The Dallas Stars are going to eclipse the 88 points they earned last season. With seven games remaining, they're going to push their point total into the 90's. Even if they finish the remaining seven games the way they finished their last seven games (1-3-3) they're still going to end up with 92 points, and probably a few more. If they don't make the playoffs, that's going to be an unbearably bitter number to sit on all summer, knowing they were that close.
Just like last night in Phoenix. So close. Or against Anaheim, and Nashville. It's been the entire month of March, really. People will look at the fact that they've lost seven of eight and say "Well obviously they don't deserve to be in the playoffs," but if you've watched these games you know they're playing just as well as anyone right now and have been in the third period of every game. They just literally cannot catch a break.
Last night that came in the form of Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped 44 of 45 shots and then four more in the shootout. It was just the fourth time this year the Stars eclipsed the 40 shot mark, and they were good. Really good. As Marc Crawford said after the game, they deserved better than what they got, but this isn't the NCAA tournament. There's no selection committee and no play-in games. Deserve has nothing to do with it.
We said before the game that it would show us if the Stars had the stomach for this fight they've gotten themselves into. The effort last night was a resounding yes, but for how much longer? How many more last second heartbreaks and bad bounces can the psychology of one team bear?
How many more times can they give this quote? "I thought we played a good enough game to get two points, but we'll take one," said Jamie Benn "If we play like that from here on in we'll win some games."
Mathematically speaking, only one or two more times. The prediction that "they'll have to start winning some games" is going to have to come true at some point very soon, but it's clear after last night that they have a lot of fight left in them.
Continued after the jump...Many Stars fans felt going into the game last night that a win would provide new life and hope, or that a defeat would signal the end. We should have known the results would be somewhere in between. Here we are again tentatively wondering how well they have to do the rest of the way and is it possible?
One thing that isn't possible now is catching the Coyotes. That wasn't on the minds of many but they're too far out of reach and could end up with home ice in the playoffs. Of course that sit on-your-hands, don't-make-a-mistake, watch-your-goaltender-make-45-saves, and hope your goal-scoring-by-committee-approach doesn't work in the playoffs, but at least they're going to be there.
If we're being realistic, the only thing within reach now is the eight seed, and that's just fine with this Stars fan. I saw some chatter last night suggesting that it would be better not to make the playoffs than to be flattened by Vancouver in the first round. Nothing could be further from the truth.
These are proud men, and they want to be in that group of eight. It'll be a hell of a group this year too. It doesn't matter who the opponent would be. They haven't fought through the blood, sweat and tears (not to mentioned countless injuries we don't even know about yet) this season to come this far and say "Oh well, you know, Vancouver would be too hard, so no thanks."
The eight seed would be just fine. Particularly in light of at whose expense that spot would potentially come, which leads us to the next step in this tortuous process: More help? Please?
The Stars had a rare night of scoreboard watching that didn't go totally against them. The Predators and Blakchawks both lost, making that point last night a little more meaningful than it otherwise could have looked this morning. The real help would come tonight in the form of a regulation Calgary win over Anaheim. That would technically put the Stars back in 10th place but they would have three games in hand on the Flames.
More importantly it would put the Stars four points behind the Ducks with two games in hand AND a head to head match-up on Sunday (though it's a back to back). Couple that with the Ducks remaining schedule (Kings, Sharks, Kings, Sharks) and there's a very real chance to catch them again.
In the mean time we'll keep writing these same three posts over and over again as long as the Stars keep hope alive. They showed us last night that they're not going to quit, so let's not go quitting on them. The Shark Tank looms large on Thursday night.