Is it too obvious to say that it was a big game last night?
Maybe. But that doesn't make it any less true. And with only five games remaining, each one is going to hold even more weight than the previous one -- especially if the Stars keep finding ways to win.
The Dallas Stars are now sitting in 9th place in the conference, just two points behind Columbus, with two games in hand. While under most circumstances this would mean the Stars have a little bit of breathing room, it's simply not the case this time. The standings are lying to us, thanks to games played. As of right now, the primary concern is no longer the Columbus Blue Jackets (although they are not far behind), but the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings have the same number of games played and points as the Stars. So, despite all the good that the win against the Canucks did last night, there is still no room for error as they turn around and face St. Louis tonight.
The Stars team understand what's at stake, and are focused on taking it one game at a time. Mark Stepneski has details in his post-game report from last night.
"We obviously know how tight the standings are," said Stars center Jamie Benn, who had a goal and an assist in the game. "We had our game in hand tonight and we got the two huge points that we needed."
Thursday's win pushed the Stars, who have five games remaining, into ninth place and a win Friday night in St. Louis would move them into the eighth spot.
"We kind of control our own destiny and every game is big for us," said Stars center Cody Eakin, who had a goal and an assist in the game. "We're going to give it our all and scratch and claw every chance we get and play our game from here on in."
The Stars, who had a five-game winning streak snapped with a 5-2 loss in Chicago Monday night, bounced back with a solid effort Thursday night against Canucks.
"We were on a good roll there and then we didn't play too well in Chicago," said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. "It was nice to get a couple days for everybody to rest. We came in and played very well against a very good team. It was nice, nice with that third period"
One of the more interesting things about this Stars team is how they are going about winning right now. Certainly, they are still being outshot (although not by nearly as much last night, as they managed to put 30 on Schneider), and sometimes outchanced. They do not have the firepower or depth that a team like the Penguins have. And yet, not only do they find ways to win, but they are winning in convincing fashion.
As Brad mentioned yesterday, it was only nine days ago that the Stars went into the third frame tied with the LA Kings 1-1, and walked out with a 5-1 victory. Doing the same thing tonight is more than coincidence -- it speaks to the work ethic of the team. They are certainly getting lucky bounces, but their level of play is also what is helping to generate that luck in the first place.
At the very least, there seems to be a different frame of reference on where the team stand this year. The last couple of seasons, the Stars have been in a playoff position until the final few games, when it was choked/handed away by playing flat. This year, no one is expecting the playoffs, not after losing the players that they traded away. Instead, they have come together and exceeded all expectations. At this point, they are playing with house money, and they are an exciting team to watch. Good thing we get another chance to watch them again tonight.
Coming up in today's links: Some notes and observations on the Stars, news on the playoff race, and some celebratory hockey hugs.
- It's frustrating that this is the third of fourth day in a row to do this, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. Keep your thoughts and prayers with those in Boston today (and continue them for West as well), as all heck broke loose last night. Hopefully it will be over soon, and the real recovery can begin.
- Now, before we move on to tonight's game, let's relish everything that happened last night. Mike Heika has his post game review, and I think his first sentence is dead on. Rome has been a bit of a whipping-boy around here, but I'm more than happy to give him a little love today. [Dallas News]
- Here are the extended #Observations that Mike Heika has about this team. If he's comparing them to players of old, you know it's okay to get a little excited about the future. [Dallas News]
- The Wild lost last night to the Sharks. And while they are still within striking distance, it's not very likely the Stars are going to catch them. [Hockey Wilderness]
- The hockey gods were also kind to us, with the Jackets suffering a regulation loss. This leaves them only 2 points ahead while the Stars have 2 games in hand. Their odds are not looking very good today. [NHL]
- Speaking of odds, the Stars odds of making the playoffs went up to 40% after last night. With three teams vying for one position, anything over 33% is pretty good. With a win tonight, it could be as high as 56%, with all of the pressue being on the Red Wings to keep up. [Sports Club Stats]
- Mark Stepneski has his game preview for today, including a stats matchup between the teams. The Blues D has been clicking lately, so it will be interesting to see how many the Stars can score tonight. [Stars Inside Edge]
- With all of the new outdoor games being announced, Stars fans will want to know when they get to participate in one (either here or in Minnesota). Unfortunately, the answer seems to be "not anytime soon." [Dallas News]
- Todd Maternowski has his predictions on why each team left in the race will make it, and why they won't. What say you? [Thursday Morning Cup Check]
- Here's an Insider article that may be paywalled, but you can at least read a bit about what newcomer Brenden Morrow brings to the Penguins. I love watching him succeed there, I really do. [ESPN]
- The latest edition of Hockey Hugs is in, and there's some pretty good ones. [Puck Daddy]
- Finally, for your video of the day, here is last night's game in 6. If you missed it, watch that play where Rome breaks up the 2-on-1 before the Stars take the lead. He had a pretty good night overall.