The Dallas Stars have been a curious case in the National Hockey League this season. Before the season started, here on Bleacher Report, the Stars were predicted to finish dead last in the west.
Most of the presumed failure was going to be attributed to the Stars' lack of a high-end player. They said that after Brad Richards bolted for the bright lights of Broadway, the Stars would have no chance at winning games. They also said that Kari Lehtonen had a fluky season, and was bound to return to the mediocre status where he was in Atlanta.
If the Stars win Sunday night's game in Calgary against the Flames, they will move into first place in the Pacific Division.
How in the world did that happen?
In a recent poll of the NHL's most underrated players, Jamie Benn finished second to Loui Eriksson, both Stars players. Jamie Benn has emerged into a superstar power forward who can take over a game and truly put the team on his back.
Kari Lehtonen has played phenomenal this season, and if it weren't for an unfortunate groin injury, he would be a definite Vezina candidate.
After winning the Cup in 2011, Micheal Ryder left Bean-town for a lucrative contract offer in Dallas, where many people presumed he would ride off into anonymity for the rest of his career. However, Ryder has scored 27 goals for the Stars, and has emerged as yet another solid Joe Nieuwendyk move.
On the backend, Alex Goligoski has really played well since coming to Dallas, and Sheldon Souray has had a great career revival and now leads the Stars in plus/minus. Couple that with the solid defense from Stephane Robidas and Mark Fistric, and the explosive offensive ability of Trevor Daley, and the Stars have a blue-line that is not a liability like it was last year.
The way the Stars were able to cope with the loss of Richards, was to build through depth, and to play a strong, physical, and pesky style of hockey.
That is why the Stars could make noise come playoff time.
Unlike much of the teams ahead of Dallas in the standings, the Stars don't have that superstar that is the catalyst of the offense. The Stars don't have to rely on one player to amass all the points in a game. If the second line is having a rough game, all three other lines step it up, and so on.
Obviously, the Stars are not legitimate cup contenders, but aside from Detroit, who absolutely owned Dallas this year, the Stars appear to be a matchup in the playoffs that the top teams would like to avoid. And for good reason. If Kari Lehtonen is on his game, and the Stars are healthy, a potential playoff upset could be on the horizon for the boys in Big D.