Dallas Stars drew the perfect 1st round opponent to see if they are Stanley Cup worthy

They waited for an entire year to prove to everyone they are worthy. No, we are not talking about the Dallas Cowboys.

We are discussing the local hockey team. A club that is either an actual title team, or just another good-looking regular-season crew that is fooling itself, and their loyal fans.

We should know quickly which of the two the Dallas Stars are. This is either a Stanley Cup Finals appearance upcoming with a championship, or a colossal first round flame out.

Both fit here.

The Stars drew the worst/best opponent to prove one or the other in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which began on Monday night in Dallas in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. The Las Vegas Golden Knights are perfect hell for the Stars; this is kyrptonite on ice.

The Stars won the top seed in the Western Conference, so technically they should win this series. All they need to do is actually do it.

Vegas is the eight seed that should scare you.

It was one year ago when the Stars were eliminated by the Knights in Game 6 of their Western Conference Finals series. After falling behind three games to none in that series, the Stars won consecutive games and hosted game 6 with the anticipation there would be a decisive Game 7 in Las Vegas.

A wonderful regular season, and entertaining post season, ended in the American Airlines Center when Vegas pounded the Stars in Game 7, 6-0.

Vegas was the better team then, and it may still be now.

Since the Stars began this run of success, in 2019, they have been “around it.” This is their fifth playoff appearance in the last six seasons, which in today’s version of the NHL is no small feat.

In this run that features an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final and Conference finals, they have repeatedly demonstrated they are good, and they are close. They’re “right there.”

What every one of these playoff appearances has shown is their ceiling. They were never the better team that lost a series by what amounted to is a one goal margin.

In 2019, they lost Game 7 in the second round against a Blues team that was bigger, and better. The Stars had their chances, but the Blues were superior, and they went on to win the Stanley Cup.

In the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals, the Stars lost to a Tampa Bay team that is one of the best hockey teams this century.

The Stars missed the playoffs in 2021.

In 2022, the Stars were thin, and the underdog against a better Calgary team. Only because of goalie Jake Oettinger was the series close. The Stars lost in overtime of Game 7 when Oettinger nearly won the game by himself; he stopped 64 of 67 shots in that Game 7 loss.

In ‘23, Vegas was the best team In the league. It went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Here in 2024 the Stars may finally be the best team. They have all of the necessary parts, including a veteran whose presence can’t be adequately valued.

Forward Joe Pavelski is 39, and finished the regular season as the team’s second leading scorer. He played all 82 games. He has never won the Stanley Cup, and this will be his last best chance. Veterans like this typically thrive in the playoffs.

They have depth at forward. They have the goalie. They have one of the best defensemen in the game, Miro Heiskanen.

The Stars are not expected to have a finalist for any of the NHL’s major awards, with the possible exception of league executive of the year, GM Jim Nill. What they do have is a complete team. They won the West with 113 points, second only to the New York Rangers’ 114 in the East.

Those 113 points and first place finish in the West are entirely what you make of it. Historically, finishing first doesn’t always mean finishing first.

The last two Stanley Cup winners, Vegas in ‘23 and Colorado in ‘22, finished with the most points in their respective conferences.

According to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau, Prior to (Colorado in ‘22), the last team to (lead its conference in points) to not only win the Cup but to even make the Cup Final was Chicago in 2012 - ’13 (they won).

And since the start of the 2019 postseason, four teams that finished the regular season with the most points in their respective conference lost in the first round of the playoffs.

The Dallas Stars have been building towards this moment for years, and have the perfect opponent to prove they are ready for what they believe should be theirs.

Either way, we should know quickly.