|After coming over from the Bruins, Michael Ryder has hit the 30-goal mark with the Stars. (US Presswire)|
Whether it's an example of parity or league-wide mediocrity, there have been quite a few surprise teams in the NHL this season that have seemingly come out of nowhere to not only contend for playoff spots, but also possible division titles.
One of the biggest surprises might be the fact that the Dallas Stars enter the week with a three-point lead in the Pacific Division, holding the top spot late in a season that seemed to have relatively few expectations at the start of the year after losing their top center, Brad Richards, to free agency over the summer.
The Stars have a shot to not only make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season, when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but to also win the division with a team that may not be any better than the one that missed the playoffs entirely last season after losing the finale to the Minnesota Wild.
It's just been that sort of crazy, unpredictable season in the NHL.
Everything seems to be falling in the right spot for Dallas right now, and not just the fact that the rest of the division has been mediocre at best.
Michael Ryder came in as a free agent and has rediscovered his 30-goal form. Mike Ribeiro has been able to step into the No. 1 center role to replace Richards. Kari Lehtonen is having a career year in net. And Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson have been the same consistent forces up front that they've always been since joining the NHL.
They still have a lot of work ahead of them this season, but with two games remaining against San Jose and another one with Phoenix, two of their top competitors within the division, they're going to have an opportunity to take care of their own business.