CHICAGO — The Dallas Stars were so close.
They took the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues to double overtime of Game 7 in the second round, and though the Stars were outplayed overall – accumulating just four shots in periods two and three combined – they were this close to winning and moving into the West final.
Sheesh. #GoStars | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/5u4ErOS1mm
— SportsDay Stars (@dmn_stars) May 8, 2019
To get to that point though, the Stars had to recover from a rough start, which culminated with CEO Jim Lites calling out Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin just after Christmas. At that point, Dallas was 19-16-3 and eighth in the Western Conference.
But shortly after, something began to turn. The Stars went 24-16-4 the rest of the way, landed Mats Zuccarello at the deadline and won 12 of their last 19 regular-season games. That surge and the conference final near-miss already recalibrated expectations for 2019-20, but then Dallas added UFAs Corey Perry, Joe Pavelski and Andrej Sekera, giving them more depth and scoring upside.
So is the Stanley Cup a realistic aspiration now?
“Absolutely,” defenceman John Klingberg told the 31 Thoughts podcast at the NHL/NHLPA player media tour. “If you look at what happened after all-star break last year we really came together as a team. Game 7 against St. Louis could have gone either way – we had one puck at the goal line as well.”
The problem is, the entire Central Division Dallas resides in is full of very good teams. Colorado is rising fast, Nashville and Winnipeg are bound to be difficult once more, and Chicago and Minnesota aren’t pushovers. Oh ya, and the defending champions are there as well.
They all got better and all of them have high hopes.
“I think all the teams are saying the same thing,” Klingberg said. “They added pieces, they’re feeling great about their game. That’s the thing about the NHL nowadays – everyone can win. You saw what happened with Tampa and Columbus as well. So it’s exciting times for sure and we gotta get off to a good start here and really play good in our division to get the points there as well.”
Listen to the full interview in an upcoming episode of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast