Buckle up and get ready for lots of Dallas Stars hockey. 34 games in two months mean lots of action jam-packed into organized chaos. These extra games offer a chance for them to climb back into a playoff spot. Qualifying for the playoffs is their primary goal after getting back to .500. 8-8-5 is a dismal record after an atrocious 2-5-3 in February. March and April are important months for the playoff race. The intensity of each game multiplies as they are far away from a playoff spot. Failure to qualify is now a real possibility for the defending Western Conference Champions. Missing the playoffs may lead to a rebuilding phase in the offseason. Here is a look at what the Stars need to do for the rest of their schedule.
Fingers Crossed for No More Postponements
The Stars are not on the NHL schedule makers’ Christmas list this year. They put their original schedule in a blender and made a strawberry smoothie with eight postponements. March is 31 days long while April has 30, meaning they have 34 games in a 61-day span. Eight back-to-backs in these two months mean lots of hockey in a short time.
Consecutive days off are nonexistent for the rest of the season. At one point they had 10 games in hand on some other teams. Their schedule is not easy but they must power through it. The Stars can only hope for no more postponements, otherwise more chaos on the already floundered schedule.
Push Past the Blackhawks for the Playoffs
The Stars are nowhere near a playoff spot but they have the most important thing, controlling their destiny. They are 10 points behind the Chicago Blackhawks with six fewer games played or games-in-hand. In terms of points-percentage, the Stars sit in fifth while the Blackhawks in fourth. The biggest game of the season is on Thursday, March 11. If it’s a Stars win, they will be eight points behind the Blackhawks with six games-in-hand. The Blackhawks have a tougher schedule for the remainder of the season.
They played the Detroit Red Wings six times already while the below-mentioned top-three teams fill much of their schedule. The Stars proved that the deficit is not insurmountable with a 6-1 blowout over the Blackhawks on March 9. Winning four of the five remaining games against the Blackhawks will put them in a good position. The opportunity for a playoff spot will close if losses keep piling up.
Beating the Cellar Dwellers
The Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, and Red Wings are below .500%. So far, the Stars are 6-2-1 against these teams. Points cannot slip away after great effort during the March 7 game against the Predators, down 3-0 in the third period and tying the game. They fought for a point but fell short in the shootout. Five points in the last six games possibly saved the season. Winning more against these teams will have less of an impact than losing. Losses against them are not in the best of interests because of their polar opposite record against the top three. The mindset going into games against these teams should be coming out with a win.
Misfortunes from the Top 3
The Stars have a 1-6-2 record against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes. These are the three teams that currently sit atop the Central. Seven or eight combined losses are unaffordable in the final 15 games against these teams. These teams are likely making the playoffs so finding ways to beat them is a priority. The Lightning is a problematic bunch dating back to last year.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is the fly in the ointment of the offense. 3 straight shutouts including 2 this season are frustrating. The Stars also allowed three goals against the Panthers after holding a 2-0 lead in the third. A different approach will stray their path away from contention elimination. They must do something different against these teams or forget making the playoffs.
What if Stars Miss the Playoffs?
Missing the playoffs is a strong possibility. Monstrous steaks fill their plates with only plastic knives and forks to eat with. They are not an established streaky playoffs team, qualifying in 2014, 2016, 2019, and 2020. Jamie Benn is running out of time in his career to win a Stanley Cup. Stars’ great Marty Turco went his full career without winning the Stanley Cup, which was a real shame.
Seeing Benn go without winning one after he has given so much to the franchise since 2007 is a soul-crushing thought. Their window for winning the Stanley Cup is creeping towards shut over the next few years. It’s time to rethink the direction forward if no playoffs. The trade deadline is April 12, making the seller approach the way forward if playoffs odds are not looking good. A rebuilding phase may be in the cards for the offseason.
Just Get it Done
Making the Stanley Cup Final after a 1-7-1 last season was incredible. Anything can happen with this team who seems to be clicking better after these last few games. All cylinders are firing with the offense, defense, and goaltending. Joe Pavelski leads the offense with 13 goals and 24 points. John Klingberg highlights the thunderous defense with 16 points, second behind Pavelski. Esa Lindell leads with a plus-10 rating. Jake Oettinger and Anton Khudobin hold the fort down between the pipes. Oettinger just got his first career shutout in the game against the Blue Jackets.
The Stars have every opportunity to make the playoffs despite a strenuous schedule. If they miss it, get ready for a much different team over the next few years. They are too talented to play this way. This year is the thread holding the future together with everything riding on these next few months.