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Dallas Stars Making Progress As They Fight Their Way Through Round 2

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National media pundits expected the Dallas Stars to get run over by the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars are out to prove them all wrong.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

If you read all of the national predictions for the second round of the playoffs, the Dallas Stars were supposed to get steamrolled by the St. Louis Blues. Most picked the Blues to win in 5 or 6 games, most thinking an easy five. Dallas didn't have the goaltending or defense to win a series against a deeper, more skilled, more physical squad.

The first game of the series for the Stars was the perfect response and wake up call to the rest of the world that they weren't going to go quietly into the night. They would not vanish without a fight. They were going to live on. They were going to fight. Today would be the day they celebrate Independence Day!

Ok, so it isn't as serious as saving the world from an alien invasion. But what the Stars are doing in this round is an important step forward for the franchise.

Prior to the season, the universal feeling was the Stars needed to win a round in the playoffs for it to be considered a successful year. Not many really anticipated the Stars having the start they did, to survive the horrendous slump in January-February, and to play well enough down the stretch to win the Central, the West, and home ice in the playoffs for any series except for one versus the Washington Capitals.

Mission accomplished, and the Stars have since moved on to the second round. Then theey proceeded to turn in a brilliant defensive effort and goaltending performance to win a 2-1 playoff game to open the second round. Most didn't expect them to be able to do it, and they did -- versus a team that was expected to handily beat them.

The second game in the series illustrated the strength this team has had all season long: offensive depth. They spotted the Blues an early lead, and fought back past a defensive lockdown team to tie it and force the extra time. Dallas was more than equal to the Blues in play by the end of that second game.

They're not getting run out of the building. Mental fortitude and confidence that they're never out of a game is allowing Dallas to keep this series a lot closer than most anticipated.

Yes, the defensive miscues are still there (and magnified at times). The goaltending has given them "that" save at times in the series so far, and at times it's looked very beatable (not many times you're going to get close to a sniff of a win when allowing 3 goals on 5 shots). They've outscored their opponent 5-4 so far, showing that offensive weaponry they have -- while down one of their top weapons in Tyler Seguin.

In other words, they're playing Stars hockey. After years of watching a team with no identity given opportunities to win and get in (and turn in spectacularly terrible 5-2 losses to the Wild instead) or be just good enough to not make moves at the trade deadline in hopes of catching the last playoff spot to fall just short, Stars fans are watching a core group of players earning valuable experience that will shape the franchise for years to come while maintaining a visible, distinct identity.

It may not always be the normal way to win, and it may not always work out in the Stars favor, but that identity fits this team and this town. So what if everyone says they can't be successful in the playoffs with it?

They also said they'd never win the Central division. And would you look at that....

NHL Standings Final 2016