Dallas Stars post character-defining road trip, surge back into contention

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 26: Tyler Seguin
NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 26: Tyler Seguin /

In yet another plot twist, the Dallas Stars hit the road and gather six of eight possible points in their quest to make the postseason.

It’s a roller coaster ride keeping track of these Dallas Stars. One day, they’re pretty firmly holding on to a playoff spot. The next day, they’re on the outside looking in. At least briefly, this is the space they found themselves in during the course of last week’s critical four-game road trip. Truth be told, it’s easier handling the swings at the poker tables than it is with this bunch’s Jekyll & Hyde act.

That’s not to say it isn’t fun some of the time. Sure, there are stretches when this club seemingly skates their way into trouble intentionally. But there’s also this emerging resilience that really came into focus in the past week. Lay an egg at home versus Carolina? No problem! They’ll just beat a suddenly relevant Blackhawks team trying to claw their way back into contention. Lose at Vegas? Sure. They’ll just reel off two straight wins versus the Kings and Blues to close out the trip.

And when we’re all looking back on the Dallas Stars’ 2018-19 campaign, it may well be those last two games that helped define their season. That’s saying something, too, considering the self-inflicted scrutiny this team chose to put themselves through. If it hadn’t been for them finding a way to pull two points out of Los Angeles, then Saturday night’s dismantling of a good St. Louis Blues team may have never materialized.

Let’s take a deeper look at that Los Angeles game for a moment. Two night prior, the Stars sustained a demoralizing 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in which the final score wasn’t indicative of how competitive Dallas played. Worse yet, they came out flat and fell behind the moribund Kings by scores of 2-0 and 3-2 before forcing overtime and finding a way to get a crucial win. It might be a bit of a stretch to say it was a season saver. But then again, who’s to say it wasn’t?

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Regardless of who’s on the schedule, a season can take a turn for the better or worse no matter the opponent’s win-loss record. On Saturday night, the Stars got captain Jamie Benn back from three game injury absence. Maybe not by coincidence, Dallas put together their best game of the season in throttling the St. Louis Blues in their barn. Make no mistake, this was an utter domination from wire-to-wire. The surprising element of the triumph was the fact that the Stars had ended the Blues’ eleven-game winning streak in Dallas just nine days prior. You’d think St. Louis would’ve entered the game itching for a chance to extract some measure of frontier justice in front of the home crowd.

If anything, the exact opposite happened. Dallas played their most disciplined defensive game of the year. The Blues seldom got any prime scoring chances, and the ones they did get were summarily stymied by Stars’ goalie Ben Bishop. On the offensive side, Jamie Benn posted the first hat trick by a Stars’ player this season. To that end, Benn looked like a completely different player than he has all year. He was fast, physical, and creative, and showed the dominant form he has displayed in seasons past.

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In fact, if they can get a reasonable facsimile of this Jamie Benn for the rest of the season, then one has to like this team’s chances of breaking the playoff drought. It also makes you feel better about them holding it together until Mats Zuccarello returns from his broken arm. No one’s saying this is how it’s going to be from here on out, but if the Dallas Stars can carry this road trip’s momentum through the rest of the season, there is still reason for hope, and that’s better than the alternative.

  • Published on 03/04/2019 at 12:00 PM
  • Last updated at 03/04/2019 at 11:22 AM