Dallas Stars improbably inch closer to a playoff spot

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

If the Dallas Stars end up pulling off a playoff berth, it’ll probably get overlooked in the grand scheme of the DFW sports landscape. The hardcore fan base, though passionate and knowledgeable, understands the sport’s niche status in this market. The Stars typically only attract the day trippers when they’re winning.

And while it was a welcome rush during last summer’s push to the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s proven to be a source of some frustration on this go-round. Just yesterday, a good buddy of mine asked me what’s “wrong” with the Stars this year.

The Dallas Stars appear to be saving their best for last for a playoff push.

I’ve detailed the obstacles the Stars have had to overcome in this space already, but while we’re here, let’s recap. Offseason surgeries and rehabs for center Tyler Seguin and goalie Ben Bishop have loomed all year. Seguin is still set to return soon, but last week, the Stars announced that Bishop would not return this year after all.

Then, the season itself was delayed due to a Covid outbreak on the team. From the jump, Dallas was behind the proverbial eight ball in terms of jamming even more games into an already truncated schedule. So even though they got out to a torrid 4-0 start, the onslaught of games quickly caught up to them.

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Finally, a historic Texas winter storm forced the rescheduling of another batch of games. Couple that with losing forward Alexander Radulov for the season to a core muscle injury, and the Dallas Stars have had every reason to fold up their tents and retreat into next season. But instead of being irritated about the lackluster results, perhaps we should be in slight awe of where the Stars currently sit. After demolishing the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday and Saturday, the Stars woke up just three points behind fourth place Nashville in the NHL Central Division. Granted, Columbus has thrown in the towel on their year, but the Stars deserve full marks for the back-to-back drubbings.

In fact, the Stars are now 6-2-2 in their last ten games, which makes them the hottest team in the division in terms of points gained. Credit head coach Rick Bowness for keeping the team together. But the contributions from left winger Jason Robertson–now a legitimate candidate for the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie–cannot be overlooked. Fellow forward Roope Hintz has been dominant at times despite playing though an injury.

Lastly, don’t sleep on what might be the latest stroke of ingenuity from Bowness and his staff. Captain Jamie Benn was recently reassigned to the center position on the Stars’ second line. This is a move from his usual left wing spot. Benn has simply responded by notching seven points in his last six games. In other words, his surge and the team’s uptick are no mere coincidence.

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Yes, the Dallas Stars appear to be saving their best hockey for a potential push to the playoffs. It seemed almost impossible just two weeks ago, but here we are. This team has faced almost comical adversity, but they keep plugging away. So don’t be surprised if they find themselves in the tournament with a chance to defend their Western Conference crown. In any event, don’t be disappointed with them. Be proud of the mettle they’ve shown to get here.

  • Published on 04/19/2021 at 12:45 PM
  • Last updated at 04/19/2021 at 12:40 PM