None of us knows the future. We can predict things based on previous things with some degree of certainty that the foretold events are probable, but that's about as far as it goes for everything except a bit tune drop during a home game. That's a hundred percenter, right there.
So I don't want to spend your time today on the result of this season I think most likely. You're not interested in my speculation about a trade deadline deal sending Esa Lindell, Travis Moen and Cole Ully to the Leafs for Tyler Bozak, David Clarkson and somehow Vesa Toskala. I'm not even interested in that speculation, unless it made you blanch just a little bit right then, in which case, heh. Instead, I choose to invoke the old truism about hoping for the best while preparing for the worst by placing some bets with a bookie and paying off an inside person to cover the spread. Hey, worked for that Shoeless guy who got a role in Field of Dreams, but if you don't want to be a famous movie person, fine.
All right then, I think it's time we readied ourselves for the end of the regular season, whatever the manner in which it arrives. Here are three such manners, although I'm sure this season has a completely different cartoonland ending just waiting for us. Frankly, I think Dallas deserves an unprecedented playoff run after the Friday the 13th debacle, but who am I to dictate fortune's whims as it seeks to balance the universe?
Also, these will be Star Wars-themed because I feel like it, and who on earth is going to complain about that? I mean, seriously.
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
This team is capable of rattling off a goodly sequence of victories, as we saw earlier this winter, but the cynic in me just knows that such a stretch in March would be merely a build up to the coup de gras of a "win-and-you're-in" game against Nashville in which Eric Nystrom scores five goals in route to a Predators win which earns them the President's Trophy in what we will later come to know as the breakout year of the Nashville dynasty. This has to happen, right? This team raised our hopes in the summer then dashed them in October/November then raised them again with some solid wins against teams like Chicago before going and losing to Buffalo before beating the Rangers. So it seems only right that they would find a way to bring our hopes back up again so perilously high that only an utterly cataclysmic fall could dash them once and for all.
You know that scene in Empire Strikes Back where our heroes (and Lando) are flying the Millennium Falcon away from Cloud City, and they discover that the hyperdrive had never been repaired?
In this scene, I picture Jim Nill as Lando and Chewbacca as the Stars' players. And surprise, you are Princess Leia, a beautiful human being caught betwixt disbelief, disappointment and bemused resignation. R2-D2, who later fixes the hyperdrive and saves everyone (spoiler alert back there), is probably some as-of-yet un-acquired player. Maybe he could be Jhonas Enroth, I don't know.
Anyway, to put a bow on this: don't be shocked if the Stars make a miracle escape from the Cloud City of their current position in the standings only to be foiled at the last instant by Eric Nystrom (a failure to repair the hyperdrive).
Fading Down the Stretch
This outcome started dominating my thoughts considerably more after the Florida game. Without the firepower ofTyler Seguin that kept the Stars afloat during a very shaky autumn, one doesn't need to stretch the imaginative power to envision the Stars winning a game here, losing one there, and pretty much doing that off and on for the next month. Not collapsing like Toronto, mind you, but something more like dropping critical points like a slow leak from a gas tank. They continue saying "we're only a few points back, we just need a good run" until all of a sudden they find themselves shut out of the playoffs by the force field of math, watching helplessly as Liam Neeson and whoever thanklessly played the only non-CGI monster in the entire prequel trilogy duke it out. In the NHL, Obi-Wan will have to wait an entire offseason before that force field deactivates:
This scene is also the only good memory I have from Episodes One through Three, by the way.
I'm not sure who Qui-Gon Jinn would be in the NHL--maybe the Blues or something?--but Darth Maul is obviously the Ducks, and the Stars may not be able to forgive themselves if they miss out on the opportunity to exact vengeance upon Anaheim in the first round. Maybe Obi-Wan in this scene is Trevor Daley from last year's playoffs, a furious competitor who just goes absolutely bonkers on the Ducks once unleashed.
The Miracle Run
I'm not talking about doing the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, you bunch of nerds, although acquiring Phil Kessel and playing him alongside Tyler Seguin might just create some sort of too-many-goals-for-the-universe-to-handle singularity that enables the Stars to retroactively win some of those ugly games from back in November. (Note to self: text this idea to Stars' management later)
No, I am actually talking about the Stars going something like 16-6-4 to finish the season with 96 points. Is it possible? Yes, unless Devan Dubnyk has somehow drained the universe of its entire capacity for anomalous variance during his time with the Wild. If Enroth and Kari Lehtonen can buckle down, and if the Stars can patch things together until Seguin's return, and if basically everything goes just right, then we could witness something akin to the most wonderfully miraculous event in the Star Wars saga (to date):
Honestly, just think of the confluence of factors that had to take place in order for Han Solo, space pirate, to be in a shield generator complex holding a bomb just as a blaster-wielding man comes into view right in front of a railing. That's a Final Destination-level demise for that poor Imperial lackey.
Yes, things may look bleak for the Stars right now, but as the rest of Return of the Jedi reminds us, even the biggest setbacks can often culminate in the most improbable* of victories. Lindy Ruff himself has talked about how this stretch could be an "opportunity" for some guys to step up and keep this team in the mix, after all. This is the sort of hope the Stars and their fans need to cling to as the season begins its final stretch. Can the Stars find a way to create an astral epic of their own? As always, we get to watch and find out.
*Of course, it helps a lot if the evil Darth Vader finally comes around to be on your side and kill the Emperor. Hey, speaking of which, maybe Gary Bettman could make an in-season rule change that allows a team to re-apply its excess goals scored in victories in order to amend previous losses. That's at least not more improbable an event than the bomb-to-sternum thing, right?