The thought was that the Western Conference playoff race would come down to the final day of the regular season, and for the Dallas Stars it will.
The Stars have kept themselves alive in the race by winning four straight games and on Sunday a fifth consecutive win could put them in the postseason for the first time since 2007-08. But first they’ll need some help. And they’ll know before they hit the ice in Minnesota whether they got it and if the game against the Wild can get them into the postseason or be their last until next season.
Prior to the Stars’ 5:00 p.m. game in Minnesota all eyes will be on the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. For the Stars to have a chance, the Red Wings need to defeat the Blackhawks in regulation.
“It’s frustrating (that we need help), but we put ourselves in that situation,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “It’s a long season and we dropped a few games late in the season where we had the lead late in the third and we let teams come back, especially Anaheim twice and L.A. once. But that’s why you play 82 games, to get a shot at playing in the playoffs. If we win Sunday, we get 97 points. That’s a pretty good season. I remember when I first came in the league it was 90-91 points and you’re in. Now, 97 and you might not make it. It is what it is and there’s nothing we can do.”
If the Blackhawks do fall in regulation, then the Stars will need to win in regulation or overtime against the Wild to secure a playoff spot. The two teams would be tied in points, the first tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins) and the Stars would take the second tiebreaker, which is the season series. The Stars won the series 6 points to 3 points.
“It boils down to one more day.” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “We’re still alive. We’ve got to worry about our game and we’ll look for some help.”
Going to a shootout won’t help Stars
If Chicago loses in regulation to Detroit on Sunday, a shootout win won’t help the Stars get into the playoffs. They’d tie Chicago in points but would lose the first tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins), 38-37. They need to win in regulation or overtime to tie Chicago in regulation and overtime wins and send it the second tiebreaker, which is the season series. The Stars win that tiebreaker.
So, if the game goes to over time, it raises the possibility that the Stars could pull their goaltender for the extra attacker to try to win the game before it goes to the shootout.
Sunday’s key games
Detroit at Chicago, 11:30 a.m. (Central Time), NBC
Dallas at Minnesota, 5:00 p.m. (Central Time), TXA 21, NHL Network
*If the Stars do make the playoffs they’ll be the eighth seed and play Vancouver in the first round.
*The playoff schedule will be released Sunday evening.