Can the Dallas Stars beat good teams on the road? More specifically, because the entire Western Conference appears quite talented, can they beat Western Conference teams on the road?
What's that? "Who cares?", you say? "They're in third place!!," you say? Eight of the twelve teams behind the Stars in the Western Conference standings have .500 or better road records, and very few of them have played as many Eastern Conference road games as Dallas has. The Stars' over all road record is 6-7-1.
"That's not too bad, right? For a team that struggled so much on the road last year?"
Take it apart a little further and see that they're 1-5-1 on the road where it really counts: The Western Conference. The lone win came in St. Louis in a game they trailed after two periods and were badly out-shot 36-23. A 1-5-1 pace on the road in the Western Conference is quite simply not going to be good enough as the long NHL winter continues.
Take the stats out of it, even. Winning on the road against good teams is how we define "good teams" in every sport. Can the Mavericks win in San Antonio? At Staples Center? Can the (TX) Rangers take series in Oakland and Anaheim? Can the Cowboys win games in Philly or New York? You hear it every year. They're the standard litmus tests in every league that tell you if your team is "for real" or not.
The Stars have done well to accrue as many points as they have, but looking at where they've gotten them, is it sustainable as focus shifts away from so many Eastern Conference teams to their more natural rivals?
More after the jump...
I don't think any of us as fans will be happy with anything but a playoff spot this year. We've been spoiled through the years. We expect it. The franchise needs it. So we approach each look at the standings with "What is the points pace this morning?" and "How many more do they need?"
61. They need 61 more to add to their 36. That's a long, long way to go. Where can they get 61 more points?
They have 26 more home games. How many can you reasonably expect there? They've been so good at home (.766), they're bound to cool off a little bit. Say... (.650)? And even that might be a little much to sustain for so many games. Even so, let's take those (.650) * (26*2) = 34~ points and add them to our total. How are we doing? 70? We're getting there, but we still need 27 more, and that's just for 8th place.
Coincidentally, there are 27 road games remaining. You start to see the problem. 25 of those 27 road games are against the Western Conference. The Stars are currently not very good (.214) against the Western Conference on the road. I may have mentioned that. In fact they've been out-scored on the road in the West 25-12. If that's not a bad sign, I don't know what is.
The moral here? (.500) hockey on the road is the bare minimum going forward. No longer can anyone count on the Islanders, Panthers, Senators and Devils to inflate the road record. It's all about the West from now on. It has to come from San Jose tonight. It has to come from Phoenix. From Anaheim. From Edmonton and Calgary. It's time to open our eyes and say "yes, this has been fun so far, but this might not be what it seems if they can't win out West."
Leading the Pacific Division for a week or two is great, but look at the last four games. The losses in Phoenix and Chicago were ugly. The win against the Canes at home was...difficult. They scored only once in Columbus. It's a bona fide slump and they need to get it behind them ASAP. Falling even three points back can mean 13th place in the West.
If they can get rolling a little bit and take it to some teams in their buildings, then this run at the top of the standings will not have been artificial, as it seems it might be when you break it down. We all want badly to believe this team really is different than last year's. It's time to see it starting tonight in San Jose. We hope.