Going through a free-fall in the standings and a sudden build-up of injuries in February, the Dallas Stars went from Pacific division leaders to almost in the basement. While any team could that in the West with 2-3 horrible weeks like the Stars had, it was not good to see it happen to the Stars. They were the surprise team and dark horse through the first half of the season and were still barely getting any recognition. Then take in the drama of trying to decide to move Brad Richards or keep him, and these last few weeks have been stressful and hard for Stars fans. Shoot, probably really hard for the Stars themselves.
But last week, when the team was at it’s lowest point and panic was ensuing across the board, things turned around with a couple of changes. First was the big trade that brought in new puck-moving defenseman Alex Goligoski (which took some scrutiny early on, but looks to be working out well), and then the team started to get some players back. Young star in the making Jamie Benn came back and we saw the team put together a strong effort but fall 1-0 to New Jersey. Although it was hard to watch, you could see they were actually playing better. Really? Could adding two guys onto a team that was having so many issues turn things around? Then we got grit and heart guys Adam Burish and Krys Barch back, and the Stars start winning some games! The Stars penalty kill starts playing well again, we see more quality play and energy from the bottom lines, and the team as a whole just looks better.
So could the return of the three B’s mean that much for the team? The Stars are still waiting on Richards and Grossman to come back (which should happen this weekend or early next week), but could those three guys coming back really turn it around? Apparently, yes it can. Jamie Benn has come back from an injured shoulder with authority and confidence, taking a leading role in the offense with Richards out. He has looked like one of the best players on the ice every night since coming back, and finally broke through in a big way by netting the game-winner with 4 seconds left Tuesday night. Jamie is showing that he might be taking the next step and truly becoming a solid top-6 forward already at 21 years old.
Burish and Barch? While many of us have seen this season that Burish is really a character type guy and a big part of the team’s locker room and character, we might have really seen how much of a pickup he was this last summer. As soon as he and Barch got back into that lineup in the next game after that 1-0 loss, the Stars went into Detroit and again looked an even better team in a solid 4-1 win. Since then the boys in black, white, and gold have kept the winning ways going in a couple of close games against playoff teams. I have been critical of Barch at times for being nothing more then a guy who can skate and fight, but the return of he and Burish has given a spark to the team and especially the bottom two lines.
The return of the three B’s may not be the only reason for the Stars turnaround. Lehtonen has played stellar recently, and Goligoski has been great on the back-end. But the return of those three forwards seemingly started a quick turnaround from the free-fall of February. Now just think what will happen when Richards and Grossman get back within the next couple of games. They went from division leading to the bottom, but they may have left themselves just enough time to find their way right back up towards the top of the standings. It should be an exciting and tense rush to the end now.