopping 163 points, and you’re dealing with an impressive group of forwards.

And then Lindy Ruff, mad scientist, threw all four of the aforementioned Stars on the power play on Monday night. To make matters worse for the opposition, he tossed Trevor Daley in the mix. Let that sink in: Spezza, Seguin, Benn, Hemsky, Daley.

Dallas popped in two power play goals, both by Seguin, and came back to beat the Florida Panthers. The man-advantage was off and running in a big way. Seguin played point for a lot of it, pushing back from his usual spot along the half-boards. But the Stars aren’t necessarily looking to hem him in, either, which could give him plenty of room to skate.

Now the pre-season success of this deadly unit doesn’t necessarily mean that Ruff will stack the deck in every single outing in the regular season, but it does mean that the Dallas Stars suddenly look very, very potent in terms of offensive options. The top line at this point is comprised of Spezza, Seguin and Benn. That alone is a fearsome grouping.

Consider, too, the youth of the group. The entire top line is made up of players under the age of 26.

These Stars thrive in the underdog role and that should make things interesting, especially considering how the divisional shakeup changed the game for the club. They also bought in to Ruff’s system immediately and started playing an up-tempo game that should prove tantalizing to Spezza and Hemsky.

Defensively, there are some concerns. Depth is an issue, but Daley and Alex Goligoski are still a decent pairing. They found some serious grooves in Dallas’ series against Anaheim and proved that they can also play shutdown when the time comes.

Names like Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon pad out the group, while Sergei Gonchar is still capable of taking on major minutes. Last season, the 40-year-old Russian put together 22 points in 76 games. He’s still reliable and sturdy on the line and that counts for a lot with this young group of defenders.

And of course Kari Lehtonen is the guy in goal. The question is who will have his back. Lehtonen will be leaned on for roughly 60-65 games again – he played in 65 last season and won 33 of ‘em – and he’ll be up for the task. But the 30-year-old Finnish netminder does have some cracks in the armour and that means someone will have to back him up when it counts. Who will that be? Time will tell.

But all in all, this is still a dangerous hockey club and their offensive firepower will be tough to contend with. While most of their rivals will opt for a more defensively responsible style, Dallas will run and gun their way to some serious victories. Count on it. And watch out for that power play.


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