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Golden Knights the first of many hurdles for Dallas Stars on their way to Stanley Cup

Let’s do something crazy and start at the end. The Cowboys won their first Super Bowl against the Dolphins and the Mavericks never played anyone other than the Heat in the NBA Finals, splitting those series. So in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Stars’ only Stanley Cup parade, how about Dallas and Miami get together again?

How about Stars over the Florida Panthers in six games sometime around Father’s Day?

This is called getting way ahead of yourself, but only the athletes and coaches and those involved really have to stay in the moment, taking things step by step, so to speak. In this business we can let our thoughts wander all the way to the finish line, but at least we can see the folly of it. It’s fun to determine how the Stanley Cup Playoffs will end, and I’m sure others with an anniversary feel could watch the New York Rangers win over Vancouver thirty years ago – one of the best finals series ever – and would say: hey, these teams are great, let’s do that again!

The thing is, getting there is the ultimate grind. Sixteen wins are also needed in the NBA playoffs, but the team with the best collection of superstars or the most important usually walks away with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Stanley Cup is something else entirely, and the fact that the Stars secured the No. 1 seed in the West on Wednesday is a great achievement – ​​it’s undoubtedly the best bet – but it doesn’t necessarily mean the Games start this weekend. .

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Let’s look at the main reasons why it is so difficult.

In this case, it starts with the defending Cup champions stumbling on the final night of the season, losing at home to the Anaheim Ducks, to fall into the second wild card. The Stars kept quiet about it, but they certainly expected to take the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. The Vegas Golden Knights, owners of three wins over Dallas this season (two in OT), are no bargain. Add in last year’s conference finals and Vegas has won seven of nine against the Stars. Whether or not captain Mark Stone will return to play with a ruptured spleen is anyone’s guess, but he was a key part of what Vegas accomplished a year ago.

Stars coach Pete DeBoer said his team was clearly relieved when it reached overtime against St. Louis on Wednesday, which itself clinched the top seed. “But we wanted to win the match. The building was electric and we wanted to give the fans a win. That’s a lot of points, 113 points,” he said.

Indeed. Only New York had more. But the NHL isn’t a place where No. 1 seeds always thrive. Remember a year ago (get this) Boston had 135 points. The Bruins were 65-12-5. At home they were 34-4-3. No one has ever collected more points in an 82-game season.

5 things to know about the Stars-Golden Knights series in Round 1 of the NHL Playoffs

They lost to Florida (which had 92 points) in seven games in the first round. A difference of 43 points meant nothing. The Panthers won the last three in Boston. Explain that.

You can’t.

The Stars had home field advantage in the first two rounds a year ago, but gave way to Vegas in the conference finals and the Golden Knights eliminated Dallas in six games. So this year, DeBoer’s team upped its play from 108 points – second best in the division – to 113, second only to the Rangers in the entire league.

“We want to have as much home ice as possible,” goaltender Jake Oettinger said, “and we will have that unless we play New York in the finals.”

It’s what teams compete for for six months. And yet the record for home teams in last year’s play-offs? Try 41-47.

Vegas was very good (9-3) and the Stars weren’t bad in the AAC, as they needed the home crowd to get past Seattle in Game 7. They were 6-4. The rest of the competition was 26-40 at home.

Explain that. You can’t.

The Stars have basically the same team as a year ago with some nice upgrades, like Matt Duchene as one of their six 25-goal scorers (eight Stars have 20 or more) and veteran Chris Tanev helping guard the back end. But it’s important to remember that even though Dallas reached the conference finals in 2023, it took an uphill battle to get there. They trailed Minnesota 2-1 before winning in six games. They trailed Seattle 2-1 before winning in seven games.

They then trailed Vegas 3-0 before battling their way to a sixth game before conceding. Now they get Vegas again? To start?

You might as well beat the best to be the best. Dallas may get the rare “opportunity” to eliminate the last two Cup champions before they even reach the conference finals. That’s why we call this the toughest championship in sports. And as DeBoer said, “The NHL has a long season. You get to the end and now comes the fun part. What I like about the NHL is the equality, the struggle to get in. There’s a reason why some are calling the first round of the NHL playoffs the best two weeks in sports.

No one needs to explain that.

Find the stars to do their part, escape the Golden Knights and hit the road. But nothing will be easy, and half the fun of an 8:30 and 9:30 series. Central time starts Monday and may be after midnight, so prepare yourself.

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More Stars coverage from The Dallas Morning News can be found here.