Dallas Stars Preparing For Monumental Act Two

The Dallas Stars did not finish 2016 on the best note after losing 3-1 to the Florida Panthers. But that doesn’t mean that 2017 can’t be better, right?

Well that wasn’t exactly the way the Dallas Stars wanted to end the 2016 calendar year. After a slow and lackadaisical first period on Saturday night, the Stars slipped into familiar waters as they coughed up a 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on home ice.

This one loss really took the wind out of the Stars’ sails. Going into last night’s game, they were riding a three game win streak and had picked up points in their last five games (4-0-1). They were holding onto a playoff spot and were aiming to move up in the standings with another win.

That didn’t happen. But it doesn’t entirely take away from the fact that the Dallas Stars had a pretty successful end to the 2016 calendar year, does it?

It’s been a wild ride since January 1st, 2016, that’s for sure. The year of 2016 really had a lot of ups and downs in store for the Dallas Stars.

They entered 2016 as the hottest team in the NHL and owned the best record throughout the league. After starting the year on a horrible 1-5-2 streak in January 2016, the Stars righted the ship and finished on a strong note. They won their first ever Central Division title by posting a record of 50-23-9 (109 points). They also claimed the Western Conference regular season champions title. Everything was going their way.

They slid past a first round matchup with the Minnesota Wild, winning out in six games and moving to the second round for the first time in eight years. That’s where they met the St. Louis Blues, and that’s where things got ugly. The Stars dropped in a seven-game bout and entered the offseason with a lot of question marks.

Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Kris Russell, Vernon Fiddler, and Colton Sceviour all departed for new homes through free agency and left the Stars needing a lot of new recruits. They signed Dan Hamhuis, Adam Cracknell, and Lauri Korpikoski and called up Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, and Esa Lindell for full-time spots on the blue line. They also called up Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie for roster spots.

As the regular season drew closer, the injuries began to settle in. Mattias Janmark had knee surgery just before the season began. Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Cody Eakin, and Johnny Oduya all spent extended periods of time on the injured reserve at some point throughout the season. Ales Hemsky played one game before having season-ending surgery.

With injuries and a new lineup taking their toll, the Dallas Stars got out to a sluggish start. On December 2, they owned a record of 9-10-6 after dropping three straight and were deep in the Western Conference cellar.

The offense was (and somewhat still is) trying to find their identity from last season, the defense is just now starting to come around, and the goaltending of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi was good, but not enough to singlehandedly carry the team through the game.

But then they hit the gas pedal. They finished the month on a strong run, going 7-5-1 with 15 points. From December 13-31, they went 5-2-1.

The big name players like Jamie Benn (10 points in last eight games), Tyler Seguin (nine points in last eight games), and Jason Spezza (eight points in last eight games), finally seem to be returning to their former selves. The defense is rapidly trimming their goals against average down, and the goaltending is holding their own and keeping Dallas in each game.

It’s disappointing that the Stars couldn’t ring in the New Year with a win, but that loss by no means should deflate or diminish all that they accomplished over the final stretch. There’s still plenty of hockey left to be played, and the Dallas Stars have more ground to cover. That was simply act one.

Welcome to January 1, 2017. The Dallas Stars are have played 38 games and are 16-15-7 with 39 points. They are one point out of the final wild card spot and four points out of third place in the division. I’m betting that no one projected the Stars to be in this position, yet here the 2016 Central Division champions are.

It’s only fitting that they spend the first part of 2017 getting back to ground level. And if they keep up the momentum they have carried over the past few weeks, it won’t be long before they are once again shooting for the Stars.

Happy New Year, Stars fans. Enjoy it and take a breather. It’s intermission time right now. In three days, act two begins. And you can be assured that there will be fireworks.

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