It’s been a long week without consistent hockey but the Dallas Stars are jumping right back on the horse following their week off. The Stars, except for Miro Heiskanen who just got home from the All-Star game and was due a day off, returned to Dallas for a grueling, first practice on Sunday.
Players skated extra laps around the ice following the end of their first practice back. Head Coach Jim Montgomery joked that some players “enjoyed their break a little more than I would have liked to have seen.” thus why he pushed the team further today. But in the end, no one was complaining.
“We had a week off and we got to enjoy ourselves and regroup mentally and physically, and now we come back and try to get dialed in right away. It was definitely a hard practice, but it was something we deserved.” said Captain Jamie Benn.
The Stars went into the All-Star break/Bye Week with a 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets; this game felt like the old Stars were back and we were finally awakened from some weird fever dream we’ve been stuck in since the beginning of December. The Stars also started the break with the 1st Wild Card spot in the Central (52 points).
At the start of the break, statistics showed that the Stars had a 61% chance of making playoffs and were projected to collect 89 points in the standings. Coming into this second half, the Stars are going to have to focus to grow that 61% higher.
With this time off, players had time to sit back and reflect on what they need to focus on as a team going into the final 33 games of the season. Benn mentioned how “It’s up to us as players to stick to our identity,” meaning they need to stick to what they know works. Roman Polak, resident Terminator, said something similar regarding the team’s consistency:
“Everything about our team revolves around consistency. It sounds easy, but it’s not that easy. Teams that are truly consistent, they are the ones who can have a long run in the playoffs. That’s the difference between a good team and a bad team.” (x)
Even Jim Montgomery took some time to asses ways that not just the team can be better but ways he can do better as a coach. One reason I love Monty is because he owns up to when he feels he needs to, something that few coaches will do. Monty told the press:
“In December, after we lost those four in a row, I thought that I lost my way a little bit and started to get a little too result-oriented. I’ve never been a result-oriented coach and I thought I got a little too much on where we are in the standings, ‘Oh we got this stretch at home, got to have this next game.’ Think I got a little too negative because of it.” (x)
Moving forward, Monty plans on returning to focusing on what works well, how to extenuate it, as well as focusing on his process:
- Win 56 percent of face-offs
- Take zero undisciplined penalties
- Allow 3 or fewer odd-man rushes
- Win the net-front battle
- Win special teams
But it’s going to be a long and worthwhile journey for the Stars to end up on top. The Stars start the last stretch of their season on Wednesday, January 30th against the Buffalo Sabres at home.
Featured Image: CBS Sports