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Stars Defying Expectations

by Greg Ramirez / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are in first place in the Pacific Division at the All-Star break. Let me repeat that: The Dallas Stars are in first place in the Pacific Division at the All-Star break.

Yes, it’s nothing but a day filled with sunshine for the Dallas Stars, who continue to defy expectations with their impressive play.

While many in the hockey world are stunned by the success Dallas has had thus far this season, Head Coach Marc Crawford is not at all surprised his team’s sudden turnaround.

“I think if you would have said to us that we would be battling for the top spot in the conference at the start of the season, we would certainly be encouraged by it.” Crawford said, “We’ve got strong belief in our group and as you are around them every day, you can see that they continue to meet and reach the challenges that are put in front of them.”

One of those challenges came on Wednesday night, when the Stars were tested by a feisty Oiler team.  The game saw four fights, as well as three misconduct penalties totaling over 100 penalty minutes. The Stars rose up to the challenge, and came away with a big 3-1 win to improve their record to 30-15-5 for the season. Considering that Dallas did not reach the 30-win mark until mid-March last season, it appears the Stars have turned things around quickly.

“This team’s done some good things to get us in a position to contend in the last 32 games and that’s exciting,” Jamie Langenbrunner said. “I’m sure everybody will enjoy the break and be excited to comeback and fight for a playoff spot.”

That sentiment was echoed by Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “It’s a physical game, everyone’s got bumps and bruises so having that time off will be good.”

It is the last major break the Stars will have in the regular season. Starting Tuesday, the Stars will play a total of 32 games in 68 days – or almost a game every-other day. Immediately they will face the Vancouver Canucks, who are the top team in the NHL with 71 points.

“They’ve certainly got our attention,” Crawford said. “They’ve had their way with us – they are a good opponent and I think it will serve to inspire us.”

The first game against Vancouver will be a good test of this team’s character, as will the final two-and-a-half months of the season. With the Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks inching closer to the top spot of the Pacific Division, Crawford knows his team has to focus on getting better if they intend to continue with their success.

 “We know we have to keep our focus on improving – whether it’s improving faceoffs, or special teams, or our coverage, there are so many little areas that we can try to get better at,” Crawford said. “The race is too tight - I think that has helped us to stay focused.”

The Dallas Stars are in first place in the Pacific Division at the All-Star break. That’s impressive.  If they manage to capture the division title, even Marc Crawford might be surprised at his team’s unexpected rise to the top.

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