According to www.PlayoffStatus.com, the Stars have a three-percent chance of making the playoffs. Dallas currently sits at 78 points with just 10 games remaining. The Stars are eight points back of Winnipeg, which currently holds the second wild card playoff spot in the West.
Not the best situation to be in on March 23.
None-the-less, the Stars have no choice but to keep plugging along, and they are doing that just fine. Dallas is 7-2-0 in its last nine games. There’s no questioning the effort; it’s just too bad that it took this long to find their stride.
Lately, the Stars have defeated playoff teams such as the NY Islanders, Pittsburgh, and most recently Chicago on Saturday night in a 4-0 whitewashing of the Blackhawks at American Airlines Center. There is no mistaking that Kari Lehtonen’s improved play of late between the pipes has been a huge part of the success. But the team, overall, has stepped up their game and not quit.
Dallas is feeding off their goaltender, as most teams with confidence do. Lehtonen has been good, but so has everyone in front of him, cutting down on quality scoring chances and playing as a team. The scoring is more balanced, the penalty-kill is doing its job, and the team feels pretty good about the way it is playing right now.
Too little, too late? Most likely. But any team that continues to give a solid effort night-in and night-out at the end of a long 82-game season is showing its character. That’s good news for head coach Lindy Ruff, who clearly still has a good grasp of his lineup.
The man with the most pressure surely has to be GM Jim Nill. And when I mention pressure, he’ll probably be putting most of that on himself. No one is hungrier than he to build a winner here in Dallas. This will be the biggest off-season of his tenure here, as he must find a way to get the chemistry on this club back to where it was a year ago.
Two years ago, Nill made a tremendous move with the trade for Tyler Seguin. Last summer it was a deal for Jason Spezza. He doesn’t have to make a blockbuster move this summer, but rather find some key moves that improves areas of the team where it is needed most. The defensive corps would be a good place to start.
For now, the focus of these Stars are the 10 games remaining. It’s not an easy stretch to end the season, by any means. Six of the games are on the road. They have a western Canada swing later this week, a trip to California to play familiar foes San Jose and Anaheim, and Dallas gets the Predators twice more.
The Stars may only have a three-percent chance of making the playoffs, according to a numbers web site. Don’t tell them that; they’re just focused on tonight’s game vs. Buffalo. And the two points that come with it.