The Dallas Stars aren't supposed to be here.
Given up for dead, and rightfully so, at the trade deadline, the Stars were supposed to fade quietly into the back end of the Western Conference standings, contending with the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche for the best odds in the NHL draft lottery.
And with a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators, the Stars have something, however briefly, that very, very few thought they would - their own destiny in their hands for the eighth and final playoff spot. Heck, they even have a little margin for error since they own the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker with the current eight-seed holder, the Detroit Red Wings, and have one game remaining against them as well.
So just what has been feeding this startling run? Stars coach Glen Gulutzan has a theory:
"The last couple of weeks the guys have felt people have written them off and we haven’t liked that very much. We just keep playing for each other in that locker room."
Now, obviously the Stars will not win their remaining eight games of the season because as much as this group is coming together at the moment, they are not a dominant force like the Chicago Blackhawks. And they have several very tough contests remaining, not the least of which is today's back-end of a back-to-back with the San Jose Sharks.
There are obviously huge question marks remaining. How will the team respond when the winning streak inevitably does end? Is this simply, as Bob Sturm likes to put it, a "dead cat bounce" and run of good luck? Can the team manage to eak out points against the Hawks or Sharks, or on the road against the equally desperate Blues?
There are two weeks left in the season to answer those questions, and the math still says the Stars are likely out (though the percentage jumped up to 32.3 percent with the win over the Preds). Regardless of how it shakes out though, the fact that this team has put together any sort of meaningful run, and the potential confidence the players can gain from it going into next season, is huge.
Also in today's links, more on the Stars win over the Predators, staring warily at the other games that affect the playoff race and Steve Ott talks, or doesn't, about attempting to lick someone else's visor.
- It definitely won't win the award for prettiest win of the season with the Stars feasting on weak goaltending from Chris Mason and getting five goals on only 18 shots. But as Mike Heika points out in this paywalled gamer, they don't measure how - they just measure how many. [DallasNews.com]
- Mark Stepneski takes a look at the game and it's impact on the (gulp) playoff race. [Stars Inside Edge]
- And our friends over at On The Forecheck were brief but direct in their analysis of what went on from a Nashville perspective. [On The Forecheck]
- Kari Lehtonen travelled with the team to Nashville and took the full morning skate. though he didn't dress for the game. Will he play, or even be available, today against the Sharks? No one knows quite yet, and the team is not scheduled to take morning skate so we probably won't find out until game time. The good news is that he looks like a definite yes for Monday's game against Chicago. [DallasNews.com]
- Jamie Benn talks Jaromir Jagr, how the extended contract negotiations impacted his season and playing with his older brother in this 5 Questions interview with CBC. [CBC.ca]
- Brenden Dillon is in no way a Norris Trophy candidate this year (heck, if we're honest, he's not much of a Calder Trophy candidate either if only for lack of national attention). But in the charts in this article, which is advocating P.K. Subban for Norris, you can see just how impressive his rookie season has been. [Backhand Shelf]
- Eric Nystrom isn't quite sure when his summer will start (here's hoping it's later rather than sooner), but he already has some plans on his plate. [The Canadian Jewish News]
- Staring warily at the playoff race, part the first: The Red Wings continued to pick up points, but only one at a time. This time they eeked a point away from the Blackhawks in a 3-2 shootout loss, a game in which they really should have had two points as they led with less than five minutes remaining. [Detroit Free Press]
- Staring warily at the playoff race, part the first: Also picking up one point were the Phoenix Coyotes, who fell 3-2 to the Calgary Flames in overtime. The Coyotes have the same number of points as Dallas but have played one more game and have two fewer regulation-and-overtime wins. [NHL.com]
- Staring warily at the playoff race, part the first: The Columbus Blue Jackets also continue to cling to an outside shot at the playoffs with their 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues. They are in the same points/games played position as the Coyotes but have even fewer ROW. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
- The Wheel O'Justice had another swing and a miss on the Taylor Hall two-hander. Is anyone really surprised at this point? [The Hockey News]
- Steve Ott has apparently gone full mountain-man beard during the latter stages of the Buffalo Sabres season, and he had some fun with the media about his, er, attempted licking of Jeff Halpern's visor. [Pro Hockey Talk]
- Also, this is not the first time Halpern and Ott have had amusingly contentious run ins. Back when they were teammates (and I think this was from... 07-08?) and the Stars ran occasional mic'd up features, Ott had a bunch of fun at Halpern's expense. Bonus points for Stu Barnes pointing out the snot in the towel violation and Krys Barch piling on. If you want to skip to the Halpern fun, and there's a lot of amusing things before hand, go to the 3 minute mark.