The Dallas Stars have boasted a knack for making history this season.

Their 52-21-9 regular-season record was the second-best in franchise history, trailing only the 1998-99 campaign when they won their only Stanley Cup. Included was a 26-10-5 mark on the road, a new franchise record.

An eight-game win streak from March 16 to April 3 surpassed the franchise’s longstanding mark of seven. They also had eight different players scoring 20-plus goals during the regular season. That’s a new record, too.

And on December 23, they became the first team in NHL history to win a game in regulation when trailing with 15 seconds remaining via a miraculous comeback in Nashville. They also successfully conquered an 0-2 playoff series deficit for the first time in Dallas history.

To top it all off, they punched their ticket to the Western Conference Final in consecutive seasons for the second time in Dallas history. The other time? Three in a row from 1998-2000 (which included two trips to the Stanley Cup Final and a championship).

And through two rounds, they’ve found their way into the record books again.

Only this time, the achievement was a bit grander.

The Stars are the first team in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1967) to defeat the two most recent Stanley Cup champions in the first two rounds of a postseason. After knocking off the 2023 champion Vegas Golden Knights in a thrilling seven-game First Round series, they dispatched the 2022 champion Colorado Avalanche in six games in the Second Round.

That’s an incredible accomplishment when you think about it.

“It was a really good challenge for us these first two rounds,” Stars forward Logan Stankoven said. “Getting the Cup champs in Vegas and then Colorado winning a Cup a few years ago, that’s two top teams right there. It wasn’t easy and sometimes you have to get over those first few series and that hump.”

“It’s definitely a good test to go through those two teams early,” added Stars forward Mason Marchment. “It speaks a lot to what we have in here and what we’re going to have to keep rolling with. There’s no step back and we have to keep taking steps forward.”

In any given playoff run, facing two recent champions can be a tall order. That’s because defending champions rarely go away easily. In the past 15 years alone, the Tampa Bay Lightning (2020, 2021), Pittsburgh Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017), Chicago Blackhawks (2010, 2013, 2015) and Los Angeles Kings (2012, 2014) have reinforced that fact.

But to draw the two most recent champs in the opening rounds after clinching the top seed in the conference? That’s unheard of.

In fact, the Stars were just the fourth team in NHL history to face a path of that caliber since the League expanded from six to 12 teams. The 1990 Kings, 1981 Oilers and 1969 Bruins are the only others.

“I wouldn’t have chosen that path if I had the choice,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said with a laugh. “For the season we had, it’s probably not much of a reward. I’m hopeful we’re going to look back and go, ‘You know what? That was the best thing that happened to us.’”

And there’s good reason to believe it could be beneficial in helping the team reach its overall goal.

The Stars were doused in a quick wave of adversity during the First Round against Vegas. They dropped both home games to open the series and found themselves in a 0-2 hole looking up at the defending champs.

At that point, it would have been easy to lean into excuses. After all, they hadn’t beaten themselves in the first two games. They had played tight, efficient hockey for the most part, but had come up short in the tiniest details. Those details had made the difference.

There could have been room to lean on their regular-season laurels and chop it up to the unluckiest of draws when it came to opponents.

But the Stars didn’t point fingers. They dug deeper and beat Vegas at their own game using offensive depth, suffocating defensive pressure and stellar goaltending. 10 different skaters scored a goal, including four different GWG scorers. Dallas allowed nine goals in the final five games of the series, including just six at even strength (excluding empty-netters). Jake Oettinger stood tall with a .946 save percentage as the Stars won four of the final five games, three of which were by a one-goal margin.

“In that Vegas series, you’re down 2-0, you’re on the road and an overtime goal away from going down 3-0,” DeBoer said. “Great resilience by our group.”

After wrapping up a series that many said could easily have been the Western Conference Final, the Stars dove into the Second Round a brief 46 hours later.

Once again, they dropped Game 1 after Colorado rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win in overtime, but the Stars caught themselves quickly, rattling off three wins (including two on the road) in a row and leaning into their strengths to push the Avalanche to the brink. And though it took two overtimes in Game 6, Matt Duchene put his former team away with the winning goal.

Just like that, the Stars hit eight wins for the second straight postseason. It only reinforces the belief that they are getting better with each win and still have more room to grow.

“I think we know how to buy into the details and commit to defense first,” Stankoven said. “That’s what we had to do. We can’t cheat for offense against these teams. We’re not going to play our best every single game, but if we can commit to those little details, the bar between our best and our worst can get closer and closer. That’s what you want.”

The Stars have tapped into a rare level of resilience as their 2023-24 season has unfolded. No mountain has been too tall, and no burden too great. Dallas continues to navigate its way through the most challenging time of the year by playing to its strengths while remaining focused on the ultimate goal.

And somehow, they’re only halfway to achieving that goal. With eight wins pocketed, they still need eight more against two different opponents if they are going to complete their storybook. It all starts Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers, a team the Stars went 2-0-1 against this season.

That may sound crazy considering the caliber of opponents already vanquished. But that’s just the nature of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“Our group is tested,” said Stars forward Joe Pavelski. “You’re going to see a team that’s playing just as good in the next round. It’s nice the fact that we won. You guys dig up the stats and we go from there. You’ve got to keep stacking wins and getting through to make it mean anything.”

Still, the momentum built from slaying two Western Conference giants to open the run should provide a sturdy base to continue growing.

“You can feel the momentum building,” Stars forward Ty Dellandrea said. “I think we look really good as a team. Watching these guys, it’s really structured and everyone is on the same page. It’s very simple at this point.”

And that’s shown against some of the West’s top teams of the past few years.

“I think it can generate huge momentum,” DeBoer added. “I’ve told our group before that sometimes the toughest series are early in the playoffs. You never know. We might have the toughest series on the path ahead. It might be the next one or the Final, but sometimes on these trails, you hit your toughest series at an earlier point in the playoffs. It’s just how it happens.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Josh Clark is a writer for DallasStars.com. Follow him on Twitter @Josh_Clark02.

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