We in the Western Conference talk a big game at times about the "East being least" in terms of quality between the conferences. Last season the bottom four playoff seeds in the east (all with 94 points or fewer) would have failed to qualify in the Western Conference race. The Stars, at 88 points, would have been looking up tie-breaker rules for the #8 seed against the Flyers and Canadiens had they been in the other conference. (Something that simple geography would support just as much as being in the "Pacific Division.")
Yet despite all of the (perfectly warranted) criticism directed that way, Dallas was a conference worst 7-9-2 (.444) against the east last year, tying with the Oilers. No one wants to tie with the Oilers for anything.
You remember all the Stars' greatest hits last year against the East, right?
- Sean Avery looks like an all-star/Mike Ribeiro speared in the throat night.
- Giving up 11 goals in a back to back against the Hurricanes and Thrashers.
- Giving up 11 goals in a back to back against the Canadiens and Flyers.
- Spotting the Panthers three in the first period at home before losing in a shootout, 6-5.
- The Penguins afternoon romp against Kari Lehtonen in early March.
They had a nice win against the Devils at home and beat the hapless Maple Leafs, but meetings with the East were generally a disappointment last year. No longer.
It may seem trivial but the Stars are 4-1 against the East this season, winning three of those on the road. Stockpiling points against what many consider to be "lesser" competition is important, particularly early in the season when confidence and momentum are being built. Beating the Sabres might not be as significant in the standings as beating the Kings, but it's something they couldn't do last year.
Guess how Dallas did on the road against the east last year...?
1-7-1 on the road against the Eastern Conference last year! 1-7-1. Ouch. They've already bested that mark 10 games into the season. We've documented what a poor road team the Stars were in 2009-2010 ad nauseum. This year they've started 3-1 on the road and it's all been in the Eastern time zone. They have yet to actually play a Western Conference road game and it will be November 6th before they do. (@Colorado)
Facing down the
real competition Western Conference will come soon enough but Dallas has yet another contest with some East-coast boys on Wednesday and these ones are quite good: The Pittsburgh Penguins. They have a very strong road record to start the season (4-1-1), they score gobs of goals, and they're coming off an impressive 3-0 win over Carolina followed by three days of rest. Should be a good one at the AAC on Wednesday night.
Kari Lehtonen will get the start in net, looking for a better outing than the 6-3 drubbing he took in Pittsburgh last March.
You should come on out and see them. It's not like you have a World Series game to watch that night.
(Front runners need not bring their Sidney Crosby jerseys. But if you do, you will be asked to locate Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on a map before entering the arena. Lord knows you've probably never been there.)