With only seven games remaining, the Dallas Stars are in control of their own playoff destiny. In fact, as it stands right now, the Stars are only two points out of taking 7th place in the standings away from the Minnesota Wild.
Of course, the Stars are also only two points out of falling right back down to 12th place as well. It's a constant reminder that, while things are looking good after a 5-game win streak, it won't take long to fall right back out of it if things head south.
Based on the arena environment last night, you can tell that Stars fans are hungry and desperate for playoffs. That may have been the loudest that the arena has been in several years. And now that the Stars are back up in the 8th spot in the conference this morning, it's easy for fans to begin dreaming of the fact that there will be another game to play after April 27th.
But should they?
You see, Rapunzel is visiting the village square with her friend Flynn Rider and catches a glimpse of this darling tile portrait of the royal family in which she sees her own eyes in that of the blonde-haired baby in the portrait (I told you it was manly). And so she starts to wonder if maybe she has another identity, maybe she is royalty, maybe she is...special.
I think that's where the Stars are right now.
I mean, they haven't gotten to the festival of lights or Rapunzel's test of Flynn's true love or her showdown with Gothel yet (seriously, let's not get ahead of ourselves here), but they are starting to wonder if they are something special.
Saturday's 2-1 win over San Jose did that for them.
Look, the whole five-game winning streak has been important, and a loss in any of the games probably would have felt like chopping off a lock of Rapunzel's magical hair, so they have been building step by step. But the test of Saturday was a feisty one. The Stars played Friday in Nashville and have struggled on the second night of back-to-back games (3-16-2 in the past two seasons heading into Saturday). Backup goalie Richard Bachman was being forced to play both games because of Kari Lehtonen's groin injury, and he hadn't been great in small doses this season (coming off three straight four-goal performances before this recent run).
What's more, the San Jose Sharks practiced in Dallas on Friday and were riding an 8-1-1 run.
It was heady stuff, like being chased through the forest by thieves, a crazed witch, and a determined horse with a sense of duty. Seriously, you're going to need more than just a frying pan to survive that kind of drama.
It's still early on in this film, and there is no telling how it is going to end, but that certainly doesn't mean that fans can't enjoy what's happening right now.
This team is playing cohesive hockey for the first time in a long while. Obviously, there are still massive flaws in parts of the game. Turnovers at their own blue line are an issue, as are shots against. The Stars have also had some lucky bounces go their way lately, and Chiasson's shooting percentage is completely unsustainable.
This is an extremely young team, and there are going to be flaws on the ice that reflect that. The trick is to fill those gaps with something else, in order to keep their winning ways going. Right now, that something else is belief and effort. And it seems to be working.
The Stars were outplayed by a wide margin last night, especially in the third frame. Yet they were able to hang on for the all important regulation win. If this game were to take place last season, or the one before, the Sharks would have tied it with with seconds left, completely deflating the fans in the arena. Instead, they held on for the win, and gave fans a chance to keep their dreams alive for at least one more night.
The only question now is whether or not the fairy tale happy ending will happen. We'll find out over the next two weeks.
Coming up in today's links: More notes from the Stars, playoff race news from across the NHL, and more proof as to why visors need to become mandatory.
- Mark Stepneski has his post game review from last night, including some great quotes from players. [Stars Inside Edge]
- The Stars are starting to look like a playoff team to some of those in the national media. And that was before their win against the Sharks, too. [Yahoo Sports]
- Todd Maternowski has some great thoughts on why tanking for draft picks is not necessarily the greatest idea, as well as busting some myths about what high end talent can get you. (Note: See NY Yankees as proof.) [Thursday Morning Cup Check]
- If I can give any advice to fans who are starting to get their hopes up about playoffs, it would be to just enjoy what is happening with the team right now, and don't obsess over the standings too much. Having said that, save this link to your favorites, and check it 20 times a day like I do. The Stars have a 41% chance of making it to the big dance. [Sports Club Stats]
- Adam Burish feels like he's playing better hockey with the Sharks as of late. He talks about his game this season, as well as gives props to the Stars for what they have done recently. [Mercury News]
- This NHL Grab bag is one of my favorite reads of each week. And it's perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon, since it's longer than most of the other articles I usually link. [Grantland]
- This is why we wear visors, folks. Instead of a Staal-like injury, Nate Thompson only needed a couple of stitches after taking a slapshot to the face at extremely close range. It shattered his visor in the process. And, unlike the Staal injury, this video is watchable without traumatizing you. [Puck Daddy]
- The Frozen Four wrapped up this weekend. I admittedly haven't been following it lately, thanks to tax season, so the team that won it all seems like a bit of a shocker to me. Yale? They have quite a story, too. [Puck Daddy]
- Brenden Morrow earned #1 Star honors last night, after getting two goals and an assist in the Pittsburgh Penguins win. Glad to see him flourishing with his new team. [Puck Daddy]
- The Blue Jackets won in OT last night against the Wild. On the upside, it brings the Wild within striking distance of the Stars. On the downside, it brings the Stars within striking distance of the Blue Jackets. [ESPN]
- The Boston Bruins failed to clinch a spot last night, losing to the Hurricanes. Watch the highlights and see Jagr get absolutely robbed. They are currently in 4th, which is not good for Stars fans wanting that first round draft pick. [NHL]
- For your video of the day, here's last night's game in 6. Just listen to that crowd. Awesome.