If you spend any time following the Dallas Stars, then you’re inevitably aware that any wobble–large or small–can be met with all the baggage Stars’ fans carry around in their heads. And who’s to blame us? We all long for the days of yore when Dallas was a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Yet we’ve been treated to a thirteen-year stretch now where a playoff berth is an exception and not a rule.
So you can imagine what it was like just a few weeks ago when, after a rather tepid 3-2-0 start to the season, the Stars hit a 1-4-2 skid and tumbled to the bottom of their division. If you’re prone to checking out Twitter and Reddit (I don’t encourage it), it got bad, too. The calls went up for the heads of any combination of head coach Rick Bowness and/or general manager Jim Nill.
The Dallas Stars have been showing some mettle during their recent surge.
Yet even through that swoon, I saw a team that, while struggling to get out of their own way, was playing okay, even playing well in stretches. Sure, they weren’t winning, but you didn’t have to squint to see that a favorable bounce here or there would turn their fortunes around. They just weren’t getting rewarded for the chances they were generating.
So just to prove that the NHL regular season is a marathon and not a sprint, the Stars suddenly find themselves as one of the hottest teams in the league after Saturday night’s 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Granted, Arizona is horrible and is playing for their future, but Dallas had played the previous night at home and scratched enough of an effort together to get the “W” in the desert on the next night.
If you’re keeping score at home, the Stars have won four games in a row and six of their last seven. Further, of the six wins, five of them were against teams who held a playoff spot at the time. Safe to say that, for the moment, they’re playing to their abilities and punching their way back into playoff contention.
It’s important to point this out as well, because for all the good things they’ve done lately, the Stars themselves are still on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Such is life in the NHL when you dig a deep hole early in the season. As we’ve learned over the years, the Stars never do things the easy way.
But at the epicenter of this resurgence is the now top line of Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, and Jason Robertson. Pavelski continues to splendidly hold off Father Time as he centers the line with the two youngsters, Hintz and Robertson. Hintz, for his part, has started to score goals in bushels after not being able to buy one early on, and Robertson has really settled in after missing action due to injury. It’s hard to tell where this team would be without this trio.
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It doesn’t get any easier, though. Dallas returns to American Airlines Center ice on Tuesday night to host the powerful 15-4-1 Carolina Hurricanes. Talk about your barometer games. If the Stars want to keep proving to themselves and everyone else that this uptick is no fluke, they’re going to have to compete with and beat teams like Carolina to get back into contention.