The Dallas Stars were supposed to roll over and play along with the narrative, yet now they refuse to go away.
Using four goals in the third period, the Stars defeated the Kings on Tuesday night to inch closer to that ever-elusive playoff spot, just a week after two of the top skilled players on the team were traded and many -- including us -- considered the 2013 season to be a lost cause. We looked to the draft, we looked at draft positioning and we imagined what a top five pick in a deep draft will look like.
It wasn't just because of who was traded, however. The disappointment and frustration stemmed from the play of the team on the ice, which necessitated the trades pulled off by Joe Nieuwendyk, as there were absolutely no signs that the Dallas Stars were even close to capable of doing what they had failed to accomplish in the prior two seasons: turn on the afterburners and fight their way into the postseason.
After three straight wins, this is a different team altogether. The difference? Belief.
"We're playing at a faster pace," said Stars forward Ray Whitney after Tuesday's 5-1 win. "I thought the last time they came in here we stood around and watched them. Tonight, especially in the situation we're in, we have to go on a pretty impressive run here at the end and we're going to do everything we can to try and do that. We played a faster game today, we got a little better on the forecheck, we were better defensively and our defensemen were up in the ice helping out on the forecheck.
"So it's a combination of just hard work and a pretty close-knit group right now. You can really sense the guys coming together and starting to believe in it. Anytime you have this many young guys in the lineup, you're going to have effort. As long as you can harness it and put it in the right way, you're going to have results."
For the first time all season, this is a team. Whether the Stars actually make the postseason or not, this is what the fans have wanted all along -- just try. Show us your best. Get the young players involved and show us what the future of this team can be.
Mike Heika is having fun with how the season is unfolding and has these pearls of wisdom to pass along:
So, I will turn the floor over to Jackson Browne, and allow his lyrics to speak for this team. Browne was talking about life and death in For a Dancer, so this is sort of trivializing a beautiful song, but hey, sometimes hockey is a game of life and death.
"Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
Go and make a joyful sound"
That's it, that's the lesson for the day. Enjoy games like that. Enjoy performances like that. Don't worry that they defy logic. Logic often is overrated.
There's nine games left in the Stars' season...well, the regular season at least. Go and make a joyful sound.
It's been a rollercoaster ride of a season so far, and the fun could just be starting.
Now for the links:
- As we mentioned last night, Kari Lehtonen is day-to-day with a groin injury. [DBD]
- Richard Bachman had not made a save in an NHL game since February, yet stepped in admirably when Kari Lehtonen took himself out of the game in the first period. His team rallied around him defensively, yet Mike Heika praises the calm and collected game of the young netminder on a night when the team honored the finest goaltender who donned the green and gold. [DMN - paywall]
- Tim Cowlishaw made his monthly trip to the AAC on Tuesday night and says that while the postseason is still very much a longshot, the Stars are showing a direction, drive and effort that says the future is looking brighter than anticipated. [DMN]
- Mark Stepneski has his game story up, with the Stars discussing how surviving six minutes of penalties in the second period built momentum for the four-goal outburst in the third. [Stars Inside Edge]
- Here's a fun recap of the game, but from the Kings perspective. [Jewels From The Crown]
- I'm still trying to decide how I want to tackle this news, but the Aeros franchise will be leaving Houston after this season. This has nothing to do with "hockey in the south" or the franchise itself and everything to do with an arena pricing out an AHL team in favor of Barney On Ice and Wiz Khalifa. [SB Nation]
- Congrats to former Dallas Stars prospect Aaron Gagnon on his first NHL goal, scored last night for the Winnipeg Jets. [Arctic Ice Hockey]