Dallas Stars hope to end lengthy playoff drought

Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

For the Dallas Stars, qualifying to compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs is a dream that often goes unrealized. Not since 2007-08 has the franchise that won a Cup in 1999 played so much as a single first round series in hockey’s greatest tournament. Coming into this season the Stars were once again expected to probably miss the Dance, but they’re doing well, giving themselves a chance to end the drought.

The Stars sit fifth in the Central Division with an (11-7-2) record worth 24 points. Their current position in the playoff race is not great, but recent success has allowed them to become a player in the mix for a spot in the Western Conference’s top eight teams. Over their last 10 games the Stars are an impressive (7-2-1).

Weapons are a blazing in the form of snipers Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The two elite scorers provide Big D’s pro hockey club with enough firepower to win close games, and decisively claim victory against weaker opponents, as was the case last Friday against the rebuilding Calgary Flames. On Friday, November 14, the Stars’ two finishers exploded offensively for a 7-3 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. Seguin buried 4 goals while notching 1 assist, and Benn tallied a milestone 6 point night that saw him score once and setup 5 markers.

Highlights from the Dallas Stars 7-3 victory over the Calgary Flames courtesy of the NHL‘s YouTube Channel. Subscribe here

Netminder Kari Lehtonen continues to provide world-class top-quality goaltending for the team from Texas. His early season numbers label him a front-runner for the Vezina. The Finnish netminder is winning games for his club; giving the Stars a chance to beat good teams every night. If Lehtonen’s career-year continues the Stars chance at a spot in the postseason is realistic.

The biggest hurdle in finding a home in the Western Conference’s top eight after 82 games played will be winning enough to outdo stiff competition for limited spots in the playoffs. As of right now the Stars trail nine teams in the West. Despite being four games over .500, they still sit on the outside looking in with considerable work to accomplish before cementing a playoff birth is doable. But they’re on the right track.

New head coach Lindy Ruff is quietly doing what he’s always done as an NHL bench boss – he’s having success regardless of his team’s label as a non-playoff calibre team. Ruff has always been known for his ability to get the absolute best out of his players, allowing his teams to typically punch above their weight. The 2013-14 Stars are certainly punching with some power.

Last evening the Stars played spoiler to a very strong Vancouver Canucks club, beating them 2-1 thanks to exceptional goaltending from Lehtonen and timely offence. It was a huge win – the Canucks are in direct competition with the Stars for a wild card spot in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Winning often is the only way to make the playoffs in this modern era of NHL hockey that allows losing teams in extra time to earn a point in the standings. Over their last ten games the Stars have won seven times. If they can continue to win at a 7/10 pace the playoffs are likely; the streak will be over. Keeping that up will be difficult though.