You’ll forgive Dallas Stars fans for being nervous. Their team has made a habit of collapsing late in the regular season, and Sunday’s 7-2 loss to Winnipeg no doubt reminded them that the playoffs aren’t guaranteed until they’re, well, guaranteed.
Per Sports Club Stats, the Stars’ chances of qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2008 have fallen to 64.4 percent. Not long ago, they peaked at 79.3 percent.
Is it going to be 2011-12 all over again? In case you’d forgotten, that was when the Stars held a four-point lead atop the Pacific Division with just 12 games to go, only to go 3-9-0 and miss the playoffs by six points.
“These games are hard to win late in the year,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn after the Winnipeg loss. “Teams are gearing up for the playoffs. Teams that aren’t in the playoffs got nothing to lose and they’re hard teams to play against.”
The Stars have two tough road games next, in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, before returning home for contests against Ottawa and Winnipeg. In all, nine of their remaining 15 games are away from American Airlines Center, including stops in Chicago and St. Louis.
That the Stars are desperate to climb back up the Dallas sports hierarchy also warrants mention. Currently, average attendance is 14,254, the third-lowest in the NHL. Another late-season collapse is not what this franchise needs.
Head coach Lindy Ruff said he was “disappointed in the composure” his players showed against the Jets.
Composure will be even more key now, because the pressure’s on, and pressure hasn’t been kind to the Stars in recent years.