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vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 28-30-9    Stars 35-27-5

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

WE ARE STARDUST: Defending Big D

I used to think that the elimination of the Circus Trip and Ice Show, and not having a road trip longer than three or four games, would be a boon to the Hawks. But looking over the recent schedule, you can see why the players are not exactly pleased with how things shake out. They just came back from a West swing, one they’ll have to do again in another week or two, were home for one game before bouncing down to Texas, then back home for just one before a Canadian swing, and then back home for just two before bouncing out again. Of course, this would matter more if the games did…which they don’t.

Anyway, the schedule says the Hawks have to provide the opposition for the Stars tonight. There they’ll find a Stars team that is starting to bunker into the playoff spots. They’re four up on the Coyotes and are only three points behind the Blues for the last automatic spot in the Central. They’ve done that by winning six of their last eight, five of them in regulation, including being the only ones to remember it’s still the St. Louis Blues after all and beating them twice in that stretch. They’ve shut out the Rangers and Avalanche back-to-back at home, so this isn’t exactly the time to catch them.

It’s not like the Stars have cracked some code or radically changed how they play. They’ve just benefitted from Ben Bishop (THE BISHOP!) shooting lightning bolts out of his arse. THE BISHOP! threw a .936 at the world in February, and is at .989 in March so far, having conceded one goal in three games. The injury layoff has done him some good, obviously.

The Stars have mimicked what the Wild have done the past couple seasons. They’re not a good possession team when it comes to attempts, but as you move up the charts in terms of quality of attempts the Stars get better and better. They’re just about even in scoring-chance share, and then just a tick under 52% in high danger chance share. They’ll let you have it to the outside, but you can’t quite get to the middle on them.

The Stars have moved wunderkind Miro Heiskanen with John Klingberg and they take all the offensive responsibility while the bottom two pairings take turns manning the bunker. While they tried to use the acquisition of Mats Zuccarello to spread out some scoring, he lasted a period and a half before something went CRACK! on him. So even though Seguin and Benn are on separate lines now, they still do the heavy lifting here with assistance from Alex Radulov.

For the Hawks, the chance of a real clunker feel tangible. They weren’t very good against the Sabres but got away with it, and now you have this one game trip in a season that’s lost. You could see where weariness would combine with carelessness and against a team with it all still to play for, it’s not hard to envision where it gets ugly. Corey Crawford will do his best to keep it from doing so. Would guess the lines look pretty much the same as Thursday, which means they’ll be a mishmash because John Hayden sucks and won’t skate with Toews and Saad for more than five minutes. Maybe Sikura slots back in for Kunitz or Hayden, but…whatever.

Keep on keepin’ on…

 

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Logan Stark is an editor at DefendingBigD.com. You can follow her @LoganStarkBooks. Hey…Stark on the Stars. We just thought of that! Anyway, here’s the Q&A we did with her two weeks ago when the Stars were here

Let’s get this out of the way up top. While the CEO swearing about the team’s two stars is good for comedic value out here, isn’t it nonsensical as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are just about the only reason the Stars are anything? (not to mention Benn’s long-standing place with the team and fans)
– First of all, Bishop and Khudobin have been absolute brick walls this season. They’re a large factor of why the Stars are still in a playoff position this late in the season. Second, Miro Heiskanen is a godsend for this team, especially when half the blue line was injured during the first half of the season. Okay, on to the real question. CEO Lites’ comments were beyond nonsensical. Not only did the tirade tarnish the team’s reputation around the league (what high-profile player would want to sign with the team now?), but it also made them a laughing stock. Benn and Seguin have proved Lites wrong with their on-ice performance, but those comments are continuing to hang over them and the team almost two months after they rocked hockey Twitter. Benn and Seguin are the faces of the franchise and are fan-favorites, and they were definitely fan-favorites for their classy responses to the comments. In the end, Lites’ comments backfired, I think, landing egg on his face – while getting some good splatter on the team that will come off with time. CEOs come and go, but Benn and Seguin are here to stay for a long, long time. In the end, it’s their on-ice performance and leadership in the locker room that matters the most. The team and coaching staff still support them, so why should fans do any different?
Why has Julius Honka not worked? The pedigree is there, he seems to have a coach that wants to play faster, and yet four points is four points…
– Do we have time for me to draft a graduate dissertation on why Honka hasn’t worked? No? Okay, let’s give this a shot: The yo-yo effect under Hitchcock last season did absolutely nothing for Honka. Not only was he bounced between the Dallas Stars and their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, but he was bounced with such frequency that he never had a chance to settle into the lineup and make a real impact. When Honka did spend time in Dallas, it was most often as a healthy scratch or with sub-par ice time. None of that helped his development and can only have hurt his confidence on the ice. We’ve seen flashes of his brilliance on the ice, but not this season. He’s been a healthy scratch with regularity under Montgomery, which leads me to believe that Montgomery doesn’t know where to slot him in within the current lineup. There’s just not room in the lines for a player struggling to produce (hush, let’s not talk about Nichushkin) and who needs time on the ice to get his skates back under him, so to speak. At this point, I would say it’s time to trade Honka, use him to bring in fresh talent that’s capable of producing at a steady rate.
Jim Nill has gotten three coaches. At what point does the cannon point at him?
– If the Stars fail to make the playoffs this spring, I think there’s going to be a turnover in the front office. It’s pretty clear that management expects this roster to be a repeat contender, yet they’ve failed to make a real postseason splash. If the Stars fail to make the playoffs (or fail to make it past the first round), I would place good money on Nill being let go. The lack of postseason performances and his lackluster record at the draft table would definitely be grounds for his exit from the team. At a certain point, it’s not about the coaches, but about the guy in the front office saddling said coaches with questionable trades, picks, and players.
What are the Stars gong to do before the deadline (assuming they don’t do anything before we print this, in which case I’ll just switch whatever you said to what they did and make you look like geniuses)?
– Nill has gone on record saying they’re looking for offensive power and depth at the deadline, and Dallas scouts have been checking out Zuccarello and Panarin (they got Zuc, and then he got hurt-ED). I would keep an eye out for the Stars to make a move for either of them on a rental basis (with an extension option on the table). One thing to watch for: the picks and/or players they send the opposite way. Just what is the front office willing to part with in exchange for a player that just might help the Stars get to the playoffs? In the past, Nill has been pretty good about not giving up first round picks or developing players that will aid the team. However, the Stars are getting desperate to make that playoff push this year, so is this the year Nill finally parts with the golden ticket of a first round pick?

 

 

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vs.

RECORDS: Stars 30-25-5   Hawks 26-27-9

PUCK DROP: 2pm

TV: WGN

FROM A DC-9 AT NIGHT: Defending Big D

It’s such a weird year. The Hawks lost the opening half of their showcase weekend, and yet that’s probably the best game they’ve played since…man, it’s hard to say. There have been periods here and there but overall, you could argue it was New Year’s Day. And they lost that one, too. But they don’t base the standings on aesthetics and who played better. All that matters is what you got out of it. The Hawks got nothing but a handful of themselves, which means they’d better get something out of this one if they’re serious about chasing until the end of the year.

From the Hawks’ perspective, they’ll get a couple of returnees. Brent Seabrook looks likely to return from his “abdominal” problem (and this is where we snigger about any trainer being able to find his abdominals), and Carl Dahlstrom should be over his case of the plague. Marcus Kruger also should be available after missing the third period on Friday. The first two mean that Henri Jokiharju will return to Rockford, and that’s a whole other discussion we’ll have soon at a podcast near you. So the defense will look like you’ve become accustomed to, and any change in the forwards is Perlini coming in for either Kunitz or Hayden or possibly Sikura, but that would be unfair to the kid.

Right, the Stars. Like any team stuck in this goo around the wildcards, this is not how they pictured their beautiful house. They’ve lost five of seven, and all of those without Ben Bishop who has been hurt. But he returned yesterday against the Canes, which means the Hawks will get Anton Khudobin today. Khudobin has been an excellent back-up this season, but having to take the main role broke his reserves, and he’s surrendered 14 goals in his last four appearances. Perhaps getting the break with Bishop back is all he needs to throw 35+ saves at the Hawks today, but let’s hope not.

The Stars are kind of like the Wild, in that they surrender more of the opportunities than they get but as you rate the chances better and better so do their numbers. So they create better chances than their opponents, and are happy to let them let fly from the hinterlands. Their problem of late as been they’ve been the anti-Motley Crue, they can’t get their heart kickstarted. They have a league-low 26 goals in the 1st period, and of late their stout defense has leaked first, which has them playing catch-up every game. As they were just playing some 20 hours ago or so, the Hawks would be wise to try and jump on them from the word go and see just how much they have in the tank to catch up again.

As always with the Stars, despite the bleating from their CEO, they’ll go as far offensively as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn can carry them. They’re on different lines at the moment, but no one else on this team is scoring. The Stars simply haven’t gotten enough from anyone else you look at other than John Klingberg, who was hurt for a chunk. Further complicating matters for Gang Green is that Alex Radulov was sick yesterday and missed out, and his status for today is up in the air. Without him, there is a whole lot of not much here.

It’s not that the Hawks would be charred if they don’t get a regulation win here, but the coals would be certainly heating up. But if they do get the win, the Ducks and Kings are lined up next, and that’s four points they’re begging you to take. You’re also getting a team on the second of a back-to-back that had to travel, while the Hawks were simply waiting around. Quite simply, this is a game you have to have. So go get it.

 

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Logan Stark is a contributor at DefendingBigD.com. You can follow her @LoganStarkBook. Hey…Stark on the Stars. We just thought of that!

Let’s get this out of the way up top. While the CEO swearing about the team’s two stars is good for comedic value out here, isn’t it nonsensical as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are just about the only reason the Stars are anything? (not to mention Benn’s long-standing place with the team and fans)
– First of all, Bishop and Khudobin have been absolute brick walls this season. They’re a large factor of why the Stars are still in a playoff position this late in the season. Second, Miro Heiskanen is a godsend for this team, especially when half the blue line was injured during the first half of the season. Okay, on to the real question. CEO Lites’ comments were beyond nonsensical. Not only did the tirade tarnish the team’s reputation around the league (what high-profile player would want to sign with the team now?), but it also made them a laughing stock. Benn and Seguin have proved Lites wrong with their on-ice performance, but those comments are continuing to hang over them and the team almost two months after they rocked hockey Twitter. Benn and Seguin are the faces of the franchise and are fan-favorites, and they were definitely fan-favorites for their classy responses to the comments. In the end, Lites’ comments backfired, I think, landing egg on his face – while getting some good splatter on the team that will come off with time. CEOs come and go, but Benn and Seguin are here to stay for a long, long time. In the end, it’s their on-ice performance and leadership in the locker room that matters the most. The team and coaching staff still support them, so why should fans do any different?
Why has Julius Honka not worked? The pedigree is there, he seems to have a coach that wants to play faster, and yet four points is four points…
– Do we have time for me to draft a graduate dissertation on why Honka hasn’t worked? No? Okay, let’s give this a shot: The yo-yo effect under Hitchcock last season did absolutely nothing for Honka. Not only was he bounced between the Dallas Stars and their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, but he was bounced with such frequency that he never had a chance to settle into the lineup and make a real impact. When Honka did spend time in Dallas, it was most often as a healthy scratch or with sub-par ice time. None of that helped his development and can only have hurt his confidence on the ice. We’ve seen flashes of his brilliance on the ice, but not this season. He’s been a healthy scratch with regularity under Montgomery, which leads me to believe that Montgomery doesn’t know where to slot him in within the current lineup. There’s just not room in the lines for a player struggling to produce (hush, let’s not talk about Nichushkin) and who needs time on the ice to get his skates back under him, so to speak. At this point, I would say it’s time to trade Honka, use him to bring in fresh talent that’s capable of producing at a steady rate.
Jim Nill has gotten three coaches. At what point does the cannon point at him?
– If the Stars fail to make the playoffs this spring, I think there’s going to be a turnover in the front office. It’s pretty clear that management expects this roster to be a repeat contender, yet they’ve failed to make a real postseason splash. If the Stars fail to make the playoffs (or fail to make it past the first round), I would place good money on Nill being let go. The lack of postseason performances and his lackluster record at the draft table would definitely be grounds for his exit from the team. At a certain point, it’s not about the coaches, but about the guy in the front office saddling said coaches with questionable trades, picks, and players.
What are the Stars gong to do before the deadline (assuming they don’t do anything before we print this, in which case I’ll just switch whatever you said to what they did and make you look like geniuses)?
– Nill has gone on record saying they’re looking for offensive power and depth at the deadline, and Dallas scouts have been checking out Zuccarello and Panarin. I would keep an eye out for the Stars to make a move for either of them on a rental basis (with an extension option on the table). One thing to watch for: the picks and/or players they send the opposite way. Just what is the front office willing to part with in exchange for a player that just might help the Stars get to the playoffs? In the past, Nill has been pretty good about not giving up first round picks or developing players that will aid the team. However, the Stars are getting desperate to make that playoff push this year, so is this the year Nill finally parts with the golden ticket of a first round pick?

 

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In the end, it was just a publicity stunt.

That’s all you can make of CEO Jim Lites airing out his team’s two biggest stars, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, in the press before he had ever talked to them. It’s hard to think of another CEO, who doesn’t hold GM duties as well, in any sport who decides to go so public with his criticism players on the team. Sure, Jerry Jones might in Dallas as well, and maybe that’s what Lites thought he was doing. Maybe they like blowhards in Dallas. And if you’re in Texas, we guess you have to be the biggest blowhard you can be.

The Stars problem has never been Seguin and Benn, of course. Maybe they weren’t having their career-years, but the main issue is that Lites has let GM Jim Nill create a Top-Of-The-Muffin-To-Ya roster. Jason Spezza is going to be put on display next to Sue at the Field Museum soon enough. Their kids like Janmark, Faska, and Ritchie have done jack and shit. They’ve been injured, but the blue line has John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen and that’s it. He’s been allowed to pick up trash like Jamie Oleksiak and Roman Polak and now Ben Lovejoy.

If this were any other sport, Lites’s tirade would have been met with a response of one finger up from each Seguin and Benn, a trade demand, and scorched future of the entire franchise. But you can’t do that in hockey, and maybe that’s what Lites was counting on. It seems especially harsh on Benn, who has only ever been a Star, the captain, and could have asked out at many points when the team wasn’t up to the standards he has always set.

Maybe he just wanted to make a ripple in a Dallas sports scene where the Stars are falling behind. The ‘Boys will always be #1, #2, and #3. But the Mavericks now have Luka Doncic, and next year when he’s paired with Kristaps Porzingis the Mavs will be one of the more watched teams in the NBA. The Stars have won one playoff series in a decade. It’s now how you keep up.

If the Stars fail to make the playoffs, it won’t be because Seguin and Benn didn’t do everything they could. It’ll be because Lites let a GM fail to back them up for a good five years.

 

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We ran this last year, but it’s one of our faves. So as a Christmas present, we give it to you again, just like Jamie wouldn’t. 

Last time these two met, we went down on what makes Jamie Benn so angry. We got to the bottom of what might be irking him, to see if we could lap up what make Benn tick. Maybe, if we played our cards right–took it down, if you will–we could bring his problems to their knees. Sometimes, you just have to put your face in there, y’know? You can’t just expect things to come to you. Put your love out there, and you’ll get it back. Give if you want to receive, as it were.

But we couldn’t quite bring it through. Benn is leading the Stars in penalty minutes, speaking to his inner frustration, which he just can’t seem to open up. The bile is rising, but he can’t taste it. If Benn could just sink down into it, and see what he can’t get to. Maybe if he just took a look, and tried to solve his problems, things would just open up for him. And then he could be a player no one ever dreamed of.

That’s the thing with sports, in order to achieve all you can you have to realize there are things under the surface that you have to face. That you have to conquer. You have to do things that at first seem distasteful, maybe even gross. You have to push yourself through, no matter what might get stuck in your teeth. Maybe you’ll feel surrounded, maybe it’ll be dark and hot and you won’t know exactly what you’re doing. But then you just close your eyes and guess, and sometimes it works. Maybe this is why Jamie Benn has never seen a conference Final. He’s never gotten “halfway,” if you will.

But until Benn is willing to go where he hasn’t before, he’s never going to taste victory.

 

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Taylor is the editor-in-chief of DefendingBigD.com. Follow her @TaylorBaird.

Last time we saw the Stars, they were in the muddle of the last playoff spot along with the Hawks. They’ve since separated themselves into the first wild card spot and are hot on the heels of the Blues for the third spot in the Central. What’s been the change?

The Stars defense continues to improve. They’ve climbed from somewhere in the 20’s in the league in terms of goals against average to 5th in the league, allowing only 2.56 goals against on average per game. It’s been improvement in both even strength defense and penalty killing (where they rank 9th in the league today at 82.2% of penalties killed.) The goaltending has been fantastic of late, with Kari Lehtonen having a renaissance in terms of stats (.919SV% and 2.22 GAA) and Ben Bishop’s performance nothing to sneeze at, either (.919 SV%, 2.44 GAA). The offense has also come on of late, averaging slightly more than three goals per game on average now. It’s a big change from the first roughly 15 games of the season, when the team was struggling in all aspects other than the power play.
Jason Spezza only put up 50 points last year, and is on pace for way less this year. He’s been shuttled between center and wing. Is it just time that’s caught up? Is this a major problem?

The Stars have struggled to figure out Spezza’s role on the team. It’s driven by Radek Faksa emerging as a premier two-way center on the team as well as the offseason signing of Martin Hanzal. Spezza struggled offensively at the beginning of the season, and his ice time suffered because of it. He’s also been paired with wingers that haven’t been known for finishing, and think the game a pace behind Spezza. That’s contributed to his offensive decline. One thing I will say is that Spezza has looked better since being reunited with Mattias Janmark, so there’s still hope that it might turn around for him in the last 20ish games or so. As they say, it’s all about how you roll into the playoffs, right?
There are two players in Brett Ritchie and Julius Honka who don’t have the scoring stats you might want, but have glittering underlying numbers. Are the Stars happy enough with these two just pushing the play?

I think they are happy to a degree, yes. With Ritchie, the coach has come out and even said that he’s struggled mightily this year. That’s why he’s found himself pushed down the lineup or eating some healthy scratches at times, as other players look better and produce. But he’s still getting the chance to play through his struggles for the most part, even if it’s to the chagrin of some fans. As for Honka, it’s tough for fans to see a young player with that much potential get jerked around in terms of playing time, but at the end of the day, the Stars need a defense that works. Honka seems to have taken his healthy scratches in stride, and his games of late have shown he’s listened when the coaching staff has said he’s been too cautious in terms of offense. I feel like he will be tough to fit into the lineup when Marc Methot returns to the lineup healthy, if only because I’m not sure he’s done enough to beat out Stephen Johns for the 6th D spot, and Hitch seems to love him some Greg Pateryn (even if the underlying numbers are just blah with him…)
Is. a 2.44 GAA and .919 SV% what you expected out of Ben Bishop? Is that enough to go where the Stars want?
The last few years, all Dallas would have needed was LEAGUE AVERAGE goaltending to go far. Those numbers are far and away better than what Stars fans have seen in the past 5ish years, so we’ll happily take it.
What will the Stars be looking to do at the deadline?
To be honest, I’m not sure there’s much that the Stars will do at the deadline. I think they like their lineup, and it’s been working for them of late, so it’s possible that they won’t want to overpay for a deadline rental. If they target anyone, I’d bet on a top six right wing to add some depth to the second line in terms of scoring, or someone that adds to the second power play unit to make that player set more lethal. But with the draft coming to Dallas this summer, they likely won’t want to deal too many of their picks — and their pipeline of talent isn’t in a position to deal too many of those (though if they are going to do so, blueline seems to be a position of depth but not necessarily strength, and they have a few forwards that could be of interest to other teams.)

 

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Just when you thought the Hawks had pulled their shit together, they played the Stars again to remind everyone that they’re not that good at stuff sometimes. To the bullets:

– Proving yet again that wins and losses, and a team’s record in general really, can be deceptive in this league, one would have thought that the won-five-in-a-row Hawks would have wrestled a win out of this, especially since the Stars have been on a (brief) losing streak. But alas, this did not go the way you thought. And early on the Hawks didn’t even play that badly. They hit the post twice in the first half of the game, and that was kind of a metaphor for their night: trying to do the right thing, attempting to put yourself in the right place at the right time, but just striking out. This game could easily have been tied at three midway in the second, if the posts had gone another way and if Bishop hadn’t robbed Kane of his 300th goal early in the first period. Coulda woulda shoulda.

– Naturally with a loss by four goals one suspects shitty goaltending, but as so often happens with the Hawks it was actually shitty defense. Well, let me qualify that: it was shitty defense mostly by a couple guys, and I’ll give you three guesses who it was, but you really only need one. Seabrook and Forsling were bumbling around the net, particularly on the fourth goal. Not that the fourth one was the goal that changed the game, but it signaled that the fork had truly been stuck in the Hawks before they even got to the third period. Meanwhile, Michal Kempny did things like break up a dangerous 2-on-1 in the second, and he played much of the game with Connor Murphy, who also had three shots. I liked the two of them together, but if it comes at the cost of having Seabrook and Forsling being paired up, then it’s not really worth it. Hopefully this doesn’t give Q an opening to put Kempny back in the press box.

– Obviously it would have been great if Crawford had stood on his head, but don’t let that dismal .818 save percentage fool you—he had morons in front of him most of the night. It would have been worse if not for some key stops by Crow throughout the game.

– The Hawks led in possession and shots, but the Stars had all the momentum once Jamie Benn scored the first goal (maybe he took Fels’ advice from earlier today? I mean, it’s what we all really want so…maybe good for him?). Tyler Seguin’s first goal came on a power play for Hartman’s tripping penalty, so I guess we should expect Heart Man to get the press box treatment this weekend.

– Speaking of the press box, it’s hard to argue that Patrick Sharp would have changed this game in any meaningful way, but it’s also hard to argue that Panik did. Weiner Anxiety’s possession numbers were above water (59 CF%), but he wasn’t particularly noticeable.

– Before it turned into a blowout, there was a lot of stupid posturing by guys on both sides. I guess it’s not that surprising given that these teams have played each other like 15 times already, but it definitely had the feel of a nature show where the male of the species puts on a gratuitous display of hopping around and showing off plumage to chase away rivals.

It was a frustrating loss, no doubt, since it’s a division opponent and they were tied in points going in. But shit happens—nights like this just happen sometimes and it didn’t look like the bottom fell out, they just took a step back after taking a few forward. With the streaky nature of things lately, we should be equally prepared for them to crap the bed for a while or inexplicably bounce back against a good team. Onward and upward.

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Last time these two met, we went down on what makes Jamie Benn so angry. We got to the bottom of what might be irking him, to see if we could lap up what make Benn tick. Maybe, if we played our cards right–took it down, if you will–we could bring his problems to their knees. Sometimes, you just have to put your face in there, y’know? You can’t just expect things to come to you. Put your love out there, and you’ll get it back. Give if you want to receive, as it were.

But we couldn’t quite bring it through. Benn is second on the Stars in penalty minutes, speaking to his inner frustration, which he just can’t seem to open up. The bile is rising, but he can’t taste it. If Benn could just sink down into it, and see what he can’t get to. Maybe if he just took a look, and tried to solve his problems, things would just open up for him. And then he could be a player no one ever dreamed of.

That’s the thing with sports, in order to achieve all you can you have to realize there are things under the surface that you have to face. That you have to conquer. You have to do things that at first seem distasteful, maybe even gross. You have to push yourself through, no matter what might get stuck in your teeth. Maybe you’ll feel surrounded, maybe it’ll be dark and hot and you won’t know exactly what you’re doing. But then you just close your eyes and guess, and sometimes it works. Maybe this is why Jamie Benn has never seen a conference Final. He’s never gotten “halfway,” if you will.

But until Benn is willing to go where he hasn’t before, he’s never going to taste victory.

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Little bit of a departure for us this time, as we visit the baseball world for this one. Kate Morrison is one of the best baseball writers going, and you can find her work at Baseball Prospectus, FanRag Sports, and Brooks Baseball. She also happens to be a pretty rabid Stars fan, so we thought she might want to moonlight in our stupid little hockey world for a bit. Follow her on Twitter @unlikelyfanatic. 

The Stars have had something of the same wonky start that the Hawks have. Why hasn’t Hitchcock’s charms worked miracles yet (we’re not exactly Hitch fans, if you can’t tell)?
I mean, there’s a set of Stars fans who aren’t exactly Hitch fans, either. I was une petite infante when Hitch was last the Stars coach, so I can’t really tell you if this is more of the same. What I can tell you is that from my seat in the 300s in the American Airlines Center, I’ve seen both good and bad. Hitch said the right things to Tyler Seguin when Lindy Ruff wasn’t willing to, but Hitch also is addicted to playing Jamie Oleksiak, who isn’t even the best athlete with that last name. Hitch seems to have a willingness to test new lines when there’s chemistry (see the two-game pairing of Antoine Roussel and Alexander Radulov), but there’ve also been times when the team hasn’t seemed as able to run-and-gun as they used to. This is a young, fast team, and they need to be able to play young and fast.
Oh, and also, #FreeHonka or something.
On the plus side, John Klingberg is nearly a point-per-game, and his metrics have bounced back to where they were two seasons ago. He definitely had a dip last year, what’s been different this campaign?
He’s off the sophomore slump? Klingberg does seem to have some good chemistry with both the currently-injured Marc Methot and current partner Esa Lindell, but I think it’s mainly just confidence and being a year older. Having a steady partner can’t hurt, either. He’s really stepped up to becoming one of the team’s young leaders, though.
The Stars have a secondary scoring problem. Radulov, Seguin, Benn, and Klingberg all have over 20 points, but no one else has over 11. Who needs to pick it up?
 
We’re beginning to see some of the promised secondary scoring right now, but we’ve been teased before. Devin Shore and/or Brett Ritchie were supposed to be those secondary guys, but it’s been some surprises like Radek Faksa and Mattias Janmark who have really stepped up. No way of knowing that they’ll keep that up, or if they’ll pass the magical baton of scoring off to Shore or, heck, Roussel, but there might be some sparks of life.
We like to ask about our lost boy Stephen Johns. It felt like Lindy Ruff completely underrated him even while giving him human shield starts and competition. What does he look like under Hitch?
 
Um…better than Jamie Oleksiak? Better with Julius Honka? Better now than in the first few games of the season?

Ben Bishop has disappointed since coming over in the summer. What’s been his problem? Is the Dallas crease just cursed?

Like Taylor said, Bishop’s been visually better than his numbers. He’s also been let down by his defense quite a bit – we saw that just this Thursday, on the DeBrincat goal that Oleksiak is really more responsible for than Bishop. I think the numbers and the visuals will even out over time, but the Stars definitely aren’t where they are right now without Bishop.