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NHL Postseason 2013: Dallas Stars Still Control Destiny on Path to the Playoffs

The Dallas Stars have lost two of their past three games, yet still have control of their own destiny in the final four games of the season.

Ronald Martinez

So, now these new-look Dallas Stars that have stolen our hearts and given us hope -- no matter how tentative -- have lost two of their past three games and the facade of a berth in the postseason this year is beginning to wither at the edges. Has faith been tested? Has our resolve that "no matter the outcome, I'm just happy they're fighting" been threatened with these losses, two games which bookend a magical third-period performance against Vancouver?

Here's the situation now as it has been since April 3 -- the Dallas Stars are fighting for the postseason with the toughest schedule with arguably the least-experienced and perhaps shallower teams in the race and even making the postseason was such a longshot that even the most optimistic amongst us doubted such a favorable outcome. Now, win a few more games earlier in the season and this path is much easier; this is the situation we have at hand and for once, the Stars are showing some actual interest in fighting for that future instead of shutting their eyes and covering their ears and hoping for the best.

So, I'm not losing sleep after the loss in St. Louis. I'm not worried about finishing with another No. 12 or No. 13 draft pick; this path was established the moment the Stars won their third straight game two weeks back. I'm not going to cry foul of my disappointment in the team should they fall short of this lofty goal; I think we've seen plenty of growth, leadership and development over these past few weeks to more than pay dividends moving forward, playoffs or not.

Yet here's the good news: The Dallas Stars still control their own destiny. Even with all of the frustrations, even with these two losses in three games -- the Stars still have complete control over whether they fight into the postseason or head home early for the fifth year in a row.

Here are the current standings before tonight's games:

GP Points ROW Last 10 Max Points Max ROW
6 St. Louis Blues 44 54 21 8-2-0 62 25
7 Minnesota Wild 44 51 20 3-6-1 59 24
8 Columbus Blue Jackets 45 49 16 7-3-0 55 20
9 Detroit Red Wings 44 48 18 3-4-3 56 22
10 Dallas Stars 44 47 20 6-4-0 55 24
11 Phoenix Coyotes 44 46 15 5-2-3 54 19

And here are the schedules ahead for each team:

21-Apr 22-Apr 23-Apr 24-Apr 25-Apr 26-Apr 27-Apr
Minnesota Wild CGY LAK EDM at COL
Columbus Blue Jackets at SJS at DAL NSH
Detroit Red Wings PHX LAK NSH at DAL
Dallas Stars at LAK at SJS CBJ DET
Phoenix Coyotes at DET SJS COL at ANA

So, first of all, it's almost certain that the No. 7 spot is completely out of question at this point unless the Wild completely crap out in these final four games. No matter how poorly the Wild might be playing right now, I highly doubt they'll manage two losses with games against Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado ahead of them. One can hope, however.

The key here is that four wins here and the Dallas Stars make the postseason. Simple as that, and it doesn't matter what Detroit or Columbus accomplishes outside of the games against the Stars. Four straight wins, which almost assuredly need to come in regulation or overtime, and the Dallas Stars are back in the postseason.

The path ahead is not one to be taken lightly, and it's likely tougher than the one they've managed to get through so far. The Kings are likely not too thrilled about how the last game went and we all know what can happen at Staples. The game against the Sharks, in the Shark Tank, will likely be the hardest game on this schedule outside of the trip to Chicago -- the Stars were grossly outplayed on home ice against the Sharks last weekend yet escaped with a win -- and we all know how the trip to San Jose at the end of last season played out.

The beauty here is that Detroit and Columbus could still help out the Stars with a loss here or there -- but it's important to remember that through all of this frustration, the Dallas Stars still control their own path.

Is this enough? Will these next two games lead to some incredibly meaningful and amped up hockey at the AAC on Thursday and Saturday? Could that final game against Detroit actually be a win-and-in game?

We'll start to find out tonight.