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What happened in Vegas? Dallas Stars finally aligned

From ESPN - December 7, 2017

The Dallas Stars might have found a cure for the Vegas Flu. While the rest of the teams in the league have slogged through their inaugural road trips to Sin City, the Stars aligned their Las Vegas visit with their annual dad's trip. Last week, 29 fathers, fathers-in-laws and brothers snapped selfies on the team plane and crammed together around the table for steak dinners as the Stars enjoyed themselves in Vegas and cruised to a 3-0 win. "It was smart," said veteran forward Jason Spezza. "Get the dads in trouble out there, instead of us."

When the Stars -- and their extended crew -- rolled into Chicago the next day, the mood was still light. After a morning skate, Ben Bishop Jr., hovered next to his son's locker stall as the former conducted an interview (the Stars goaltender is technically Ben Bishop III). Across the room, Tyler Seguin grinned as he shimmied out of his pads so he could scoot out and spend some time with his dad, Paul. "We have been playing crappy on the road at times," Seguin said, noting the team's 3-8-1 away record before the Vegas visit. "Because I think we talk about it so much and we forget to just play like we do at home. But this team is going to be OK."

Nine hours later, the Stars beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime to return home with a sweep. A cynic might call this a small sample size or surmise that maybe the Stars put on a show for their guests. But there was a sense in the Dallas dressing room that this was something different.

This road trip to Vegas & Chicago is the Stars annual Dad's Trip. Spezza says the timing is perfect with the road struggles the team has had pic.twitter.com/ZT7guLSK2t

Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) November 27, 2017

"We are turning things around," Spezza said. Look at the Stars now -- they have won seven of their last nine while averaging 3.8 goals per game. And, despite a 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, they still have a plus-11 goal differential during that span.

The Stars were the league's trendiest sleeper pick entering the season. Dallas finished 2016-17 with the second-worst record in franchise history, missing the playoffs by 15 points. Then came a splashy summer: Dallas signed Bishop as its No. 1 goalie and also landed free-agent forwards Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov and traded for defenseman Marc Methot.

Plus, Ken Hitchcock -- the future Hall of Fame coach who led the Stars to their only Stanley Cup, in 1999 -- came back on board in April. Hitchcock, who was fired by the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 1, has a reputation as a defense-first guy who runs a tight ship, and his teams always improve in the first year. With the Blackhawks likely to regress and the the Blues riddled with injuries, the Central Division figured to be wide open.

That's why the Stars' pedestrian start felt like a complete letdown. Dallas had slowed things down at even strength. At Thanksgiving, the Stars led the league with the fewest shots allowed per game (29.3), but were only firing 31.5 per game themselves. Some began to question whether Hitchcock, a coach known for his tight defensive style, was the right fit for a team whose best assets were a pair of elite goal scorers in Seguin and Jamie Benn.

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