Though Dallas Stars fans may be tired of hearing it year after year, the Stars have a good chance at making the playoffs this season. They control their own fate with four games left and a little cushion between them and their competition, the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Stars seemed to be on their way to the playoffs for the past five seasons, but they found a way to start their summers early each time. The repetitious heartbreak has caused the fan base to generally adopt a “prove it to me first” outlook that makes them hesitant at this point in the season.
During past 2 yrs, @DallasStars are combined 0-9-1 during the last 5 games of the season. I believe this season is different..Prove me right
— Bruce LeVine (@BruceLeVinePuck) April 6, 2014
The fact of the matter is that each Stars team during the five year long playoff drought was different. Different rosters, coaches, opponents and standings each year, yet they all get lumped together. The only player on the current roster who was with the Stars the last time they made the playoffs in 2008 is Trevor Daley. Jamie Benn and Kari Lehtonen arrived two seasons later and Alex Goligoski a year after that. What plagued the past teams doesn’t necessarily plague the current team. Just like the problems are not the same as in the past, the positives from this team are also different.
Here are five reasons why the Stars will finally return to the playoffs this season:
1- Kari Lehtonen
The Stars rise and fall with Lehtonen. Throughout most of his four full seasons with the Stars, he has shown that he can be an elite talent. At first, the knock on Lehtonen was whether or not he was a second-overall quality player as he was drafted. Then, his health came into question and his “injury-plagued” tag was brought to the forefront. Yes, he still misses time occasionally, but it has happened less frequently and he has been returning to action faster than in the past.
Now, the knock on Lehtonen is whether or not he can win a big game. Lehtonen tends to play better in games when he is constantly facing shots, but three of the final four teams are considered more defensive or two-way teams, so he will have to find a way to get into a rhythm whether or not a lot of rubber gets thrown his way. He is among the league leaders in games played this season and is used to playing three-fourths of the season. He is familiar with carrying a heavy burden, and tends to maintain his calm demeanor in net no matter the situation. If he plays like the elite goalie he can be, the Stars should see their playoff drought broken this season.