Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff told the media a few days ago that his goal was to be a few points behind the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference at the time of the Olympic break.
That expectation seemed realistic after a poor January where Dallas never got it going, but after a run of positive results in the last 10 games, the Stars exceeded that goal and moved into the playoff tree for the first time this season thanks to a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in the final game before the Olympic break.
The timing couldn’t have been better for the players that will represent the Stars at Sochi. Kari Lehtonen was 15 seconds from getting a shutout — and stopped 26-of-27 shots — and was rock solid between the posts, Jamie Benn got an assist in the first goal scored by Ray Whitney, and Valeri Nichushkin notched Dallas’ second goal after deflecting a long-range effort from Trevor Daley.
The Stars carried heavy momentum, so in that sense, it’s a pity to see the team entering the break on such a high note, but they have shown a lot of poise to turn things around after a putrid start to the year. They surpassed the goal of getting ‘close’ to the playoffs at the break, and now they need to stay there once the season resumes near the end of February.
There is enough talent in the roster to end the five-year playoff drought and the organization is clearly on the right path. It is now time to show it on crunch time.