With 89 points and four games remaining in the Dallas Stars’ schedule, every point counts. The Stars currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference — three points behind the 8th-seed Chicago Blackhawks, who also have four remaining games. The Calgary Flames are in ninth place with 92 points; however, Dallas and Chicago have two games in hand on Calgary — the battle for the final playoff spots in the West is heating up.
Dallas received good news following their 4-3 win against Anaheim on Sunday night: Chicago fell 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. That swing allowed the Stars to pull from five points out to only three. Center Mike Ribeiro scored two goals and defenseman Jeff Woywitka notched a goal and an assist in the Stars win, which not only pulled Dallas closer to Chicago, but hindered the Ducks from placing anymore distance between their seven-spot and Calgary and Dallas. The win could not have come at a better time for Dallas, who hadn’t won in their past six games.
“You have to find a way to win, and today we did,” said Ribeiro to ESPN. “We got the bounces that we needed.”
Despite struggling to win games over the past two months, Dallas still finds itself within a stone’s throw of making the playoffs. Without the win on Sunday, the playoffs looked out of reach for Dallas.
“These were two huge points,” Captain Brenden Morrow said.
The win pumps Dallas full of much needed confidence and hopefully provides the team with a late-season boost.
Although the Stars currently sit outside of the playoffs, the team may get some help from their and Chicago’s schedules. In their final four games, the Stars face the Columbus Bluejackets, the Colorado Avalanche (twice) and the Minnesota Wild — all of those teams are eliminated from playoff contention. Chicago, on the other hand, faces the Montreal Canadians, the St. Louis Blues and the Detroit Red Wings (twice). So while all four of the Stars remaining games are against teams who have little to nothing to play for, the Blackhawks face teams (other than St. Louis) who are jockeying for playoff spots. The Red Wings and the Canadians have the ability to gain or lose a spot in the standings before the regular season ends. Because of this, the Stars and the Blackhawks have two very different schedules. If Dallas puts up the same performance it did against Anaheim against its remaining three opponents, the team has a clear chance of climbing closer to playoff contention. And although Anaheim currently has four points on Dallas, the Stars have a game in hand, and the Ducks face the red-hot San Jose Sharks and the thirsty Los Angeles Kings (twice).
“There’s no quit in this team,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said about his team. “We’re still in the race, and you just have to keep coming out and having performances like this.”
Looking ahead to tonight’s game, the BlueJackets are struggling of late. After losing 6-1 to the Blues on Sunday, Columbus has lost seven of its last eight games. The Stars are certainly hoping the Bluejackets put up a similar performance tonight.
Colorado and Minnesota are also on cold streaks: the Avalanche are 3-7-0 in their last 10 games, while the Wild recorded a 2-7-1 mark in their past ten.
All this means the Stars still have a fighting chance. This columnist had nearly counted the Stars dead in the water, but one thing the Stars have not stopped doing all season is surprise. After the year the Stars had, it would be fitting to see the team slip into a playoff spot at the last second. The Western Conference continues to be a pressure cooker up until the last minute of the regular season; and with a win tonight, the Stars can place further tension on the Blackhawks, Ducks and Flames.