If karma is real, the Stars seem to be swimming in the good stuff right now.

After beating the past two Stanley Cup champions in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Dallas has a heaping helping of positivity as it heads into the Western Conference Final starting Thursday at American Airlines Center. In addition to an aura of support from the hockey “experts” around the league, the lads in Victory Green also are finding they are favorites of a growing group of former teammates and colleagues.

“If we’re not going to do it, you want to see people you care about win,” said Colorado’s Zach Parise, who is close friends with defenseman Ryan Suter and was coached by Stars bench boss Pete DeBoer when the two were in New Jersey together. “I love Pete, I loved playing for him. He’s a world-class coach. He’s the type of guy that now that we’re out, you just cheer for him.”

That’s not surprising to DeBoer, who said he shared the same feeling last season. After coaching Vegas for three seasons, DeBoer and his new team in Dallas lost to the Golden Knights in the conference finals of the playoffs. Instead of holding a grudge, he said he was happy when his former team won it all.

“It’s the best league in the world, in my mind, it’s the best place to work,” DeBoer said. “I said it last year when we lost to Vegas: If we couldn’t win, there were a bunch of men there that I coached that I really hoped would win.”

The Stars have that same feeling this year. DeBoer has been to the Stanley Cup Final twice (with the Devils in 2012 and with San Jose in 2016) and has been to the third round in five of the past six seasons. He has won 86 playoff games, which is the 11th most in NHL history. But he has yet to win the Cup. He and Pat Quinn are the only coaches in the top 15 who have not won it all, so that makes him a sentimental favorite.

He has company. Suter has played 1,444 regular season games, the most of any active player who has yet to win the grand prize. Joe Pavelski is at 1,332 games, Jamie Benn at 1,112 and Matt Duchene at 1,056. It creates an environment where everyone is pulling on the rope at the same time.

“Do I want to win a Cup for myself? Absolutely,” Duchene told TNT in the Game 6 postgame interview. “But I think I want to win it more for other guys in that room – Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Suter, and Pete, just so many guys who deserve to win because they are such great people. That’s a responsibility that has probably been heavy on me at times, but it means a lot to me.”

DeBoer said he feels the push.

“It’s unspoken, but it’s there,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys who would love to see those guys reach the ultimate goal. There are some special people and athletes that we’re talking about there.”

And that’s true both on and off the ice. It’s one of the reasons the team believes it has a chance to do something memorable. GM Jim Nill has assembled a lineup that not only includes veteran players who were instrumental in the double overtime Game 6 win against the Avalanche, but also younger players like Wyatt Johnston, Thomas Harley and Logan Stankoven, who have been driving forces all playoffs. There’s also a group of 20-somethings like Miro Heiskanen, Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson, who are among the best players at their positions in the regular season and the playoffs.

Dallas finished with the second best record in the NHL at 52-21-9, which was also the second best mark in franchise history. They had the best road record in franchise history and eight 20-goal scorers for the first time. They have proven in the playoffs that they can go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the NHL by beating Vegas and Colorado, and that has a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon.

Asked if the Stars have a chance to win it all, Colorado coach Jared Bednar said, “Yeah, no question they do.”

“I mean, it’s a tough road every round, but they’re a good team,” Bednar said. “They’re a really good team. They’re disciplined, they’re deep, they’ve got great goaltending, well-coached. They’ve got everything you can ask for in a team. They’re a contender in my book.”

That said, the Stars are just halfway there. They have secured home ice against everybody but the Rangers, so that’s good. They have survived the first two rounds in relatively good health (although Roope Hintz appears to be battling a hand injury of some sort), and they are getting scoring from up and down the lineup. Oettinger has been phenomenal on the road and pretty darn good overall (8-5, 2.09 GAA and .918 save percentage).

“You never know how many times you’re going to get this opportunity to win a Stanley Cup and to really feel like you have the team that can do it,” Oettinger said. “Not many teams can say that. We feel like that in this room. Hockey’s such a crazy business, and the turnover is crazy, and you’re never going to have the same team again, so just for us, it’s all about the opportunity.”

The Stars are hoping they learned a great deal from missing out on that opportunity last season, and that the experience also gives them a bit of a boost this year.

“To get to the conference finals two years in a row is an accomplishment in itself, but this whole run is a waste unless you win the whole thing,” Oettinger said. “We have this great opportunity and we just want to make the most of it.”

They definitely seem to be in a pretty good place.

“It’s probably the deepest team we’ve had in a few years,” said Benn. “I feel like we’re deeper than last year, deeper than when we went back to the finals [in 2020], and now it’s up to us to do something with it.”

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

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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