For Dallas Stars fans, scoreboard watching is useless, yes? All that matter is that the team gets out there and wins games, right? Or so we said last week, then outcomes like yesterday afternoon's enter the equation and we re-think that, particularly with San Jose, Chicago and Philadelphia coming up on the schedule.
We had thought Tuesday's game could be the centerpiece of a discussion entitled "Can the Stars capture the Pacific Division lead?" but with Los Angeles and Phoenix now between Dallas and San Jose, looking over our collective shoulders is once again more appropriate.
Mr. Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck made a good table with remaining strength of schedule on February 1st, and had the Stars ranked #1 in the whole league with an average opponent point percentage of .602. Other teams at the top of the list were St. Louis, Colorado and Columbus, who have all since dropped (all but) out of the race.
Minnesota appears to be falling into that group as well. Who is next? Let's update that table a bit and see who has the toughest go down the stretch...
|Team||GR||Avg Opp Points %||Home Games||Road Games|
Strength of schedule with this few games remaining probably means less and less. Chicago's is artificially inflated by three games with Detroit, who is not playing as well as their overall record indicated. The Flames on the other extreme have two games each with Edmonton and Colorado, dragging their average down.
The Predators 10 home games gives them the biggest advantage of any team on this list, meaning they'll likely enter the top eight sooner rather than later, and push someone out. The Stars have the third hardest schedule remaining, have more road games than home games, and the few remaining home games they have are difficult.
If there's a team here that could be the next to drop a little, it's 10th place Anaheim. Their well documented goaltending issues aside, they play the Kings three times and the Sharks twice along with Nashville, Chicago and Calgary.
Dallas needs to beat Anaheim twice themselves the rest of the of way to ensure this happens, then hope another obvious candidate comes along that starts their slide down the standings, or it could wing up being them. (We'll have an updated points projection post later today with Brandon Bibb.)
After all, it's not how many points you get, but who you take them from...
As fans we try to quantify what the Stars must do. "The Stars must earn XX points". "The Stars must collect points at a .XXX points the rest of the way." "The Stars must score on the PP"...etc.
What they really must do is beat the right teams down the stretch. 6-6-1 gives them 95 points and perhaps a chance at some tie breakers that get them into the playoffs. Not all six wins are created equally, of course. We could redistribute points in their recent 6-1-2 stretch, keep the same record, and come some up with much more favorable standings.
If the Stars manage to get these six wins: Philadelphia, San Jose, San Jose, Colorado, Colorado, Columbus and Minnesota the rest of the way, that 95 points might not be good enough.
If they got these six wins: Anaheim, Nashville, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Chicago, we'd like their chances a lot better. A LOT better.
Not all 82 game records are constructed the same. The Stars 11 wins against the East this year, if exchanged for 11 more victories over the West would drastically alter the standings and the exact same 82 points they have now would look like (playoff) money in the bank.
If they can't win all their games down the stretch, it would at least behoove them to win the right games.