Tonight the Dallas Stars continue their 5-game roadtrip with a stop in Phoenix to face off against the Phoenix Coyotes for the final time this season. The Stars dropped the first game of the trip in Nashville over the weekend and have continued to put themselves at a severe disadvantage if they want to make the playoffs. Dallas has now gone 1-3-2 over their last six games and they are not playing at all like a playoff team right now. The consistency in the intensity of their play is just not there. They just can’t seem to put together a full 60-minute effort when they really need it.
When they drop the puck tonight, Dallas will be starting the game in the 10th seed in the Western Conference, while their divisional rivals in the Coyotes will be in 4th. The difference? The Coyotes are seven points ahead of the Stars, but have played three more games then Dallas. So somehow, even in their recent continued free-fall down the rankings, the Stars are still not fully out of it. The Chicago Blackhawks sit in the final spot at 8th with four more points then Dallas, but along with playing tonight in Boston, they have played one more game then the Stars. So with a win tonight and a Chicago loss, Dallas could be right at two points behind with one more game to play and the tiebreaker over Chicago. Ahead of them? Anaheim and Nashville both have played two more games then the Stars and Dallas is within six points of both.
The boys have dug themselves into this hole, but right now they can still get back out of it. But it all starts tonight. We have talking about playoff hockey for two weeks now. Every single game has mattered and every single point has been huge. Well right now the Stars are basically down 2-0 in a playoff series and heading onto the road. Including tonight, they have to win 6 of their remaining 8, if not 7, to make it in. Come out of the desert tonight with another loss? Well then they would have to go perfect the rest of the way, and we all know that is not going to happen. But of course the Coyotes are not going to roll over and give up the game just because Dallas needs it. They need the two points just to try and maintain where they are in the standings and stay north of the playoff border right now.
Both of these teams are in the bottom half of the stats in special teams, road and home respectively for the circumstances tonight. The Stars have a great home PP, but otherwise they have been lacking in every other special teams category this season. Across the board, these two teams both are weak when the play is not a 5-on-5. So can you guess where the winner will probably be picked tonight? No not via a coin-flip before the third period. Both teams have awful PK units and the team that leaves their’s exposed tonight by taking bad calls or penalties late in the game, could very easily be the team that does not pick up two points. The Stars need to pick themselves up, get the fire and underdog mentality from the first half of the season back, and go pick up a hard-nosed win tonight.
Kari Lehtonen will be in the crease again for the Stars, and the roster will look the same as it did on Saturday.
60 minutes, all out, every minute for each other and this season. This is their last chance, this is the 12 round. Win tonight, or you might as well start working on your tan boys.