With the first half of the season and All-Star weekend behind us, many NHL teams are finding themselves heading into the last stretch of the season where top teams will be fighting to keep their places in the standings; while the underdogs are clawing and scratching their way up to get themselves a shot at the Stanley Cup. As much as they’d like to be at the top, the Dallas Stars are a part of the latter group, now fighting to stay alive in the NHL Playoff contention.
After an exciting 2013-14 season that saw them being a part of the playoffs for the first time in five years, the Stars haven’t had it so easy this season. While their offense has been doing fantastic, as expected, their problem is the same thing that has plagued them for several seasons now. Defense. While it hasn’t been entirely terrible, a rough start early in the season held them back and they didn’t play like everyone expected them to until just before the All-Star weekend, burying them in the standings and making it that much harder to find themselves returning to the playoffs this year.
The team has once again been led all season by their all-star sniper Tyler Seguin and the fearless leader and team captain Jamie Benn. Together, the two form a dynamic duo that have begun to take the NHL by storm and have helped dig the Stars out of they had been in for several seasons. Currently, Seguin is leading the NHL in goals with 28 and is on track to break his career high and possibly break the franchise record for most goals in a season, currently held by both Dino Ciccarelli and Brian Bellows (55).
After the Stars were able to get out of the funk that plagued them earlier in the season, they looked like the team everyone expected them to be this season, dominating the puck possession, even when losing, and truly fighting for their wins and dominating many of their opponents. If they were to continue to play like this in the final stretch, the Stars would once again not only be shining in the playoffs, but would have a legitimate shot at bringing the Stanley Cup back to the Lone Star State.
While that may sound easy in writing, it will take a serious effort from the entire team and coaching staff. While it’s easy to point the finger at the lackluster and inconsistent defense over the years, it’s not just their fault. Kari Lehtonen is a world-class goaltender, but doesn’t always play like one. One month he will go practically flawless and win almost every game he competes in, but the next he will look like an entirely different player. Kari will need to work hard to play consistently, even when the defensemen in from of him aren’t. If he doesn’t step up his play and become more consistent, the Stars will have no hope for the playoffs, let alone the Stanley Cup.
While the defense hasn’t been what fans dream for, they’re showing signs of one day being a top defense. The D is comprised mostly of young players in their early 20’s who are just coming up from the minor leagues and are still adjusting and learning how to be successful in the NHL.
It will be a long road to the playoffs that will seem to go by in a flash, but if we have learned anything about the Dallas Stars it’s that you should never underestimate them or take them for granted. This is a hardworking young team that will surprise you.