During the All-Star break, we presented a look at the jumbled mess that is the Western Conference. Since then, the standings haven't been sorted out one bit. In fact, things might be even messier. As of Tuesday morning, eight points are all that separate last-place St. Louis from sixth-place Dallas.
Yes, I said "sixth-place Dallas." A team that was left for dead multiple times during the first half of the season has clawed its way back to playoff position. The Stars are 6-1-1 in their last eight games, and their best player has started to play like it.
In October, goalie Marty Turco posted a ghastly 4.26 goals against and .842 save percentage. His numbers "improved" to 3.15 and .885 in November, and 2.52/.906 in December.
Connecting you to your favorite North Texas sports teams as well as sports news around the globe.
Last month, however, things really started to look up for Turco. He pitched his first two shutouts of the season in January, and had season-best numbers of 2.42/.910. 15 of his 22 wins on the season have come in the last two months.
Not only is Turco playing better, but so are the guys in front of him. Defenseman Stephane Robidas was an All-Star, and partner Trevor Daley is having a very good season. The Stars picked up veteran Darryl Sydor and paired him with youngster Matt Niskanen. That's had good results, with Niskanen rebounding from a slow start to post increasingly solid numbers.
Dallas has been pretty good on offense throughout the season. The Stars currently average more goals per game than anyone else in this insanely jumbled playoff picture. They also have five games in hand on fifth-place Anaheim and a single game in hand on Minnesota and Edmonton (currently in seventh and eighth, respectively, and tied with Dallas at 53 points).
Furthermore, 19 of the Stars' 34 remaining games are at home. Banking points on home ice would be huge for Dallas, as they are the worst road team among the top eight in the West right now.
Obviously, the Sean Avery debacle was hanging over this team for a time early in the season. His sex joke and subsequent banishment cannot be overlooked in Dallas' turnaround. But the players currently with the team have made the biggest difference. If Turco can keep the upswing going, there's no reason Dallas can't solidify a spot in the playoffs, given how topsy-turvy the rest of the West race is right now.