The Dallas Stars hit another unexpected yet sizable bump in their 2017-18 season on Sunday in San Jose. After another blowout loss, it seems like the Stars may be getting comfy in the standings. That cannot happen.
Last Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Stars hit the wall.
After winning five games in a row, beating some quality opponents, and pulling themselves within reach of third place in the Central Division, the Stars collapsed. In a game against the Vancouver Canucks that could have bumped Dallas above St. Louis in the standings, the Stars dropped a 6-0 egg.
The Canucks are currently one of the worst teams in the Western Conference and the NHL as a whole. But that didn’t stop them from coming in and steamrolling the Stars.
The Dallas Stars entered a four-day break following the 6-0 loss and had a few days to stew on it. The Blues didn’t end up creating any breathing room during the week, and the Stars once again had a shot at claiming third on Friday night.
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They did just that, defeating the Blues 2-1 and moving into the top three for the first time since Nov. 5. It wasn’t the most impressive of performances, but they got the job done. Dallas had earned third place after a long and treacherous climb.
And then they went to San Jose on Sunday night and dropped another brutal loss, this one finishing at 5-2.
These rough finishes may be natural for the 2016-17 Dallas Stars, but they aren’t for this team. This was a Stars team that had posted a 9-2-1 mark as they approached the Vancouver game. So what happened that caused them to drop so horrifically?
Well, it’s likely that they got comfortable. Before the Vancouver game, the Stars had won five in a row. Winning was an assumed result at that point and they knew that a struggling Canucks team was all that stood between them and a much-needed break. Vancouver proceeded to catch the Stars off guard and wallop them into submission.
Dallas responded with an iffy effort against St. Louis that got them a crucial two points on Friday night. With the win, two months of clawing and fighting had come to a close as Dallas claimed third place in the Central.
They visited San Jose without this motivating factor and ended up falling in a 4-0 hole during the first period. The Stars lost 5-2 and dropped another great opportunity at creating space in the standings. And it’s likely because they got comfortable in their new seat.
Whenever a team gets comfortable, it brings along a lack of dedication and focus. Dallas learned this firsthand last night as the Sharks, who are also trying to defend their position, capitalized early and proved to be the dominant team through the first 40 minutes.
So where do they stand now? Well, they are in the same place as they were last night, so there’s no need to freak out just yet.
The Stars still own control of third place in the Central, but last night’s loss could put them in a bind going forward. The Winnipeg Jets won last night, which padded their lead over Dallas in the Central. The Stars now sit seven points out of first place in the division and have St. Louis still close in the running for third.
It all comes down to that content feeling. It’s something that the Dallas Stars cannot have this season. Two years ago, the Stars were in charge of the Central Division and had the luxury of losing one or two games without having to worry about their standing.
This year, however, two losses could potentially bump them from the playoff picture entirely. It’s no secret that the Western Conference playoff race is as tight as it has been in years.
With that being said, the Dallas Stars cannot get comfortable just because they overcame their most recent task. There are still 23 games left in the season and no time to sit back on accomplishments. A move like that could cost them their playoff hopes altogether.
Sunday night’s loss proved that the Stars still have some weaknesses when it comes to mindset and effort. Those will need to be fixed over the final stretch if Dallas wants to see maximum potential. The Stars may be in third place, but they still need to take on each game as though they are fighting for their playoff lives because, in all reality, they are.
34-21-4 with 72 points. A three-point lead on the Minnesota Wild who sit in the second wild-card spot. Plenty of time left for that to change either way, depending on how the Stars approach each game.
Comfort will be their worst enemy throughout the rest of the season. We’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see how they battle it.