Before last night Dallas Stars fans had been enjoying a nice two weeks. The Stars had collected points in six straight games, going 4-0-2 in that stretch and enjoyed a share of the Western Conference lead for the better part of a week. Then the Coyotes came to town and shut them out 1-0.
Those would be the same Coyotes who beat the Stars 5-2 just before that nice six game stretch. They started it, if you will, and they ended last night night quite expertly. It concluded division play in December at 1-2-1 for the Stars, dropping them to 4-6-1 on the year against their Pacific foes.
Points are points, but we've talked about the importance of where you draw your points from. Dallas beat Washington, Montreal, Carolina and Detroit this month but the same 8 points taken away from, say, Columbus (on 12/6), Phoenix twice and San Jose (on the 16th) would have the standings looking much more favorable at this point. Imagine sitting here, nearly at the halfway mark with the same 46 points, but with an 11 point lead on Phoenix rather than just 7.
That's the importance of a division game, and as we discussed earlier this season, it's extremely rare for four teams from the same division to make the playoffs. Meaning in order for the Stars to get in, two of these teams (Phoenix and Anaheim, preferably) must stay out.
Here's what the Stars have done against the Pacific this season...
|Opponent||Record||Points Earned||Points Given||Point Differential|
At least there's the Sharks, right? And even there the Stars are only a +1 in those games because of OTL points handed out in the wins.
So 11 division games down, 13 to go. Curiously, and perhaps ominously, NINE of their remaining division games come in the month of March. 9 of 14 games that month! It's a Pacific Division extravaganza and it will likely define their season. Six of those contests are on the road.
Until then Dallas will have little opportunity to improve in this area. They have one game against Los Angeles in January and one against Phoenix in February. In the mean time they have Nashville, Detroit, and Vancouver. The Predators are the obvious choice here for "most helpful two points" playoff-positioning-wise down the road. Will the Stars deliver in Music City?