The Dallas Stars have held on tight in March. In all thirteen games preceding the one last night the Stars either led, were tied, or were within one goal in every third period. There were no blowouts, except on their part in 5-0 and 4-0 wins over Chicago and Minnesota. They were always in the game, fighting their tails off until the end and into overtime many nights.
Not last night. The casual observer might opine that the Stars finally cracked, and that's the end of them. That's hardly an invalid an opinion about a team that's lost eight of ten games, and yet technically, the Stars are still "in it."
On a list of 25 greatest finishes to an NHL season, a team making up a three point deficit with six games to play probably wouldn't make it, and that's what the Stars will now try to do against the Blackhawks. A three point deficit and six games.
That doesn't sound impossible, there's just that little hitch that they haven't won a game since what feels like the Clinton administration, and they've scored exactly one total goal in their last 155 minutes of hockey (and people want to blame the defense...)
Add to it what the coaching staff did last night. If you thought the game looked a little different, a little helter-skelter, a little loosey goosey...you were right. The coaching staff, Mike Heika told us after the game, actually significantly altered the game plan especially for San Jose. What message did that send to the players, and what's the aftermath? Was that their way of saying it was a "must win"? and what now that they didn't? Was it too early to fire that bullet?
It was easy to take positives from the Phoenix loss, devastating though it was, because the team played really, really well and were beat by one man. They also got a point out of the deal. There are no positives to take from last night.
They don't have answers, and neither do we. Just a question: In your mind, are they done?