The Dallas Stars will face the Calgary Flames in their opening series.
It’s never easy for the Dallas Stars. This club either scores goals in bunches or they don’t score at all. It was true during the regular season, and it’s been true in this round robin to determine playoff seeding. Yesterday, just when it looked as though they were about to be shut out–again–center Joe Pavelski slapped home an equalizer to force overtime.
Neither team scored in the extra five minute session. But Stars’ winger Denis Gurianov managed to sneak a puck passed Blues goalie Jake Allen in the ensuing shootout. Meanwhile Dallas netminder Anton Khudobin stymied all three St. Louis attempts. For his part, Khudobin was outstanding all game long, stopping twenty-one of twenty-two Blues’ shots.
It’s unfair to say the Stars stole this one. In fact, yesterday’s contest was the most complete game they’ve played since the restart. But for them to come back and win in such dramatic fashion at least provides a spark and some hope to those of us who have been watching this squad spin their wheels. I don’t know if it’ll mean much once the traditional playoffs commence on Tuesday, but yesterday was at least a start.
For a team as starved for a win as the Stars, “a start” might be all they need. Don’t get me wrong, though. A shootout win does not count as a slump busted. Remember, dating back to mid-March, the Stars hadn’t won a single game. In doing so, their biggest wart was again revealed, and that was/is their inability to consistently score goals.
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Can’t win in if you don’t score. These Stars have shown time and again that if they do score goals, they can come in a torrent. But then they’ll turn around and spring a leak and give up just enough to lose. And if they don’t score, then forget about it. It felt that way for basically the entire game on Sunday afternoon. So when Pavelski’s snipe from the top of the left circle found twine, it elicited an exclamation of “FINALLY!” and a sense of joy for once. Of course, I was also waiting for the hockey gods and their cruel sense of humor to bestow a loss upon the Stars in overtime, but that never came. No, Sunday was a day in which the Dallas Stars got a deserved reward for their work. They got better as the game wore on and it paid off.
Now, we can debate about whether or not the win helped or hurt Dallas. By winning, they relegated St. Louis to the fourth seed and a date with Vancouver. As the newly anointed third seed, the Stars will face the Calgary Flames. People who know more about the game than me seemed to prefer Vancouver as the more favorable draw, but any notion of tanking yesterday’s game just to achieve that goal was laughable. The Stars needed a win in the worst way.
So after all that, the Stars actually improved their playoff seeding. Sure, they sneaked in through the back door, but here we are. They’ve got a chance to start with a clean sheet and a new lease on life. It’s been easy to despair and remain pessimistic about this team. I mean, they’ve given us every reason to do just that. But they were guaranteed a spot in the tournament all along. Now it’s up to them to make the most of this opportunity.