FRISCO -- The last two seasons the Dallas Stars have struggled after the break, and it’s ended up costing them a playoff spot. They aren’t dwelling on the past these days, but they do think they have learned a thing or two.
“It’s a different year. Everything is different. You can’t look in the past, but you can learn from the past. We just have to go with the playoff mindset,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas. “You can’t get too high or too low. It’s like any playoff series. You lose one game and you are still in it. You’ve just got to fight to live the next day. I think that is the mentality we need, one game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time.”
Last season, the Stars were 1-8-1 in the first ten games out of the All-Star break and dropped from third in the West to a tie for eighth, and into a big battle for the final playoff spots. Another 1-5-3 slide in March left them in a deep hole they almost overcame, but a loss in the final game of the season cost them a spot in the postseason tournament.
“Last year I think we focused on the big picture a little bit too much,” said Robidas. “We focused on we’ve got to catch this team or we have to catch that team. You can’t go about it like that. You’ve just got to go about your business. If you’re focused on trying to catch somebody, you’re not focused on your game. We need to focus on playing hockey and control what we can control. What we can control is how we prepare for tomorrow night.
“The big thing for us is to get ready for the first five minutes of that game tomorrow night (at Anaheim). Get a good first five minutes, get at them and get some momentum. You don’t win a game in the first five minutes, but you can set the tone and set yourself up for a good run.”
The Stars believe this season’s team is better prepared to handle the stretch drive. GM Joe Nieuwendyk’s additions to the roster during the offseason have added some depth and other elements that can pay off when the intensity ramps up over the final part of the season.
“Every team is different. You don’t know what it’s going to take. I don’t think we can expect any favors. It’s not going to be easy,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “Last year it got to the point where we could dictate our own fate and we came up short. It’s going to be the same case this year. Time will tell if we have the answer this year that we didn’t have last year. I think what we did in the offseason – bringing in the grit and character – that is what it is going to take down the stretch.
“The intensity rises and there’s more desperation in the games. Depth is obviously a key, but you’ve got to have that character, grit and intensity.”
Injuries hurt the Stars down the stretch last season – and you can’t predict what the future will hold – but right now they will enter the stretch drive healthy.
And they think they can build off what they did as they were getting healthy. With their top two centers – Mike Ribeiro and Jamie Benn – out with injuries, the Stars tightened things up defensively prior to the break. They struggled offensively and didn’t get results in the standings, but with Ribeiro and Benn back the offense should now get a lift.
“To have Jamie back and have our full lineup is going to make a big difference,” said Ribeiro. “If we keep playing well defensively then the chances for us to win increase.”
Now, it’s just a matter of going out and doing the job.
“We think that our best games are ahead of us,” said coach Glen Gulutzan. “We are healthy and in a position to do it. Now it just has to get done.”