Why Not Us, Why Not Now?

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Looking back at hockey writers’ season predictions, not a lot of them picked the Stars to make the playoffs. Hell, some relegated them to the basement of the Central.  They’re too young, they said. Not deep enough. Horrid defense. Et cetera.

2013-2014 was supposed to be a transition year. No playoffs. Just hard work to prepare for the future, and surely 2014-2015 would be our year to shine. There were plenty of reasons to be excited about this year’s Stars team, including the hiring of the coveted Jim Nill, the trade for Tyler Seguin, and a new (but experienced) coach. They were supposed to come close but finish in the same depressing 9th-12th place they have for the past five seasons. Playoffs were still a ways off.

Except nobody told the Stars that.

So here we are in the second and final wild card spot preparing to go Duck-hunting. It wasn’t an easy road getting here, but this is real, this is happening.

I think this series is going to be a lot of fun. The Ducks are my absolute favorite team to play; I just think we match up so well against them. I know the regular season record between these two teams shouldn’t count for too much at this stage, but we did go 2-1 against them, including that incredible game where we scored 3 goals in 53 seconds.

The Ducks were the second best team in the league this season, and to think it’s going to be easy to pull an upset is foolish. Yes, they were upset by the 7-seed Detroit Red Wings last year and they are in the midst of a slight goalie controversy, but to stake a Stars win on those things is wishful thinking. They’re a deep team that’s good both on the road and at home, full of veterans who know how to win with a one-two punch of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.

But…

The Stars boast their own dynamic duo in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. If they can really do some damage, the Stars can win this series. If Kari Lehtonen plays like the savior he’s been all season (and not the Kari of his only postseason appearance in 2007), the Stars can win this series. If they can get their special teams to a degree that makes a difference, the Stars can win this series.

We have the offense, the goaltending, the coaching. There’s no reason to believe that we can’t pull off the upset. It will be difficult—I can’t see this series going any fewer than 6 games; my guess is 7—but not impossible. No matter, it’s a victory just to be here. To advance farther would just be the cherry on top of a really incredible season.

Far too often this season I’ve counted the Stars out. Even a week ago after that disappointing loss to Columbus the pessimist in me came out: “Phoenix is too close. We’re just not good enough. We can’t finish. Can’t. Can’t . Can’t.” I’m glad I was wrong. I think this time I’m finally going to give my boys the benefit of the doubt.

Stars in 7.

Rising

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What a beautiful night to be a Stars fan. 

It’s truly a storybook ending to their playoff quest if you think about it. The Stars clinched their first playoff berth since 2008:

  • on Jim Nill’s birthday
  • playing Ken Hitchcock, the coach of our only Stanley Cup-winning team
  • coached by Lindy Ruff, the opposing coach of that Stanley Cup team
  • against Lindy’s former goalie, Ryan Miller
  • to eliminate Dave Tippett’s Phoenix Coyotes, finally exorcising those Tippett demons
  • with a game-winner scored by Trevor Daley, the only remaining member of the last Stars playoff team
  • on Fan Appreciation Night, where the biggest show of appreciation was to clinch on home ice

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Be Okay, Raptor Jesus

I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t been said already about Rich Peverley collapsing last night. I’ve watched hockey for my entire life, and this is by far the most afraid I’ve ever been for a player’s health. I’m not going to show videos or pictures or tweets about Pevs collapsing and how it affected the teams and crowd; no one needs to see that again. We’ve probably all seen enough of it today.

I’m personally thankful that I wasn’t watching the game as it happened. I had night class and decided to briefly check Twitter to see the score. When I saw that Pevs had collapsed, I freaked out. At that point, no one was reporting if he was ok or not–just that he had collapsed on the bench and had been carried (stretcher-less) into the hallway. I felt shaky and almost cried. The last time I felt like this was when I learned about the Lokomotiv disaster. Not a fun feeling. 

I was 11 when Jiri Fischer of the Red Wings had a similar incident and 14 when Alexei Cherepanov died during a KHL game. Both incidents were eerily similar to what happened at the AAC last night, and thankfully Pevs survived like Fischer did. However, what happened last night has shaken me to my core.

It’s easy to get carried away, especially in a sport as wonderful as hockey. It’s easy to forget what’s actually important. I think that that’s the sentiment echoing through every hockey fan’s mind today. The Stars mean everything to me, but almost losing one of my boys really put that into perspective for me.

I’ve never seen anything like what happened last night. I’ve never heard a crowd so quiet at a hockey game nor have I ever seen anything like the looks on the players’ faces. But everyone reacted beautifully, from the supportive tweets around the hockey and sporting world to the swift, incredible efforts of the Dallas Stars medical staff. Even though last night was a hockey fan’s worst nightmare, it reminded me just how great the hockey community really is.

If we miss the playoffs because Peverley’s not playing, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Pevs is okay. If he has to retire, that’s ok. Whatever will keep this wonderful human and teammate healthy.

At the end of the day, it’s just hockey.

Get well soon, Raptor Jesus.

Retiring 9

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Just some thoughts on what was a really, really incredible night:

  • I love love love the fact that the Modano jerseys they wore during warm-ups were different sweaters that reflected the different eras of his career. So cool.
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  • I knew Mo’s speech would be hard to watch, and he didn’t disappoint. He started choking up after three sentences. 
  • The cameos were amazing: the ’99 Cup team (unfortunately minus a few, including Sergei Zubov and Joe Nieuwendyk), Norm Green (hollaaaa), Tom Hicks (ugh), the families of the previously retired numbers (classy as hell), Bob Gainey, Doug Armstrong, Rick Wilson, and…the Stanley Cup. Amazing.
  • The game itself was a good one, even though it had its controversial moments…
  • like the Houla hit on Kari Lehtonen. The Tim Thomas trade is looking brilliant right now. Hopefully this will silence everyone moaning and whining about Thomas being a Star. I hate his politics, too, but let’s separate his personal life from his hockey life.
  • Matt Cooke is still the scum of the earth. Stop saying he’s a changed guy. A reformed Matt Cooke wouldn’t have thrown that dangerous knee on Val Nichushkin. 
  • Erik Cole scored the game-winner on Mike Modano night. Cole is number 72, and 7+2=9 so there.

Overall, it was an unforgettable night with an epic ceremony and a hard-earned two points that surely made Mike Modano proud.

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All Guts, None of the Glory

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I knew I’d cry the day Stephane Robidas was no longer a Star. To me, Robi is a perfect hockey player. So few players have set such a leading example of what a hockey player is or embodied the toughness that Robi did in his years here. And yet his efforts have gone largely unnoticed. 

That’s just who Stephane Robidas is.

An all guts, no glory player who led by example and would always take one for the team but never asked for recognition or even a simple thank you. 

With his rather small size, at first glance he doesn’t look to be much. But did he ever bring it. Robidas’s contributions came largely in the form of physical sacrifices. Shot blocking? He’s on it. Puck to the face? Just another day at the office. He never shied away from hitting players twice his size if it meant helping his team win a game. 

The selfish part of me wanted Robidas to stay forever and retire as a Dallas Star, but Jim Nill did him right by letting him go to a contender. He deserves a shot at the Cup. No one deserves it more than Robi.  He’s seriously the best.

As if you needed more reason to love this classy, perfect human being:

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I would have preferred he not go to a team the Stars could potentially play in the first round (fingers crossed that we hold on!), but honestly it doesn’t even matter that much. If Anaheim wins the Stanley Cup, I will have the biggest smile on my face because one of my all-time favorites will finally get the glory he deserves. 

I’ll miss the hell out of you, Robi. Thanks for 12 years.

And We Danced All Night to the Best Game Ever

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The Stars played one of their best games of the season last night against the (L)East’s best; I’d put the game up there with the San Jose win. Up against a scary-good team, the Stars dominated and annihilated the Penguins for most of the game. It was like they were one step ahead of the Pens on every play, defensively and offensively. It was a beautiful sight.

If the Stars played with that speed, confidence and fire every night? Well, they wouldn’t be fighting a losing battle for a playoff spot; they’d already be there.

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Dan Ellis’s New Mask is Hella Rad

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I always appreciate nostalgia, and Dan Ellis’s new mask definitely has that Dallas Stars legends nostalgia going. I love love love that there’s a photo of Brett Hull’s Cup winner on the mask. That, to me, is just so cool and special.

Ellis also pays tribute to Mike Modano, Ed Belfour, and Marty Turco (with the latter two symbolized by what they typically wore on their helmets back in the day).

Check out the rest of the images here.