You'll have to forgive Dallas Stars fans for regarding the team's scorching 9-1 streak with more than a hint of skepticism. Although most of them reside in Texas, they've lived in a perpetual state of show-me since before the lockout.
The Stars, after all, have fashioned a reputation not unlike baseball's Atlanta Braves: a regular-season powerhouse that fizzles dramatically under playoff pressure. At least the Stars haven't made their fans suffer for long at any one time. Dallas has bowed out in the first round in each of its past four postseason appearances.
So even though weekend wins over Ducks in Anaheim and the Red Wings at home have the Stars poised to win their eighth divisional title in 11 seasons, the faithful are loathe to dream big. Can't say I blame them, but they might want to allow themselves a sliver of hope. I'm starting to think that this team might just have something after all.
Sure, it's not a particularly compelling squad on paper. The Stars are a team without a gamebreaker like Detroit's
But all that has worked to the advantage of coach
To many observers, the Stars turned their ship around shortly after general manager
Sure, the Stars were winning, and more surprisingly, scoring, while Lehtinen was sidelined. Players like Hagman (tied for the league-lead with eight game-winners),
But with Lehtinen on board, the Stars now have an effective if unimposing top six. The first line centers around the dynamic chemistry between Ribeiro and captain
Honestly, it may be better for the Stars' chances if their tinkering is limited to a bit of spit and polish. Their no-name approach has them flying under the radar, but is also what makes them a more difficult team to defend. Given Tippett's proclivity for mixing lines between and during games, the Stars remain a cipher to opponents who find themselves overwhelmed by their aggressive but calculated forecheck and a power play that ranks among the game's most deadly.
While the offense has revved up, the Stars remain defensive to the core.
The blueline has, improbably, proven to be one of the league's most effective, despite the routine presence of three rookies.
It's best not to read too much into the successes of last weekend, especially Sunday's win over the Wings, a team that's had Dallas's number for years. But know that while the Stars will use the exact same approach against Calgary and Edmonton this week, they'll do it with an even greater belief in Tippett's all-hands-on-deck system.
As they steam toward the playoffs, that should be enough to ensure that tje Stars' years of frustration end this spring.
Nice to see
Word out of Carolina is that the 'Canes hope to have 2007 first-rounder
Odd decision by the Kings to send rookie
The Canadiens broke the hearts of Denver University fans last week when leading scorer
On the surface, Chelios on the U.S. Olympic squad sounds about as likely as if you'd inserted your own name on the roster. After all, he'll be 48 by the time the Vancouver Games get underway and the American blueline corps has the potential to be the country's best ever.