It is too late in the season to not take advantage of great opportunities. The Dallas Stars just ended arguably the most critical five-game stretch of the last quarter of their season, but they did not get the most out of it. Because of that, they saw themselves fall out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.
Three of Dallas’ past five games were against teams fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Three of the five also happened to have losing records. The Stars ended up 3-1-1 in the stretch, which does not sound bad at first glance, but they had more points in their grasp.
Blowing out the Vancouver Canucks 6-1 on Mar. 6 was a big win for the Stars. It knocked the Canucks even further out of the playoff race and established momentum for the next two games. The Stars made a valiant comeback to defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Mar. 8, and they followed that up three nights later with a gutsy 3-2 win over the league’s top team, the St. Louis Blues.
Then, the Stars stumbled and lost valuable points. They led the Calgary Flames 3-1 after two periods, but fell in the shootout. A two-goal lead against one of the worst teams in the league hurts, but missing out on the extra point and the possible regulation or overtime win is what hurts more. Owning tiebreakers could dictate which teams make the playoffs this season.
Finally, Dallas had a great opportunity to create some more separation between themselves and the Winnipeg Jets. The Stars were 2-0-1 against the Jets this season, but they put forth their worst effort of the season in the teams’ fourth meeting. Winnipeg capitalized on numerous Dallas turnovers and ended up with a dominating 7-2 win. It was the Stars’ ugliest loss of the season, and it happened at the worst time of the season.
The Stars only face fellow Western Conference bubble teams four more times out of the last 15 games of the regular season. Two of those games come against the Nashville Predators, who have fallen considerably behind the in the standings.
The Stars have been in late-season playoff races before, but if they are going to finally break their five-year playoff drought, they will have to do so without relying on being able to beat the teams they are on the bubble with.