In a season beset by distractions, the Dallas Stars are displaying their mettle, and used yet another successful road trip to surge in the standings.
Yes, the Dallas Stars lost in Ottawa last night. That much is certain. But in hockey, there is such a thing as losing the “right” way, and that’s exactly what they did in dropping an uncharacteristically sloppy game to the Senators. The Stars rallied from two one-goal deficits to force overtime before losing in the extra period.
No matter, really. It was the capper on a very successful swing through eastern Canada that saw the Stars gather five of a possible six points. In fact, it’s the second time this month that Dallas has accomplished that very feat on the road. Also, since the calendar flipped to February, they’ve posted a stellar 6-1-2 record, and seven of those nine games have occurred in enemy territory.
Furthermore, the St. Louis Blues have recently come back down to earth for the first time all year. What it all means is that Dallas is now tied for the top seed in the Western Conference as of this very minute. After the 1-7-1 start, the Jim Montgomery firing, and any number of things that could have derailed a lesser team, the Stars are staring a realistic shot at the top seed in the West squarely in the face.
It’s a testament to how this team is constructed. Free agent acquisitions like forwards Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski finally came around and jelled. Left wing Roope Hintz continues to show the form that made him a breakout player in last year’s playoff run. Nominal rookie Denis Gurianov is enjoying a standout campaign this season himself. Couple that with the defense-first mentality and the outstanding goalie tandem of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, and you can see why some pundits like the Stars’ chances in the playoffs.
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Through it all there’s been an uncanny ability to bounce back when faced with adversity. Saturday night’s contest in Montreal was a great example of this trait. The Stars spotted the Canadiens a 3-0 lead into the second period. But then the switch seemed to go off, and Dallas started slowly reeling the Habs back in. A brain-dead Montreal turnover lead to the first goal by Mattias Janmark. Tyler Seguin (more about him in a minute) netted a power play tally to pull within 3-2. And then Blake Comeau’s hopeful shot from the right point found twine to tie the score about halfway through the third period. It set the stage for more dazzling overtime heroics.
Here’s where Tyler Seguin comes back into play. Headed into this road trip, he was mired in a career-long, seventeen-game goal drought. He got the proverbial primate off his back in the 3-2 win at Toronto on Thursday. And sure, he did blast home the aforementioned power play goal during the rally on Saturday. But the overtime goal he scored to ice that game was absolutely filthy. To be sure, it made yours truly leap out of his seat with both fists in the air while yelling out a Ric Flair-esque “WHOO!!” If the goal spigot opens for Seguin, then the rest of the West has no choice but to take note.
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The bottom line is that this team has worked very hard and completely deserves their lot in life at this moment. From top to bottom, they have a team-first mentality that would seemingly portend at least a modicum of postseason success. Nothing’s set in stone, obviously, but the arrow is decidedly pointed up for the Dallas Stars. A second consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs appears imminent.