On December 17th, our own Derek Neumeier famously said the 11-13-5 Stars were due for a winning streak. Then ensued both a victory over the Canucks and a 7-1-1 run, which brings us to today, where the 18-14-6 Stars sit hot on the heels of the 8th spot in the conference.
It's a streak the Stars needed, and not just because it gives them the universally accepted illusion of being on the right side of .500. The Stars' record as it stands now reflects something like a 90-point pace over the course of a season. That isn't quite enough to get them back onto our beloved NBCSN for more games in April, but Lindy Ruff can finally look at the remaining 44 games on the schedule without openly groaning so often, which makes road trips easier for everyone in general.
However, the Stars' October through early December still built a nice little mound o' whatsit that they'll have to climb on their quest to avenge Ray Whitney's disappointing final season. Their recently burgeoning goal totals are gorgeous to behold, but they still haven't erased the results of their early-season defensive strategy of playing the defensive zone like it was the, well, defensive zone of a lacrosse field. In lacrosse, see, the forwards can't come back to that zone...so, it's...aw, never mind. Also, I just wanted to say "burgeoning."
Okay, yes, the point: what is a realistic scenario for the Stars' making the playoffs? Well, here's what Pro Hockey Talk suggests some of the bubble teams need to do with their remaining games if they want to play more than 82 this year:
Minnesota Wild: 23-16-6
Dallas Stars: 22-16-6
Florida Panthers: 22-18-5
Boston Bruins: 21-15-6
Calgary Flames: 21-17-4
Again, achieving those records won’t guarantee any team a playoff spot. It would put them in the ballpark though. [PHT]
Keep in mind, that's only a 92-point total for Dallas, which may not prove sufficient to avoid another 10th-14th overall pick in this summer's draft. I don't bet on these things, but I really wouldn't bet on 92 points doing the trick this year.
If you want to take solace--and who doesn't, it's January--from this stuff, then here: the Stars did what they needed to do to avoid slipping into oblivion. The season is long, and the Stars have put themselves in a good pursuit position by a fabulous road trip through Alberta and B.C. Dallas is still scoring plenty, and the defense has stopped being the worst defense of all the defenses. They're right on the cusp of holding their own playoff destiny in their hands again. And if December proves to be no mirage, this team's hands are a lot safer than they used to be.
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I'm working my way through Bob McKenzie's Hockey Confidential, and the Connor McDavid chapter is really good. If you're looking for some solid and up-to-date puck reading, I'd recommend it. I would also recommend reading this website you are on, right here.
Mike Heika wonders if the Stars will be ready to handle playoff pressure this year should they be lucky enough to have the option. [DMN]
Josh Bogorad's On the Radar piece this week is typically engrossing. Everybody is scoring. [Stars]
Do you think the Chicago game was a step in the right direction? I think we thought similar things about the season opener, so I don't know what to believe these days. [DMN]
Reminder to the Stars and myself: never, never settle. Never. [Hockey Buzz]
The NHL sort of said that Dallas needs to pony up and sell some jerseys if it wants a Winter Classic. I may be reading into this a little. [Twitter]
Canada might have done okay in that KFC tournament or whatever, but Winnipeg demonstrated that they faithfully remember what the Spirit of Canadian Hockey is all about this time of year as they surrendered the game-winning goal to San Jose with 2.9 seconds remaining in the 3rd period last night. Have to think Winnipeg might be needing that point come March, as they are now tied with the Sharks... [NHL Video]
...Which means, of course, that we again have a big mess in the Western Conference standings. Somebody clean this up, please. The Pacific's spots 2-4 (and both the West's wild card slots) are all tied with 47 points, but Vancouver has three games in hand. [NHL Standings]
Minnesota is still smarting from that 7-1 lesson Dallas dished out, it seems. [Puck Daddy]
Zach Parise is forging ahead despite his father's illness. J.P. Parise is a former North Star, you may recall. Good story here. [Star Tribune]
Joe Thornton had his 319 consecutive games-played streak ended by an IR stint. I kind of loathe Joe, but he's also really good, so it's too bad. [NHL]
P.K. Subban was watching football this weekend, it seems. [Twitter]
Who's been sneaky good in the first half of the season? These five players, three from the Central. [THN]
Kevin Connauton has thrown down the gauntlet in the general vicinity of the Stars' in-game production crew. Be careful what you wish for, Kevin.
.@DallasStars during which TV timeout will my tribute video be played tomorrow?— Kevin Connauton (@KConnauton) January 5, 2015