Steve Ott smiled last night. Kari Lehtonen was, perhaps, a little more animated than he can sometimes be. There were jokes. There was obviously relief. The players riding the bikes and doing their stretches in the hall looked rather pleased. The stereo blasted from the locker room. To put it simply, there was some life in the place.
Had a puck bounced the wrong way or had someone taken an untimely fall, it might not have been. We might be eulogizing them this morning. That place would have felt like a funeral wake last night. It was an uneven performance against a hurt team and they played with fire for much of the second period, but the two points are all that matters.
In the press box, a dozen media members or more gathered around the televisions to watch the end of the Hawks/Habs game as it headed into OT. It was an unusual site in a place usually filled with people doing their own thing, quietly. But this is an unusual time of year.
Last season the Stars were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on April 4th, but everyone knew long before that. This year the earliest anyone could know anything is Friday the 8th, and with a little luck, it will be the 10th.
Chicago remains the Stars best bet at 93 points with three games remaining. If Dallas were to continue to "take care of business" then the Blackhawks could finish 1-1-1 with 96 points and the Stars could still overtake them with 97. If you want to get really imaginative, give Chicago two wins, one of which is in a shootout, and Dallas could overtake, or just tie the ROW tiebreaker and get in with the next tie breaker which is head to head. Dallas won the season series 3-1...
Still, they are the defending Stanley Cup Champs and the second half of that game last night saw them push hard until they lost on a pretty bad penalty call in OT leading to the game winning PP goal. The help would still be just that...help. Toby Petersen said last night that it's uncomfortable having to rely on other teams at this point, but that all they can really do it take care of their business.
With as well as Anaheim is playing right now it seems unlikely that they'll lose two of those three games in regulation, so I'm not sure that path is a viable option any more.
Leaving the Kings, who are hurting for offense in a big way right now. They'll battle the Coyotes tonight in what will almost assuredly be a 1-0 or 2-1 game that will likely go into extra time, but then they have two with those magical Ducks. Anaheim could do the Stars a big, big favor and close those games out with authority.
The overtime game and Bettman point is really the wild card here, particularly with the Kings and Ducks playing each other. Someone has to lose those games, but they point(s) they get in the process could keep the Stars from reaching their goal.
It's still an uphill climb. A steep one. All three of those teams play two of three at home while the Stars must go to Colorado and Minnesota. Still, after seeing their faces last night, I believe they are locked in for this fight.