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You'll hear it said a lot in the next few days, now that the Dallas Stars have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs and every NHL divisional champion is on the sidelines – how the NHL regular season is meaningless, how what happens from October to April matters so little in the grand scheme of things.

That's too easy a conclusion, really a false narrative. Nowadays, the regular season matters far more than it did when the NHL was a 21-team entity and 16 made the playoffs.

Back then, teams genuinely had to work hard to miss the playoffs. Every year, a handful of teams with more losses than wins would stumble into the postseason anyway, just because others were far worse. Most times, bare competence provided teams with a ticket into the postseason lottery.

But in the 30-team era, when making the playoffs is a far greater challenge, teams can't just shrug off the regular season as meaningless. The Boston Bruins don't believe it, having missed the playoffs two years in a row, despite solid 96- and 93-point seasons. A year ago, three 90-point teams didn't make it in the Western Conference, including the Stanley Cup defending champions, the Los Angeles Kings.

Accordingly, teams need to perform well and consistently in the regular season – and then adjust their mindsets to acknowledge that everything starts anew in April. Since home ice does not appear to be much of an advantage anymore, realistically, the most important carryover from regular season to playoffs might be your team's injury list.

The Stars lost to the St. Louis Blues in seven games, partly because their second-leading scorer, Tyler Seguin, missed all but one game of the playoffs recovering from an Achilles tendon tear. They were the No. 1 offensive team in the league this season, just entering their window of opportunity to challenge for the Stanley Cup.

In theory, with their offensive capabilities, good goaltending should have been good enough.

But the Stars didn't even get that level of netminding from Kari Lehtonen when it mattered most; and Antti Niemi was cast off by San Jose last year for the same reason, a general lack of faith that he could win in the playoffs. Presumably, Dallas was seduced to bring him in by the fact that Niemi did win a championship with Chicago way back in 2010.

Maybe it was noteworthy that Chicago did little to keep Niemi after that run, preferring to spend their salary-cap dollars elsewhere.

The most prominent casualty this time around was Washington, a 120-point regular-season team that lost to the Penguins, who were red-hot down the stretch after a so-so first half and carried that momentum into the playoffs.

The Caps fell apart for two main reasons. The first was that two young players who were so good in the regular season, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, faltered in the playoffs. NHL playoffs do require a different compete level. Kuznetsov and Burakovsky are not the first young players to discover that. Next time around, they should be a lot better.

Washington was also undone by gaffes on defence. Brooks Orpik missed three games as a result of a suspension and Karl Alzner, the Caps' primary shutdown rearguard, played injured, until he couldn't any more. The players at the bottom end of the roster – Mike Weber, Nate Schmidt, Taylor Chorney, even Dmitri Orlov – were ultimately exposed by the Penguins' explosive speed.

But the Caps are not a tear-down. Add a little more experience up front and a tweak or two on the blueline and they will be a powerhouse again next year.

In the meantime, Pittsburgh, Tampa and St. Louis, a trio of second-place finishers, along with either San Jose (third in the Pacific) or Nashville (the first Western Conference wild card) are moving on to play for the Stanley Cup.

There were 10 100-point teams in the NHL this season. Only two remain. Parity continues to be the dominant storyline, proving again, that if it's your day or your week, it could also be your year.

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