After Another Solid Week, The Stars Aren’t Far Off From Third Place In The Central Division Standings. Even Better? They Have A 96.2% Shot At The Playoffs.

After the last week of play, it’s clear: Tyler Seguin and the bois in Victory Green™ are not leaving a playoff berth to chance.

And, unlike last season when the Stars squandered an 88 percent chance of making the playoffs in the waning moments of the regular season, this year’s team continues to put distance between itself and teams below them, all while making a run at third place in the division.

As for the moment, Dallas currently sits in the first wildcard spot with 82 points and a 96.2 percent chance at attending the Big Dance. How exciting for this long-beleaguered fan base!

After many months of hot-and-cold performances, this team is consistently playing a defensively sound game at just the right time, and now expects to have some key players re-join the lineup down the final stretch.

Now, if only they could figure out the power play…

Last Week in Your Dallas Stars.

• Victory Green™ at Minnesota Wild, 4-1.
In one of the most pivotal games of the season, Dallas confidently broke the Wild and that team’s playoff hopes in one fell swoop. After a physical but ineffectual first period, Dallas managed to apply offensive zone pressure with dogged work before cashing in on a Radek Faksa deflection from a point shot to put the bois on the board. Later in the middle frame, the Stars went up by two on a “Did he or didn’t he?” goal from Roope Hintz. On-ice officials waved off the score before having their call overturned via replay, giving the rookie Finn his third goals in two games. One minute later, Joel L’Esperance got in on the fun and deflected his first career NHL goal past Wild goal Devan Dubnyk on a shot from Jamie Benn to close out the perfect period! Or was it? Ben Bishop set a new Stars record for longest shutout streak here before leaving the game with a doggone lower body injury, spoiling the Victory Green™ somewhat.

• Darkness Music versus Vegas Golden Knights, 2-1.
Overall, a pretty solid game from the Stars in what was frankly considered a scheduled loss. While Dallas was battling hard in the frozen tundras of Minnesota on Thursday night, the VGK were snuggled, comfy and warm in their plush and luxurious beds at the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Downtown Dallas. Anton Khudobin got the start in net after unexpectedly relieving Bishop in Minnesota and surrendered the first goal nearly immediately after the opening whistle. Collective groans turned to collective head nods of appreciation, however, as Dallas pushed back on tired legs, refusing to cater to Vegas’ demands. The Stars even managed to control the middle frame and, for the most part, outworked their opposition, fueled on by some magnificent saves from Dobby. Stars killer Ryan Reaves would end the Dallas insurgency by potting a rebound chance home in the third, and effectively end the game. In the end, Dallas would take the L and wind up winless against the Vegas Golden Knights on the season. BLECH!

• Loser Point versus Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 (shootout)
Anton Khudobin once again surrendered the game’s first goal in the opening minute of this one. Shades of Kari Lehtonen, eh? Five minutes later, the Stars would find themselves down two goals against a Canucks team that hasn’t been in playoff contention in over a month. The Stars managed to eventually tie the game up and send the contest to OT and, eventually, a shootout — their first of the season. Dallas’ skaters couldn’t find the back of the net in the skills contest, though, as Dobby let in a lone goal against Josh Leivo to get the Stars a loser point on St. Patrick’s Day for the team wearing green. Pinch us? It should be noted, meanwhile, that Val Nichushkin had another strong game doing the dirty work, setting up teammates and drawing penalties. He deserves to be in the lineup, folks. Also, Miro Heiskanen and Roman Polak were the Stars’ best players on the back-end here, and at crunch time were deployed on extended shifts.

Victory Green™ versus Florida Panthers, 2-4. 
The plucky Panthers may not be in the playoff picture this season, but they have put in solid performances against some quality teams of late. Thankfully for Jim Montgomery, this wasn’t one of them. Florida’s incessant turnovers in the defensive zone allowed the Stars forwards to control play throughout the game. Feasting on the error-filled passing game of the Panthers, the Big Three for your Dallas Stars put up impressive numbers in the win. Tyler Seguin notched four assists. Alexander Radulov, meanwhile, continued his goal-scoring ways, netting two on the evening, including a second goal that was quite funny and indicative of the Panther’s effort, as Rads neared the empty net to casually put the biscuit in the basket and a Panther’s skater threw his stick at the shot attempt. That’s illegal! And an instant goal! More good news: Ben Bishop returned to play in this game, thank goodness. Alas, his shutout streak also ended here — but at a franchise-high 233 minutes and 4 seconds, which is the 24th-longest in NHL history. WOWZERS!

NHL Hintz PRO Player Of The Week.

We here at Forechecking™ have been singing the praises of Roope Hintz all months long, and are oh-so-glad to be able to give him the recognition he deserves with, now pay attention here, the NHL HINTZ Pro Player of the Week nod this week. Jim Montgomery has finally bumped the speedy Finn to a top-six role, boosting his average time on ice from 11 minutes to well over 15 a night. Hintz has responded in kind, and over the last five games, he’s has registered four goals, an assist and 16 hits. The 22-year-old is finally gaining the confidence to carry the puck with authority and to unleash his sneaky shot more often. An overlooked value of Hintz is his utility, and the natural left winger has been productive even with a rotating cast of linemate. Now, he’s being trusted with second-line center duties as the coaching staff searches for ways to exploit his full potential. We really like Hintz. He has a swagger on the ice, catches the opposition off guard with his speed and physicality, and forces his linemates, whoever they are, to skate with purpose.

This Week In Your Dallas Stars.

• Thursday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m. versus Colorado Avalanche (HOME): You think the Avs are still mad at Bishop for knocking their captain out for the season a few weeks back? Does it matter? Fans in Colorado are currently cheering on the team to tank the final weeks of the season and potentially win the draft lottery.

Saturday, March 23, at 7 p.m. versus Pittsburgh Penguins (HOME): Sidney Crosby and the Pens visit Big D to take on their former teammate Jamie Oleksiak. Think they ‘member the Big Rig?

Monday, March 25, at 7 p.m. at Winnipeg Jets (AWAY): This one’s a preview of a potential first-round playoff match-up, and Dallas leads the season series 2-1-0. Unlike previous seasons, we actually like how the Stars match up against the Jets this year (somewhat).

Flip it. Stick it. See ya later, bye. — LehtMoJoe

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