Since the start of the year, the players inside the United Center's visiting locker room have been quiet, frustrated and disappointed following a majority of Blackhawks games.
Now that the postseason is nearing, those feelings had recently been at a high as the Blackhawks continue to face and defeat teams desperate to make the playoffs. But the Stars -- despite falling short in Chicago's 5-2 win on Monday -- held their heads high. Sure, the loss was difficult to swallow, especially considering the tight race in the Western Conference, but the tenth-seeded team was proud they stayed in it.
"There's a reason they're the No. 1 team in the league," said Stars goaltender Richard Bachman about the Blackhawks. "They're a good squad and they capitalize. But we hung in there a majority of the game. Overall I think we can really move forward down in these last six games and know we can play against anyone, including the best team in the league.
"Overall it sucks to lose and it's no fun, but now we can't worry about it. We have Vancouver coming up and that's all we can worry about now."
The Stars haven't had it easy since being left with no choice but to make some adjustments after losing league veterans Jaromir Jagr, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Tomas Vincour at the trade deadline. Despite the roster changes, the Stars made it work, winning five consecutive games before arriving in Chicago. On Monday, the Stars continued to exude that same confidence that led to their most recent victories.
"We kept it close there, and now we know what we have to do to play the best and beat the best," said Stars forward Jamie Benn, who recording both of his team's goals on Monday night. "Hopefully we can make a push here, we still have a chance to make the playoffs and that's what we're going for here."
The Blackhawks, in the meantime, are sitting at the other end of the spectrum. They've already clinched the Central Division and home-ice advantage in the postseason, but that isn't keeping them from giving each game their all.
“We stuck to our game. Played solid defensively. When you play good defense the offensive chances will come, and when we got those chances we buried the ones we could," forward Andrew Shaw said, who scored Chicago's third goal of the night. "Overall, I think, the team played great in every aspect.”
Both teams showed tonight that it doesn't matter how good or bad you are, or what roster struggles a team has faced. Each squad has their own battles to fight, whether it's simply making the playoffs or finishing the season as the best team in the NHL.
"Whether we get two points or not, we’re focused on the little details," captain Jonathan Toews added. "We’re focused on improving as a team and everyone doing their part and being responsible. We know from playing that style of hockey we’re going to get some offense and you saw that again tonight."