It is not April yet, but make no mistake about it, it is playoff hockey time for the Dallas Stars.
With 15 games remaining, the Stars are locked in one of the most competitive playoff races in recent memory. Eight teams are separated by no more than five points competing for five playoff seeds.
Currently the Stars have the first Wild Card spot but are no means comfortable. The Stars have only won four of their last eleven games and things will not be getting easier. Ken Hitchcock’s team plays better at home (23-10-3 at home opposed to 14-14-3 on the road) but the Stars only have five of their last 15 games at the American Airlines Center. The quality of opponents does not make things easier. Twelve of the Stars’ final opponents are teams fighting for playoff positioning.
Adding injury to insult, the Stars are getting hit with impactful injuries at an inopportune time. Ben Bishop suffered a knee injury against the Senators as teammate Dan Hamhuis fell over the Stars’ goaltender. He came out of that game, missed the next game against the Predators and is expected to miss Friday’s game against the Ducks. On top of that, Radek Faksa and Esa Lindell missed the Predators’ and Senators’ game and statuses are still up in the air for Friday. Meanwhile Martin Hanzal has missed seven consecutive games and status remains unclear as the center nurses a back injury.
It is going to be a grind if the Stars make the playoffs this season. Going through their toughest stretch of games will be the biggest challenge. If they do get through to the postseason, they will have earned it and will feel ready after a month of playoff preparation.
Despite three losses, the Stars have picked up points in four of their last five games. Thursday against Tampa Bay it took a two-goal third period to send this game to overtime. The Stars would pick up a point but the Lightning secured the extra point in the final minute of overtime, 5-4 overtime loss. Tyler Seguin picked up two more goals in this one and was on the other end of Mattias Janmark’s goal just before the end of regulation.
It took another late third period goal against St. Louis to force extra time on Saturday. The teams traded goals in the second period as Tyler Pitlick picked up his 13th goal of his best season of his career. Alexander Radulov tied the game in the third after Blues’ Jaden Schwartz scored a late goal. Hard work payed off for Jamie Benn as his eighth shot of the night gave the Stars the extra point, 3-2 win.
It was one of those games you thought the Stars had to win as Ottawa came into town on Monday. The Senators are not one of the opponents competing for a playoff spot as they are one of the worst teams in the league. Yet for the third game in a row, it needed overtime to decide a winner. Tyler Seguin kept his stellar play scoring the Stars only two goals of the night. That include yet another late third period goal. But the Senators Erik Karlsson would score on a break-away in overtime getting the extra point, 3-2 overtime loss.
The Stars had to turn around the next night from playing the one of the worst to playing one of the best. The Stars travelled to Nashville to take on the Central Division leaders. Kari Lehtonen stood on his head to keep the Stars in the game. The Stars’ goaltender saved 33 shots and did not allow a goal until the third period. Meanwhile the Stars offense was stumped by Nashville’s defense and Pekka Rinne. Stars lose, 2-0.
Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
3/9 vs Ducks 7:30 p.m.
3/11 @ Penguins 6:30 p.m.
3/13 @ Canadiens 6:30 p.m.