I can't sleep.
Not a wink.
I'm wide awake with visions of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin one-timers dancing in my head. In approximately 21 hours the Dallas Stars will play their first Stanley Cup Playoff game since May 19, 2008. Admittedly, I don't remember too much about that game, a 4-1 loss at the American Airlines Center to the Detroit Red Wings, at the time I was finishing up eighth grade, completely oblivious to the fact that my high school years would go by without a single trip to the playoffs for my beloved Stars. I do remember blindly believing that the Stars would certainly be back and in contention for the Stanley Cup in 2009, of course, we all know the story, Nordstrom retired, Barnes retired, Zubov broke, Turco collapsed, Hicks ran out of money, Hull signed Avery, Modano left, Jere retired, Krys Barch skated on the first line at one time, Loui Eriksson played center, the Houston Aeros defeated the Dallas Stars on the last day of the 2010-11 season, Richards walked for nothing, Crawford lost the locker room, Gulutzan was clueless, 5 game losing streaks, and I could go on. But now, 2158 days later, we're back. Just like last time, the Stars start out the playoffs in Anaheim, against a favored Ducks team.
All I can think about is that anything can happen now, we're in. Some will say that we have no chance, that it's foolish to think about this team making a run to the Conference Finals, or even past game 5 in this series, and quite frankly, deep down I don't think this team gets past the Ducks, but that won't stop me from dreaming. Not at all. I can't sleep, but I'm dreaming big. Dreaming of an impenetrable Kari Lehtonen, a lethal Jamie Benna and Tyler Seguin, an inspired run from Chiasson, Roussel, or Garbutt, the youthful joy of Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Goligoski and/or Trevor Daley trolling everybody with a series clinching goal, an emotional three overtime win, and something magical happening in Dallas. And while I know it probably won't happen, it's not stopping me from getting excited. Everyday since Friday, I've been randomly having outbursts of excitement, where I just stop and say to myself "Hey, the Stars are in the playoffs" and then saying to anyone or anything that happens to be in my general vicinity, "THE STARS ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!" The excitement is building and I can't contain it, I'm about to explode.
The Stars mean more to me than they probably should. I emotionally ride too high with victories and fall too low with losses. I stay up all night after a win reveling in their success, and struggle to fall asleep after a loss, dealing with their failure. Some people can detach themselves, not get too high or too low, but not me, that's just not my personality, if I'm going to do something, anything, I go all in, or I don't go in at all. It sets me up for crushing defeats at times, but to me, it also makes it more worth it when the end result is beautifully successful. To be honest, there's a part of me that's glad the Stars have struggled the last few years, it's made me a better hockey fan, I watched more of other teams, I watched games not 100% to see the Stars win, but to enjoy a hockey game, and with more focus on the game itself than just the Stars, I've learned much more about the game than I've ever known. Thinking back two and a half years ago, if somebody had said "Corsi" or "Fenwick" to me, I would have given them a blank stare, but I now can cite advanced stats, and contrary to "popular" belief, it enhances the game, and makes it more enjoyable to know about these stats, of course that's just me.
But now, it's here, it's 12:05 AM Central Daylight Time at the moment, game day. Stars at Ducks. Nothing else matters. Believe. Whatever It Takes. Any other playoff slogans the Stars have utilized throughout the years. I'm beyond excited. I'm honestly not sure if anything I wrote makes any sense at all, but what I'm trying to say here, is don't be afraid to dream. Relish this next week and any that may follow. We all have very high hopes for the next few years of Dallas Stars hockey, but if the last five years have taught us anything, it's that you cannot take anything for granted in the National Hockey League, not even a full 82 game season (Thanks Bettman). Soak it in. Dream Big Stars fans.