Still Alive in the Lone Star State

The Dallas Stars could, within the realm of possibility, contend for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. I repeat, the Dallas Stars, holders of a 27-26-10 record as recently as March 2nd, the 26th worst scoring defense in the league, and an organization many wrote off eons ago, may make the Stanley Cup Playoffs after all.

How did this happen? Just weeks ago, the Stars experienced a six-game losing skid, virtually eliminating them from postseason play. Starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen combined with backup Jhonas Enroth to give up 26 goals over that stretch (sports.yahoo.com), and all hope was lost.

Then, as if the hockey gods snapped their fingers, the Dallas Stars began to shine. This extraterrestrial transformation, evidenced by an 8-2-0 run since March 3rd, leaves the Stars only eight points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the 8th playoff spot in the West (nhl.com). All facets of Dallas’ game seemed to come together at just the right time.

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Red-hot Finn: With two goals or less allowed over six of his last nine starts (sports.yahoo.com), Finnish netminder Kari Lehtonen is playing his best hockey (by far) of the season. Of all times to heat up, the 31-year-old picked the best.

Klingberg & Co.: Among a copious list of issues facing the Dallas Stars this season, the most glaring was perhaps the poor defensive play. While blueliners John Klingberg, Trevor Daley, and Alex Goligoski all have 30+ points thus far (nhl.com), keeping the puck out of their zone wasn’t a strong point. However, during the Stars’ 8-2-0 run, the team allowed less than 25 shots four times and 30 shots seven times, lowering the season average to 30.2 (nhl.com). Klingberg, the Stars’ 2012 5th-round draft pick, has been a rare bright spot in Dallas’ defense, totaling 37 points in 56 games this year to go with a +6 rating (sports.yahoo.com).

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Mo’ Goals, No Problems: The one area in which the Dallas Stars have succeeded all year is putting the puck in the net. No strangers are the Texans to finding twine, as their 3.08 goals/game ranks 2nd in the NHL (nhl.com). Since March 3rd, nothing has changed. The juggernaut attack that Dallas sports, including young veteran star Jamie Benn, emerging superstar Tyler Seguin, and possible Hall of Famer Jason Spezza, has totaled 31 tallies over the past ten games. Undoubtedly the most consistent aspect of hockey in Dallas all season, the prolific scoring is that much more dangerous when the defensive zone is probably cared for.

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So, what does all this mean? Well right now, the Winnipeg Jets are the hottest team in hockey. Coming off a five-game win streak only recently ended by the also-hot Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg is rolling and will be difficult to catch. Additionally, with only nine games remaining for the Stars, it becomes exponentially more challenging to reach the Jets as more and more contests slip away.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Dallas Stars are just as good right now. It remains a long shot, but imagine the folklore that would surround the Stars for years to come should they pull this comeback off. That’s what makes hockey so great. Even with only a few weeks and a couple tilts to go, nobody has a clue how it’s gonna play out.

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