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Observations After Dallas Stars Take a Giant Step Back Into NHL's Playoffs

We're playing with house money now. It's playoff time in Big D.

Brad Gardner DBD

How do you begin to speak of what's happened this season if you're a Stars fan? If you've been through all of this?

Fans of other teams need not observe this post. We know where our bar is. We know it's not very high. You haven't dealt with the same things. You don't know.

A 2008 deep playoff run seemed to signal a readiness to do it again with Brad Richards leading the way. Miss-steps in free agency and a slew of catastrophic injuries combined with the demise of Sergei Zubov, the aging of Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen, and the retirement of Mattias Norstrum saw the team struggling in key areas.

And Marty Turco fell off the face off the earth in a hurry. Mike Modano left. Jere Lehtinen retired.

Then Tom Hicks, well, he wasn't doing so well, buddy. Internal budgets nowhere near the cap, a crumbling defense. An aging core. Close calls in 2011 and 2012 accompanied a reluctant makeover couched in an attempt to stay competitive at the same time.

That didn't work.

Before you know it they're a perennial playoff team and contender with a slew of banners rainbowing across the American Airlines Center that- Well, they were those things... and they haven't made it in six calendar years.

And everyone told us that they couldn't this season. It's a rebuild, after all.

If you give yourself to this silly thing called sports, and so many of us do- We give everything of ourselves to it- you know the misery. That familiar feeling in the pit of your stomach. The inevitable failure.

And now they've broken through. After every single possible step they could have taken off the ice (new uniforms, new logo, colors, owner, GM, number-one center, division...) they took the one that mattered tonight.

They're in the playoffs. Tyler Seguin delivered. Jamie Benn delivered. Kari Lehtonen, Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley. The whole gang. They 'sank the putt' with all the pressure on them.

How can I put into words what it means to those of us who have cried and laughed and thrown a lot of remote controls and kind of, you know, pissed off our loved ones every spring?

I don't know. I do know Lindy Ruff said he was "pretty damned happy" for his guys. He was jovial. He was joking. He was smiling. It was a joy to see.

Brenden Dillon and Rich Peverley were commiserating on the event level, waiting for their teammates to shower.

Ralph Strangis was down there slapping hands. Tom Gaglardi looked like he had been put through the emotional wringer as much as the rest of us. He loves this teams, you better believe that.

It's a party right now. When asked if he asked who he plays, Ruff responded that it was "a bad question," and it's hard to argue. Who cares? Bring on anyone. No one is expecting this team to make noise. They welcome that.

They'll get experience along the way. Invaluable experience. They've shown themselves to be a player now. They're in the mix. That counts for something as well.

Colorado, Anaheim, St. Louis, whatever.

Enjoy this. Know that Sunday will come and it will be blissfully meaningless. Ray Whitney may get a tune-up game in. Tim Thomas will probably start. They have two call-ups they can make, and they'll make them. Brenden Dillon will rest. Maybe Goligoski or Daley.

Drink it in, and remember this feeling. If you're like us... if you're REALLY like us, and you've slogged through every Edmonton Oiler game on a Tuesday at 8:30pm CST in January after January, and you've been wounded by the March swoon year after year after year... You deserve this moment.

We'll work on raising that bar. Jim Nill is no doubt working on it right now. Don't worry about that.

This particular mountain has been climbed, and hopefully we're just getting started.

On a personal level I can tell you what it means to Brandon, the team and I- Everything. All we've wanted from 2009 is to go cover a Dallas Stars playoff game. Everything the site has become through the attentions, comments and support from the community members has been done without the aid of a single Stanley Cup Playoff game. Now we get to play the game at a higher level.

So here we go, together.