Dallas Stars developing into prime Cup contender

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 26: Jason Spezza
NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 26: Jason Spezza /

Despite yesterday’s rotten egg, the Dallas Stars are on a seven-week run of excellence. Expectations are high as they near the final quarter of the season.

Rewind to December 21st. The Dallas Stars entered that day losers of six of their previous eight. Their record stood at a wobbly 18-14-3, which was only good for the periphery of the playoff picture. Much to everyone’s chagrin, another season of futility seemed like a very real possibility. Most nights found me muttering “Same old Stars” under my breath, albeit with a bit more colorful language.

I kept reminding myself that this bunch was in the middle of changing philosophies on the fly. The days of outscoring their problems under Lindy Ruff were behind them. Ken Hitchcock is here to instill some defense and structure.

Consequently, a few growing pains were inevitable. Even still, losing six of eight stung. It was going to take a monumental turnaround to form into bona fide playoff contention.

Well, consider December 21st that critical line of demarcation. Sometimes it’s not there. A team simply either starts well or poorly, and it just snowballs from that point. Sometimes you just need to take a look back after a sufficient sample size. This is where we are with this year’s Dallas Stars. What they’ve done since then is pretty remarkable.

The numbers don’t lie. It all started with a 4-0 shellacking of the Blackhawks that night. Since then, the Stars are 15-6-1. They’ve earned 32 of the 44 available points in that span. Furthermore, their .682 winning percentage over that stretch has allowed them to keep pace in the supremely competitive Central Division.

While I’m at it, allow me to try and put the Stars’ divisional plight into perspective. Take everything I just said into account.

They’ve won 15 of their last 22 games. In any sport, when you’ve won sixty-eight percent of your games, you’re feeling mighty fine.

In the NHL’s Central Division, it only means you’re not getting buried. As outstanding as they’ve been lately, the teams above them in the division just keep winning.

That’s a bit disheartening, but the good news is that the Stars have started putting some space between them and the teams chasing the last wild card spot.

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The sheer level of competition only helps the Dallas Stars moving forward. Take Friday’s epic tilt versus the Penguins into consideration. The Stars could have easily folded after conceding two early goals.

Last year’s team would’ve lost something like 6-2. This year’s team found a way to win that game. There’s a heaviness to this year’s bunch. It’s hard to explain if you’re not watching them on a nightly basis.

But if you are, you see it. They just stick with it and grind away. It almost makes it forgivable when they wet the bed like they did yesterday. The tank was empty, and it showed.

Good thing, too, because a five-day break awaits prior to a crucial divisional matchup versus St. Louis. Yesterday’s game, though probably not overly important in the grand scheme, provides yet another teachable moment for this team.

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It’ll give Ken Hitchcock plenty to squawk about. At this juncture of the season, the Dallas Stars need all the reminders they can get. They’re on the cusp of something potentially special.