Mar 21, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; The Dallas Stars salute the crowd after the win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the American Airlines Center. The Stars shut out the Blackhawks 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
There is an old cliche in baseball that says you can’t win a World Series in April, but you surely can lose one then. The same goes in any other sport. Disastrous stretches in the early part of a campaign can doom any prospects for post season fortune and glory. Thus, the Dallas Stars’ playoff possibilities are diminishing with each passing day.
While it is not a mathematical impossibility that a minor miracle could happen, the Dallas Stars will likely not have a chance to build on their fleeting appearance in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. They are rounding into form and making a late charge, but it is of little solace.
Despite winning seven of their last nine, their real problem is that Winnipeg has now rattled off four straight wins. This has, in turn, given the Jets a four-point cushion between themselves and the LA Kings for the final wild card spot. Notice how that last sentence didn’t even mention Dallas?
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See, despite the Dallas Stars’ recent surge, they still need to leapfrog the Kings, Avalanche,
the Sharks. It’s a tall order to ask the three teams in front of you to wet the proverbial bed over the course of the final ten games just so you can have a
to slide in. And that says nothing of the fact that you still have to ask the eighth seed to sit still while you chase
, too. Needless to say, the likelihood that the phrases “best of seven” and “Dallas Stars” will be uttered in the same sentence come mid-April isn’t exactly high.
Two separate stretches probably sealed their collective fate. The first and most glaring stretch started on October 25th, where the Stars fell behind the New York Islanders, 3-1, rallied to take a 4-3 lead, only to lose 7-5. That kicked off a seven game losing streak in which they only picked up two of the fourteen available points.
Taking a longer view of that stretch starting in October yields the startling conclusion that they won only six of the subsequent fourteen games. Between games 8 and 28–a 21-game stretch–the Stars scratched out only fifteen of a possible 42 points.
The next stretch was the most recent skid that started on February 19th. The San Jose Sharks rolled into American Airlines Center and took a 3-0 lead. The Stars made it a game and pulled to within 3-2, but then the Sharks tacked on two empty-netters to complete the blowout. This set off the six-game funk that the Stars are just now shoveling out from under. If the October-to-December swoon was the wake, the late-February collapse was the burial.
If the October-to-December swoon was the wake, the late-February collapse was the burial.
Those two segments of the season ended up dictating their current problem: twenty-seven regular season contests in which only 17 points were earned. That translates to a winning percentage just slightly over 22%. That will never get it done in the hyper-competitive Western Conference, let alone the murderer’s row that comprises the Central Division.
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If the Stars could have found a way to play anything close to .500 hockey during those two stretches, they’d be well in the discussion for a post season berth, if not comfortably within the race already. It wouldn’t be a lock at this point, but it would likely be on the inside-looking-out, not the other way around.
This is frustrating to a die-hard fanbase that has been thirsting for their team to have some semblance of sustained quality for several seasons now. And perhaps us fans should have tempered our expectations. But when we witnessed last year’s dangerous bunch give the Anaheim Ducks all they could handle, it was easy to get visions of playoff relevance dancing in our heads. It is only natural for expectations to elevate in that scenario.
So while we collectively pull for something amazing to occur again this season, it will likely end in disappointment. For all the firepower Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and John Klingberg provide, the defense and play in net have put this team in a really tough spot.
There have been some titillating flashes of brilliance on an obviously talented team (take Thursday’s playoff-like tilt vs. the Pens and Saturday’s domination of Chicago into account), but they have been too fatally-flawed to be consistent for long stretches. And the overall play of Kari Lehtonen has really compromised the teams’ fortune.
That said, stranger things have happened. We’ll continue to watch, and probably will continue to do so even after the math tells us it is pointless.