How Stars united to fuel playoff chase
Two games could have defined the Dallas Stars' season. With the front office still in decision mode on how to approach the trade deadline and what to do with Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr, the Stars played the Anaheim Ducks on April 1. With a strong showing, maybe there would have been motivation to keep one or both.
They lost 4-0. They traded Roy and Jagr the next day.
In their first post-deadline game, now without Jagr, Roy and captain Brenden Morrow, who was traded to the Penguins the previous week, the Stars lost to the Ducks again. This time 5-2. That's when I wrote them off for the season and I probably wasn't alone.
On April 4, they were 13th in the Western Conference, minus three of their best players and five points outside a playoff spot.
That day, coach Glen Gulutzan met with his leadership group and made a decision. The practice scheduled for 2 p.m. was scrapped. Instead, Gulutzan opted to send the team bus down to Newport Beach for a lunch on a perfect California day. Maybe even let the guys enjoy an afternoon beer or two.
The bus returned at 3 p.m. and Gulutzan checked to see how many players came back with it. There wasn't one.
"They all stayed down together," he said when we chatted this weekend.
In one of the scheduling quirks that a lockout-shortened season brings, the Stars played the Ducks for the third consecutive game that Friday. The morning skate featured a few sunburned faces but there was also a team more relaxed and ready to play the game the way Dallas needs to in order to win games. The way they should have been playing all season.
This time, they beat the Ducks 3-1. They haven't lost since.
Their 2-1 win over the Sharks on Saturday was their fifth consecutive and they've beaten good teams along the way. The Ducks, the Sharks twice, the Kings and a 5-2 win over Nashville.
On Sunday, the Stars were in a playoff spot even if it lasted less than 24 hours after the Red Wings pulled ahead with a shutout win over the Predators on Sunday night. With seven games left, the Stars are showing they have the fight left to break their streak of postseason misses.
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