As the season winds down and teams are either clinching their spots in the playoffs or preparing for the offseason, the Dallas Stars and their rival Phoenix Coyotes are still duking it out, each trying to claim the last available playoff spot before the end of the season.
The Coyotes missed the playoffs last season but the Stars have much more at stake, as they have missed the playoffs every year since 2008. This comes somewhat of a surprise when you take into account that the Stars made it all the way to the Western Conference finals then, only to be defeated in the series 4-2 by the Detroit Red Wings, the same team that ended up winning the Stanley Cup soon after.
As it currently stands, the Dallas Stars are sitting in a wild card spot, but that could change at any time, considering the Coyotes are only two points behind them. While many fans in Dallas are worrying that we could miss the playoffs yet again, the Stars’ play has shown signs that the fans need not give up hope just yet.
Throughout the 2013-14 season, much of the team has relied on Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Kari Lehtonen to lead the way and win games for them, with several other players chipping in along the way. While that has seemed to work for them on and off, it was ultimately hurting the team and would have never lasted had they gone into the playoffs like that. The team has leaned on their superstars all season but they have now realized what they were doing and have stepped up, working to make it a team effort on the ice and not letting all the pressure fall on Jamie, Tyler, and Kari.
This strategy has started working, with several other players starting to put up more points and contributing on a regular basis now. One of the most notable changes is Vernon Fiddler, who has scored two goals in the last couple weeks, as well as an incredible shootout goal against the Nashville Predators (See the goal HERE). The shootout goal, which was described by Daryl Reaugh as, “Broken ankle, achey brakey, AH!,” kept the Stars in the game, with Tyler Seguin potting the goal that would win the game.
While some may be thinking, “So what, other people are scoring. What’s the big deal?,” the answer is simple. If you take a look at any team that has ever done well in the playoffs you will notice that while they may rely on a superstar or two, they really all play as a team, with just about everyone contributing in several ways. Take a look at the 1980’s Edmonton Oilers for example. Sure they had the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, but they had a team full of players contributing and finding ways to put points on the board and win games, leading to five Stanley Cup wins in a decade (one without Gretzky). Then you can take a look at teams like the current Washington Capitals, who have plenty of great players, but are really only leaning on Alex Ovechkin and a couple other players to win games for them. (Keep in mind, this isn’t their only problem.)
Now that the Stars locker room has rallied together and started playing more as one than as a few superstars and the rest of the team they are looking more and more playoff ready as the season winds down. They aren’t necessarily a Stanley Cup team just yet but these guys are showing more signs every day that they are destined to be the best and won’t stop until they are. With only two games left to go and only two points ahead of their rivals, the Stars will need to work hard to earn their spot and return to the playoff prominence they once had.