Sunday, March 18, 2012
Final 10 games will be like playoffs for Stars
By Mark Stepneski
EULESS -- The Western Conference playoff race has gotten tighter while the Dallas Stars have been off this weekend.
They still sit in first place in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference, but their lead is down to points percentage over Phoenix in the division, and San Jose can pass both those teams with a win Monday night in Anaheim.
The Stars will get back to the business of trying to collect points Tuesday, when they host Phoenix at American Airlines Center in a game that will kick off the final ten games of the season. Ten games that will decide if the Stars make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Basically, these are the playoffs before the playoffs.
“You can’t look ahead too far or too much at the big picture, you’ve to look at it one game at a time. You’ve got to treat it like a playoff series,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “You win a game, you’re happy with it and you move on. You lose a game, you move on. To me, that’s the main thing, we’ve got to take care of our business.”
At this time of the season most teams focus on their game and what they are doing, and that’s what the Stars want to do. Sure, they scout the opponents, but the focus is on what they need to do to win hockey games.
“We’ve been worrying about other teams as we go over the other aspects of their games, but we’ve been keying on each other in here and on the valuable things that make us hard to play against and things that are making us able to win,” said Stars forward Steve Ott.
The Stars’ recent run that included a six-game winning streak and an 11-game points streak, help put them where they are in the standings, but they aren’t operating in a vacuum. There’s a lot going around them. Other teams winning too and their heels in the standings, but being chased is better than chasing.
“The good thing is teams are chasing us. We are not chasing any teams,” said Robidas. “We’re still third in the conference, that’s the positive sign. We’re in control. We just have to win our games.”
And five of those final ten games will come against those teams that the Stars are directly battling both in the Pacific Division race and for a spot in the Western Conference playoff spot. They play Phoenix once, San Jose twice and Calgary twice.
And although teams like San Jose, Los Angles and Colorado have gotten hot recently and closed the gap on the Stars, Stars coach Gulutzan said that’s not a bad thing. Everybody is in the same boat – they’ve got to get the job done and do it against each other over these final three weeks of the season to make it to the postseason tournament.
“There are more teams in the soup and the pressure is going to go on everybody,” said Gulutzan. “Colorado plays Calgary twice, we play Calgary twice, we play San Jose twice, so everyone is in the fire. Everyone is in the fire, so the teams that get in are going to deserve to get in.”