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Can The Dallas Stars Avoid A Late Fade This Season?

In the three years since the Stars last made the playoffs, they've come up short in the last month of the season. Now, with Dallas enmeshed in a tight playoff race, will 2012 be different?

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Two weeks left in the season and the playoff race is still a jumbled mess of teams. Each and every game is a battle for critical points and the biggest game of the season is always the next one. By all indications, it looks like the season will once again come down to the last games of year. Got a feeling of déjà vu yet?

The Stars found themselves in this exact position last year and couldn't make it count. While they did win four of the final five games last year, they choked when it mattered most when they lost what was essentially a play-in game.

Dropping games down the stretch last year should not have been a surprise to Stars fans though. Since the 2007-2008 season (the last playoff year for the Stars) Dallas has been one of the worst teams in the league when the calendar hit March and the games really start to matter.

Here's the numbers of how Dallas has done in the last two months of the season since 2007-2008.

2007-2008 - The last playoff year for Dallas. Finished 3rd in the division and 5th in the West.

  • 14 games in March and April. Dallas went 4-8-2 in down the stretch and gave up an average of 2.7 goals per game.
  • In the first five months of the season that year, Dallas had only lost 10 games at home. The last month and week of the season, they lost six of the final eight games at home.
  • It wasn't even the good teams that were beating Dallas. Four of the losses down the stretch came against non-playoff teams in the West.
  • During the month, they suffer a five game losing streak, their longest of the season and never string together two wins in a row.
  • The losses killed any chance Dallas had for first in the division. As a result, they played the Detroit Red Wings, the best team in the league and eventual Cup winners, in the second round and were blown out of the water.

2008-2009 - Dallas finishes 12th in the Western Conference, eight points out of the last playoff spot.

  • Dallas plays 21 games in the last two months of the season and goes 7-10-4. They give up 3.3 goals per game while scoring only 2.3 goals per game.
  • They have a seven game losing streak in March, their longest of the season.
  • Their longest winning streak? Two games. They did that once.
  • Dallas plays nine games at home. They go 3-5-1 in those nine games.
  • Dallas entered March thick in the middle of playoff race and quickly end up on the outskirts looking for help every night.
  • Dallas goes 3-2-3 against other non-playoff teams in the last two months.

2009-2010 - Dallas again finishes 12th in the West, seven points out of the last playoff spot.

  • They play 21 games and compile a 9-10-2 record. They give up 3.2 goals per game while only scoring 2.9 goals per game.
  • They actually don't have a really long losing streak, but it still ties their longest losing streak of the season.. They lose three games in a row twice in March.
  • However, they put together consecutive wins only twice. They both occur in the last six games of the season, when the Stars are out of the playoffs and the pressure is gone.
  • They go 5-5-2 at home and double their amount of home losses for the season. Three of those wins come in meaningless games at the end of the season.
  • Dallas once again enters the final two months of the year in a playoff spot and find themselves eliminated from the playoffs before the last week of the season is even over.

2010-2011 - The nut-kick of all nut-kicks. Dallas finishes 9th in the West, two points out of the last playoff spot.

  • As all Stars fans remember, Dallas enters the last game of the season with a win-and-get-in situation. They lose 5-3 to the Minnesota Wild, a non-playoff team.
  • They play 20 games in March and April. They compile another losing record, going 9-6-5.
  • They lose six straight games at the end of March and beginning of April. Unsurprisingly, it's their longest losing streak of the season.
  • Dallas actually rattles off four wins in a row in April. The problem? It's four of the last five games of the season and Dallas has to win five straight. They don't.
  • They have nine home games in the last two months of the season, including a season long seven game home stand in March. Dallas loses five of the seven and goes 4-2-3.

Now I bring all of these numbers for one reason, the Stars this year have been different (knock on wood). The Stars are finally playing their best hockey of the season in crunch time. They won six in a row to start March and have only lost two of the nine games played so far. The goaltending is stellar and Dallas can finally rely on the top line to come through in the clutch.

Despite all of that the Stars still find themselves just one point out of ninth place and out of the playoffs. The playoff race in the Western Conference is the closest that it's ever been and Dallas is once again teetering on that playoff edge. However, this team has shown they have a mental fortitude and moxie that has been missing in past seasons. Whether it's the coach or just the atmosphere around this team, there's a confidence that's refreshing to the fanbase.

So feel confident of what's ahead Stars fans. This team can hang with the big boys of the league and coach Gulutzan will not allow the players to dwell on losses. He won't be pleased just because this team wins games (he had a very angry post-game after beating Phoenix that berated the team for turnovers and poor defense) and will continue to push the players. This year, they won't back down. Pesky Stars indeed.

For more coverage of the Stars, head over to Defending Big D.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.