In midst of adversity, are the Dallas Stars fit to reach the postseason?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 28: The Dallas Stars celebrate after the game-winning goal against the Los Angeles Kings in overtime by Roope Hintz #24 at Staples Center on February 28, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 28: The Dallas Stars celebrate after the game-winning goal against the Los Angeles Kings in overtime by Roope Hintz #24 at Staples Center on February 28, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) /

As the regular season turns a corner to its final span of games, the Dallas Stars find themselves in a race for a playoff spot. Are they good enough to hold on and make a postseason appearance?

On Sunday, the morale of Stars fans was crushed.

Even though the team was able to escape with a 4-3 victory in a wild contest against the division-rival Chicago Blackhawks, newly-acquired forward Mats Zuccarello was knocked out of a majority of the remainder of the regular season with a broken arm and captain Jamie Benn was sidelined for reaggravating an upper-body injury. The big blow to Dallas, obviously, was Zuccarello’s injury— through two periods, he already had a goal, an assist, and a +3—and now, he is out for what looks like most of what is left on the Stars’ plate this season.

So, come Monday, fans were hoping that GM Jim Nill and Co. would stick their finger in the pie, make a move, and help build the team’s roster to bandage the wound left on the team due to Zuccarello’s early departure from the roster. With several forwards available such as Wayne Simmonds, Kevin Hayes, Mikael Granlund, Mark Stone, and Marcus Johansson floating around the trade rumor clouds, there was hope that the Stars would trade for another forward to boost the depth of the roster.

But, as 3 p.m. EST on Monday passed by, the Stars did not make a move and were sticking with the roster that they have.

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So far, it’s worked out as good as the regular season has. For what that’s worth, it’s mediocre. Although it’s been just two games since the deadline, the past two games could serve as a small sample size on how little the team changed as a result of Zuccarello’s injury and staying silent on deadline day.

Tuesday night’s game brought a matchup against the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who had just acquired forward Mark Stone the day prior from the Ottawa Senators.

Roope Hintz got on the board in the middle of the first, but was Dallas’ only tally of the game. After his score, Vegas went on to net four unanswered goals from Max Pacioretty (2), Nate Schmidt, and Brayden McNabb.

In his first game back from injury, Ben Bishop made several big saves and kept the Stars in the game early on. However, Dallas’ offense sputtered to a screeching halt in the third period, as the Stars got outshot 21-1 in the final period. No, that’s not a typo. Dallas had one shot in the final 23:04 minutes of the game, and it was a dump-in by Roman Polak. On the injury front, things didn’t improve against Vegas. Forward Andrew Cogliano got checked hard into the boards by Vegas’ Ryan Reaves and went immediately down the tunnel. He is day-to-day, and Cogliano missed a game (Thursday night against LA) due to an injury for the first time in his career.

It gets worse.

The night following the Stars loss in Vegas, the Colorado Avalanche for the Western Conference’s second wild card spot, pushing Dallas outside the playoff picture for the first time since the Christmas break. Yes, it’s a minor one point difference, but it goes to show that the race in the West is unpredictable, and Dallas is not immune to finding themselves on the outside looking in.

After a deflating loss on Tuesday, Dallas stayed on the west coast and ventured to Los Angeles to play against the Los Angeles Kings. This season has not been kind to LA, as the Kings pick up the rear as the last place team in the Western Conference.

With the Stars in the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche’s rearview mirror, they needed a win—and Thursday night’s game gave them a chance to do that.

However, the game didn’t start as planned. Kings’ captain Anze Kopitar knocked in the puck off a cross-crease pass at the doorstep and Brendan Leipsic caught part of a Drew Doughty slap shot on the powerplay to start the first period. Tyler Seguin scored his 27th goal of the season off a deflection on the backdoor from a great pass by Taylor Fedun, and Mattias Janmark backhanded a shot past Jonathan Quick in front of the net to even the score at two.

Kopitar answered with his second of the game by sending a loose rebound in the middle of the Stars’ defensive zone past Khudobin to give LA a one-goal lead.

But the Stars’ weren’t done yet.

Blake Comeau fired a slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle and Faksa banged home the rebound to tie the game and send it to overtime.

With just 1:41 left in the extra frame, Roope Hintz was able to score a goal after several attempts to get the puck past Quick, the Stars handed Los Angeles their 10th loss in a row, and Dallas retook a playoff spot from their Central Division rivals.

There are 18 games left in the Stars’ regular season—ten games at home in the AAC, the other eight on the road—and Dallas will have to put the pedal to the metal in every single one. The West is packed with playoff-hungry teams, and Dallas will have to battle it out with all of them in the next month.

Are they a playoff team? It’s tough to tell. The defense has proved all season that they can keep up with other team’s offenses. The goaltending has been far better than it has been in the past couple of seasons. The scoring, though, still needs improvement. That said, the fact that they’ve been able to stay in the playoff conversation despite the adversity of the boatload of injuries they’ve dealt with is somewhat impressive, nonetheless.

Dallas Stars Bulletin Board: Zuccarello out, a four-game road trip, and more. dark. Next

The next 18 games will be a strong litmus test for the Stars and give the fans, the team, and the management insight as to whether or not they can survive the storm that lies in front of them. The Stars’ games in March start on Saturday night in St. Louis, where Dallas will look to assert their desire to see playoff hockey yet again.

Let the playoff push begin.

  • Published on 03/02/2019 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 03/02/2019 at 07:22 AM