Thanks to a down year in the Central Division, and almost in spite of themselves, the playoffs are still well within reach for the Dallas Stars.
To say the Dallas Stars have been a mixed bag this season is a bit of an understatement. To wit, ever since Stars’ president Jim Lites issued his expletive-filled tirade regarding Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the team has posted a truly down-the-middle 5-5-1 record. Amazingly, this hasn’t dashed their postseason hopes. In fact, as of right now, the Stars hold on to the first wild card spot in the NHL’s Western Conference.
Of course, their grip on that spot is tenuous at best. While they are putting up some pretty impressive numbers on defense this season, their offense leaves a lot to be desired. And until Saturday night’s inspired win against a very good Winnipeg Jets team, they’d endured a four-game losing skid in which they looked rudderless. Nevertheless, the win was sorely needed, and it provided a glimmer of hope as the team entered the All Star break.
Furthermore, the victory over the Jets elicits a revealing question: where has that been all year? Save for a wobble at the beginning of the third period in which they allowed two goals in twenty-one seconds, Dallas largely mauled and outplayed a team that has historically given them fits. They played desperate hockey and it showed. They’ll need to build on that sustained intensity if they want to stay in the playoff hunt.
Now this isn’t to say it’s been all candy and nuts in Stars-land. For every high point, there’s been a corresponding lull that just makes you scratch your head. Is it a lack of talent? Maybe it’s the system first-year coach Jim Montgomery is trying to implement. Or maybe their top-end players aren’t as good as we’ve been told. Whatever the reason, it’s been an exercise in frustration to watch this team on a nightly basis.
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It isn’t all doom and gloom if you look at the big picture, though. In an unexpected twist, the brutal Central Division is going through a bit of a downturn as well. No team in the division is on pace to match their point totals from last year. Further, if you look conference-wide, much the same is true. Last year’s second wild card, the Colorado Avalanche, finished with 95 points. This season’s current second wild card, the Vancouver Canucks, are on pace for about 85 points. That’s a massive differential playing in Dallas’s favor. For reference, the Stars are on an 87-point pace. The bottom line is, if form holds, this team will make the playoffs.
For better or for worse, the season for the Stars is still right out there in front of them. They’ve got every opportunity to make the postseason tournament and try their luck once they get there.
The defense and goaltending are doing their part. They just need to get their depth scoring going on a more consistent basis. Saturday night was a great start. The goals came from everywhere except their top line, save for Tyler Seguin’s power play goal late in the third. The front office isn’t standing pat, either, considering the recent acquisition of Andrew Cogliano from Anaheim. Also, there are rumblings that the Stars and Capitals are scouting each other for possible trades.
So credit the field for coming back to the Dallas Stars a bit. But don’t discount that through all their troubles, they’re finding a way to stay relevant. The certainty here is that they must find a consistency in their game that has thus far eluded them. No one’s saying it now, but they have time to find their path and be a tough out when it matters most.
- Published on 01/21/2019 at 13:01 PM
- Last updated at 01/21/2019 at 12:16 PM