How about the Dallas Stars? Entering the year projected to finish at the bottom of the Central Division, the upstart squad in Dallas has opened the second month of the season with an impressive showing that has required a 60-plus minute effort in all four games.
After opening November with a shootout loss to one of the NHL's hottest teams, the Colorado Avalanche, the Stars have rebounded with a three-game winning streak that has required overtime in each affair. In addition, the three-game swing has come on the road against Atlantic Division teams, which is by far the superior division in the East (although that isn't saying much).
The Stars two most recent wins have come against the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, two teams that should be in the hunt for the Eastern Conference crown. Despite deficits in both contests, the Stars battled back to earn two points in each game, resulting in a collection of seven out of eight possible points this month.
Yet despite this fortunate swing, the Stars still find themselves closer to the bottom of the Central Division than the top. They enter competition on Friday night tied with the Nashville Predators at 18 points and six points back of first-place Colorado, who has played two fewer games than Dallas. This speaks to the unfortunate reality in the Western Conference: some good teams are probably going to find themselves on the outside looking in when playoff time comes around.
Through the first month of the regular season, it has been grossly apparent that the West is superior to the East. If Dallas was grouped in the meager Metropolitan Division, the team would be tied for second place with the Washington Capitals and four points back of the first place Pittsburgh Penguins. As of Friday morning, the Western Conference has nine teams with 20 or more points, while the Eastern Conference only has four teams who can say the same.
In terms of Dallas, the Stars have played really well lately. The team is ushering in a new era that will be led by manager Jim Nill, coach Lindy Ruff, captain Jamie Benn and superstar in the making Tyler Seguin. The guidance of Ray Whitney certainly can't hurt and the promise of Alex Chiasson and Valeri Nichushkin appears as bright as the team's original namesake. And goaltender Kari Lehtonen has been a fantastic foundation when injury hasn't hampered his availability.
While it might be a small stretch, the Stars have been an entertaining team to watch this week. It'll be interesting to see what they're capable of this year.