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On October 18, 2019, the Dallas Stars allowed three third-period goals in a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, falling to 1-7-1 on the season and setting off alarm bells after beginning the campaign with Stanley Cup aspirations.
At that point, the data didn't look good: Dallas would need to win at least 63% of its remaining games just to have a chance at making the playoffs. For context, the Calgary Flames finished atop the Western Conference last season by winning 61% of their total games. These Stars would need to better that mark the rest of the way - and it still might not be enough.
Still, Dallas general manager Jim Nill stuck with his roster. He believed in what he was building, and with perseverance came validation. Since that loss to Pittsburgh, the Stars have won 67% of their games (26-10-3), the second-best rate in the NHL behind the Washington Capitals (70%). They now sit third in the West despite playing the fewest games to date.
Then there are the underlying numbers. The Stars rank second in the West in expected goals for and against per game (xGF/60, xGA/60). They've generated the second-most high-danger chances per game (HDCF/60) in the NHL and own the fourth-lowest shooting percentage from high-danger areas (HDSH%).
What does it all mean? Well, Dallas is expected to score a lot and allow very little. The team is also creating a ton of very good scoring opportunities but converting a low percentage of them. The HDSH% is due for positive regression, which would lead to even more goals scored. Simply put, there's been nothing lucky about this run of success.
Meanwhile, the Stars haven't been as reliant on their top line this season. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov still form one of the more dominant units in the NHL, but secondary scoring is much less of an issue than it was for this team in the past. Roope Hintz has stepped up in a big way, while Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry, both signed over the summer, have been valuable additions.
Not only do Pavelski and Perry give this team a more balanced lineup, but they also provide the experience that can help take Dallas to the next level. That's a scary thought when you consider the Stars were eliminated in the second overtime of a Game 7 by the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues last season.
In addition to a deep crop of forwards, the Stars possess two of the league's most dynamic defensemen in John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen, who are complemented by one of the most underappreciated guys in Esa Lindell. Andrej Sekera has proven to be a valuable addition and Stephen Johns just made his return from a 660-day layoff due to concussion issues. This blue-liner group rivals any other in the NHL.
In goal, Ben Bishop hasn't missed a beat, posting a 2.28 GAA and a .927 SV%. The Stars haven't overworked him, either, thanks to the strong play of Anton Khudobin, who's posted nearly identical numbers (2.30 GAA, .927 SV%) through 20 games. That means Bishop should be fresh come playoff time and Dallas will have a reliable backup if he falters.
It's clear this roster features the skill and experience needed for a Stanley Cup run - yet Dallas is still reasonably priced at 14-1.
|St. Louis Blues||8-1|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||9-1|
|New York Islanders||16-1|
|Vegas Golden Knights||16-1|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||18-1|
*only teams with odds shorter than 20-1 are displayed
Again, Dallas has been a top-three NHL team since the middle of October and it's only a matter of time before the odds are adjusted to reflect that. We've already seen it happen with the Blues and Avalanche, who were both listed at 14-1 as late as early December.
Consider this your last chance to buy low on the Stars.
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.