Why the Dallas Stars are on the cusp of the conference finals

The Dallas Stars are on the brink of a berth into the Western Conference Finals.

There comes a point in a team’s playoff run that can define their fortunes the rest of the way. For the Dallas Stars–at least at this moment–that juncture is clear. In Game 4 of their first round series against the Calgary Flames, the Stars were 12.9 seconds away from a 3-1 series deficit and were almost certainly dooming themselves to an early exit.

But center Joe Pavelksi’s goal in the waning stages of regulation forced overtime. From there, the Stars would go on to prevail in the extra period and tie the series at two games apiece. They would not lose another game in that round en route to eliminating the Flames in six games. It was as if Dallas finally awoke from their nap and remembered that the postseason was fully underway.

That turning point against Calgary segues into the chapter we’re currently reading about this Stars bunch. Nothing’s settled in this round, of course, but for them to be one win away from the Western Conference Finals is not what I had envisioned when this run began. And for that the Dallas Stars deserve every bit of credit that I can muster.

Before I make it look like I’m counting my chickens, allow me to invoke every cliche in the book. There’s no doubt in my mind that Nathan MacKinnon and the rest of the Colorado Avalanche possess the ability to come back and make this series a nightmare for the Stars. It wouldn’t be playoff hockey otherwise. 3-1 deficits aren’t the harbinger of doom in this game that they are in other sports. Weird things can happen, and MacKinnon is surely capable of winning games on his own.

So while I don’t want to invite any bad vibes, I do want to heap some praise on this hockey team. To be sure, the Stars have displayed a depth that’s conducive to postseason success. They’re not having to rely on one line to score goals. But with that said, the oft-maligned number one line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov has matched the Avalanche’s vaunted top trio of MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen to the tune of seven goals and eleven assists each through four games. That’s right, the Colorado line that the NBC broadcasters are so openly rooting for are barely keeping up with their supposed older and slower counterparts.

This is where the Dallas Stars are winning this series. It’s pretty much an impossible ask to shut down Colorado’s top end talent. They’re going to get theirs. So it’s been an absolute revelation to see Benn, Seguin, and Radulov match them at every turn.

But when Dallas is getting contributions from the likes of center Radek Faksa, or defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Esa Lindell, then you can’t help but feel good about their chances to advance to the next round. The scoring from forwards Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz cannot be overlooked as well. It’s been a total team effort.

If the Stars can close out the Avalanche tonight in Game 5, it will be their first foray into the West Finals since that improbable run back in 2008. If you follow this team like I do, then you’re fully aware of the implications. The fans simply haven’t enjoyed playoff success of this magnitude in well over a decade. It would be a lot of fun to see this team push through to the NHL’s final four..