The Dallas Stars hopped back in the win column with a victory over the Rangers last night after using a frantic and unconventional style of play. While it was nice to get the two points, that is only one small step in a significantly long road back.
This past Monday night, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins were interlocked in a highly emotional and highly entertaining Eastern Conference semifinals rematch from last season.
The game could very well have been considered the most entertaining game of the season up to that date. The Capitals came roaring out with three unanswered goals in the first 21:17 of play to take a massive lead on the defending Stanley Cup champions.
But then the game saw a massive shift in momentum. In an 8:11 span, the Penguins rattled off five straight goals to take a commanding 5-3 lead. Washington then countered with two goals of their own in 1:47 to tie the game. But an Evgeni Malkin hat trick goal in the final few minutes of the period gave Pittsburgh the 6-5 advantage. This all happened before the second intermission.
The third period saw one more Penguins goal followed by two Capitals goals. Back and forth, back and forth. The two teams traded offensive punches and entered overtime in a 7-7 tie. In the first few seconds of the extra frame, Pittsburgh scored to win the game 8-7 and effectively end the Caps’ nine-game winning streak.
It was almost assured that this game would be the most entertaining and intense one of the 2016-17 season. But then the Dallas Stars visited Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night and played in a game that will definitely give the one from Monday a run for the title of “most entertaining game of the season.”
Much like the game on Monday night, the Stars and Rangers butted heads in an offensive showdown. The Dallas offense was back in full force, scoring seven goals on the great Henrik Lundqvist in the first 37:40 of the game. Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp (x2), Cody Eakin, Patrick Eaves, Antoine Roussel, and Adam Cracknell all sent pucks past the King.
That’s an incredible accomplishment for an offense that has taken a severe step back from the prominence it held last season. But, as it is with all hockey games, offense isn’t the only thing necessary to get a win. At least some defense and goaltending are needed.
Last night, the Stars received very little production from either of those areas. Antti Niemi surrendered six goals on 28 shots. The defense gave him very little to work with and left him vulnerable on multiple occasions.
Luckily, the Dallas Stars were prepared to outscore their problems and hold the line in the final minutes while clinging to a one-goal lead. They came away with an ugly but effective 7-6 win and beat a very good Eastern Conference club. The victory also revived hopeful playoff talk yet again.
While Stars fans were punching themselves in the gut at the horrific sight, at the end of the day the two points is a much-needed two points.
To be honest, that win perfectly defined the Stars’ season. It’s strange how the majority of the games that Dallas has played over the past month, whether they ended in a win or loss, can perfectly describe their season.
The Stars dominated the majority of the game, yet still somehow almost gave it up in the final minutes. The only difference is that this time they survived and now they can boast the two points on their shoulders.
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I know I have already said it 500 times this season (almost like repeatedly beating my head against a wall), this one win isn’t going to cut it.
It was nice to see Dallas get the win, but it can’t stop here. Not only that, but the effort that was put forth last night typically won’t rake in the wins. Every game is extremely precious for the Dallas Stars at this point in the year. They will need a similar caliber of offense, enhanced defense, and shut down goaltending. That’s much easier said than done.
The two points last night did very little for the Stars in terms of the playoff hunt, at least at first glance. They remained in eleventh place. They are only two points out of the final wild card spot and five points out of third place in the Central Division. The problem? Every team in front of Dallas has at least one game in hand (besides Vancouver) as well as a lead in points.
That can’t become a discourager for Dallas though. Last night, the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues both lost. Both teams are just a few points in front of Dallas.
But the fact of the matter is that they are still in front of Dallas with games in hand. So there’s really only one choice for Dallas: keep winning.
So far this season, that has proven to be a major issue for them. The Stars are 3-11-4 in games following a win this season, leaving them with only two win streaks.
In an article a couple of days ago, I estimated that the Stars would probably need to win at least 25 of their final 37 games if they want to make the playoffs. Now all they need is 24 of the next 36 (sounds easy, right?). The win-loss pattern is not going to get them there.
With one game left in the New York road trip taking place tomorrow night against the Islanders, the Stars need to finish this road trip on a high note. Let’s just go ahead and say their season depends on it. Following that, they will take on a six-game homestand against some of the best teams in the league.
Last night’s win was exciting and crazy and all, but it was just a small piece to the massive jigsaw puzzle that the Dallas Stars must assemble between now and April 8.
Is it finally time to turn the corner?