The Dallas Stars’ impressive play so far this season, despite some slip ups and shortcomings, is good reason to be merry and bright and approach the month of December with a little extra cheer.
Even the most steadfast of Grinches has to admit that something in the air changes after the turkey’s in Tupperware and Black Friday is in the books. Yes, radio stations everywhere begin inundating their listeners with Christmas music around the clock. Yes, people start toting home live evergreens, knowing good and well that those things are bound to dry up and become fire hazards long before every loved one has been sufficiently shopped for.
But, on a less cynical note, there’s something great about the season, too. Something special. Somewhere at the core of the Christmas season is the spirit of mystery, surprise, and expectancy- with a dash of awe and wonder thrown in if you’re lucky.
We all remember that childhood thrill of scouting out your parents’ potential Christmas present hiding places. Even if you failed to find the stash, there was still excitement to be had over the fact that you knew you wouldn’t be held in suspense for too much longer. And with your parents’ track record, you had pretty good faith they were going to come through with the goods.
Isn’t there something innately hopeful in those weeks leading up to Christmas, even after growing out of the Christmas-stash searching phase (for most of us, that is)? There’s still that feeling that something exciting is on the horizon, even if it is 7 AM on a Thursday morning and everything is momentarily going wrong?
And wouldn’t you know it, hockey’s kind of like that, too. Dallas Stars hockey in particular. This season has had that Christmas-typical sense of awe and wonder about it. We’ve been awed at the Stars’ performance and have wondered if they can keep it up. If it’s mystery, surprise, and expectancy you’re looking for, look no farther than the 2015-2016 Dallas Stars.
If you’ve been keeping up with the Stars at all lately, you know it’s been up and down. A tough 7-5 loss to the Senators to break a five game win streak, and then another collapse two wins later when the Stars gave up a comfortable 3-0 lead to the Flames to lose it in the shootout.
But hey, it’s definitely not like it was last season. We know the stash is there somewhere. We’ve seen evidence of it this entire season from the 19-5-1 Stars, who continue to impress and dominate despite odd instances of seemingly out-of-character meltdowns.
Lindy Ruff, while no more pleased with the intermittent and oddly timed blunders than any of us, acknowledged the ebb and flow of the season at yesterday’s practice in Vancouver. While the Stars are doing a lot of things right, their ability to remain consistent still needs some work.
Keeping cool under pressure is a leftover problem from last season, and unlike the turkey sandwiches some of us may still be enjoying, not all leftovers are good ones. While the Stars oftentimes thrive when they are down, they can switch gears at the drop of a hat, choking when they’re up and down to the last minute.
Ruff addressed this in practice where, according to Mike Heika, he “put artificial pressure on, so that the Stars can handle the real pressure in games.”
But obviously the Dallas Stars aren’t doing it all wrong, or their record would look much different. The ability of lower lines to pull their weight and then some in the scoring department has turned Dallas into a team to watch.
An ESPN staff writer recently deemed the Dallas Stars, out of all NHL teams, one of the most worthy of fans’ attention because of how unorthodox their success has been so far this season. Despite all of their downfalls and problem areas, you can’t deny that the Stars are still slowly and surely (but more surely than slowly) ascending.
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And this is where the whole mystery and surprise and expectancy deal comes in. Probably somewhat jaded from last season, most of us (myself very much included) came into this season a little wary and perhaps also slightly afraid of what awaited us, wondering if we really even had any more tears to shed.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been taken on a hockey journey that looked something like this: initial surprise at the success, skepticism as to whether it would continue, delusions of invincibility when it did, and then right back to surprise in the moments of defeat. A veritable roller coaster of emotion.
And as December begins in the NHL, it’s not going to get any less exhilarating. There’s enough of the season left that the outcome is still a mystery. But there’s enough behind us, too, to inspire a healthy sense of expectancy because the Stars have shown what they’re capable of.
So even if you’re not into the whole Christmas season thing- even if you start to shake your head when Starbucks rolls out their special holiday drinks and when people start ugly sweater shopping WAY before it’s reasonably acceptable- there’s a case here for letting a little bit of awe and wonder into your life this December.
Yes, the Dallas Stars might be failing to find the stash sometimes. But if they keep up the good work and keep showing improvement like they have been, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t keep hoping that we’ll get just what we’ve been wishing for this season.