- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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With Saturday’s 3-1 victory over New Jersey the Dallas Stars wrapped up their month of October for the 2011-12 season, and it was a good one. The Stars went 8-3-0, which has them currently tops in the Pacific Division and ranked second in the Western Conference.
“If you look at it as a ten-game segment and you asked any one of us at the start of the season if we’d take 7-3-0, we’d all sign up for that. Here we are eleven games in and 8-3-0,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “It’s been a pretty good month. We’re pretty happy with our start here.”
The 8-3-0 October record is the fourth best, as far as points percentage, since the team moved to Dallas in 1993. Only the 1996-97, 1998-99 and 2006-07 teams fared better in October.
And the Stars like how their play has progressed from the beginning of the season to where they were when they wrapped up the month over the weekend.
“We expect to go through that for 82 games. It’s a process the whole season,” said Morrow. “We want to keep revving things up so we are playing our best hockey in March, April and May. Last year we kind of tailed off a little bit. That is going to be a focus of ours: every day putting the time and work in, play with pace, practice with pace so it becomes habit.”
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan noted that the first part of the season the Stars were relying heavily on goaltender Kari Lehtonen to win games. Now, even though Lehtonen continues to play very well, the Stars as a whole have played better.
“I think it’s pretty successful. I certainly like our last six games better than our first five. That’s a positive,” Gulutzan said. “You’re going to get into these games where you get outshot. You look at any team, any of the good teams, sometimes they get outshot or maybe outchanced but they find a way to win.
“I think if you play a certain way over 82 games then you are going to have a certain level of success, and that’s the key for us. I see us getting better.”
Statistical look at October
Below is a table looking at some key team stats for the month of October. The Stars rank high in several defensive categories, including goals against average (4th), team save percentage (3rd) and penalty killing (7th).
The Stars rank 27th in shots against, but it’s been noted before that the Stars are worried more about the quality of shots they are giving up and they feel a lot of the shots the goaltenders are facing are coming from the outside. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was asked about that after Saturday’s win over New Jersey.
“It’s always nice to get those shots from the outside. I think so far it’s been pretty good,” Lehtonen said. “I remember last year there was maybe not as many shots but there was some crazy situations in front of the net and maybe last year were playing to score more goals and that creates two-on-ones against us and things like that. We haven’t had those much. It’s great for me; it makes my job a lot easier.”
The Stars also have been a very good five-on-five team, outscoring their opponents 19-14 for a 1.29 ratio, which ranks fourth best in the NHL.
The Stars rank 21st in goals per game and 23rd in power play percentage.
Some key team statistics for the Dallas Stars during the month of October. Rankings are through Sunday's games.
28dFrom the NHLPA