The Dallas Stars are back in the postseason.
Last year, the Stars missed out on the playoffs, falling with a porous defense and an offense that couldn’t keep up with its opponents scoring. It was a massive disappointment for a team that had overachieved the year before after many, many years of struggles.
But with this year’s berth in the playoffs and the top spot in the Western Conference, the Stars are back on track towards being a perennial contender for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
When Lindy Ruff took over this team in 2013, the Stars had been absolutely terrible. Dallas went five years without making the postseason, the last four of which saw the team finish either last or second to last in the Pacific Division.
Now, three years into his reign as head coach, the Stars have completely turned it around. Last year aside, the team has done nothing but positive moves in the right direction. As odd as it might be, the change to the logo and jerseys signaled a change in the organization. The ownership actually cares about the team and has been willing to make the moves to get wins, and it’s funneled down to the players.
With the regular season done and the postseason here, they’ve been rewarded for their efforts.
The Stars finished in first in the Central Division by two points over St. Louis and face their division rival Minnesota Wild tonight in the first round of the playoffs. A big reason they’re in this spot is because of their offense. Jamie Benn has followed up his stellar season last year with another great campaign this year. Through 80 games, Benn has 88 points and 41 goals, good enough to be top five in the league in both categories. Tyler Seguin is also in the top ten in both points and goals, sitting in ninth with 33 goals.
The two of them, along with Patrick Sharp, have Dallas as the best offensive team in the league. The Stars sit atop the NHL with 3.23 goals per game, .19 goals per game ahead of the second-place Washington Capitals. And they’ve scored three or more goals 12 times since the start of March.
But the biggest key this season has been the defense. A Swiss cheese style of defending took down the Stars last year, but they’ve been just good enough to keep the Stars afloat in the league. Dallas is only in 20th in the league with 2.80 goals given up per game, but it’s a strong improvement from their 3.10 average a year ago. And if Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen can find another a gear for the postseason, this is a team that can make a true run to the Stanley Cup.
A year ago, the Stars were on their way to missing another postseason. Now, they’re back in the postseason and serious contenders to win it all. And with the way they’ve built this team, they could be contenders for a while.
Stanley Cup playoff hockey will be back in the Metroplex. Time to get excited Dallas.