GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 01: Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars celebrates after scoring the game winning goal against the Phoenix Coyotes late in the third period during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on March 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Stars defeated the Coyotes 3-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
As it stands now, 69 points in the East gets you the 8th seed. In the West, 69 points gets you tied with Columbus for the 12th seed.
So yeah, the West, just like in year's past, is the more competitive conference. Which presents yet another hurdle for the Stars to overcome if they want to snap their streak of playoff-less seasons.
Without further adieu...
First things first, a primer on the NHL tiebreaker. If you're a staffer at the DMN and responsible for printing the standings in the paper, you might find this useful.
Or you can follow Ralph Strangis' advice and just head over to NHL.com.
In previous years, the second tiebreaker was total wins. This year, the NHL adjusted this tiebreaker by taking shootout wins out of the equation. So while the Kings have more total wins than the Stars (35-34), the Stars actually have LA beat in wins in regulation and OT (29-28). And thus, currently hold the tiebreaker over them.
In case you're wondering, the first tiebreaker is fewest games played. Or whoever has games in hand on the other team.
Against Chicago, it gets a little trickier. Both teams have played the same number of games (63), have the same record of 34-23-6, and have the same number of shootout wins (5) after the Blackhawks blew a 2-0 lead Sunday night against Phoenix but beat them in the skills competition.
Which means the NHL moves on to the next tiebreaker of most points gained in the season series between the two teams. And this is where the Hawks are currently being stung by virtue of blowing that 3-0 lead at the AAC 2 1/2 weeks ago. Because of the Stars shootout win over the Hawks back on February 18th at home, they hold a 4-3 points in the season series.
The final tiebreaker is overall goal differential. And if you're the Stars, you probably don't want to let your tiebreak with Chicago get to this point. I'm not sure how, but the Hawks have a +29 in goal differential while Dallas has a -3.
For the Stars to make the playoffs, the current projection is 21 points out of 38. To win the division, it's now 29 out of 38 as San Jose has gone on a 7 game winning streak to not only reclaim the top spot in the Pacific, which they've won each of the previous three seasons.
So what about the point projections for the 4th seed through the 7th seed?
That's right, the Stars could either make the playoffs and have home ice advantage in the first round. Or they could miss it with the margin for error being one win.
But it's probably just the way it ought to be considering how tight it's been all year.
Vancouver and Detroit look like locks to secure the top two seeds in the West. San Jose has a four point lead over Phoenix, plus a game in hand on the Coyotes.
Dallas and Los Angeles have a game in hand on the Sharks, but both are six points off the pace of the Sharks. So technically, they could get back in it.
But at this point, I think it would be a fairly safe bet that Vancouver, Detroit, and San Jose are going to be your three division winners in the West, just like Charlie Sheen.
And as for Edmonton? They're eliminated on the basis of maximum points via the points projection of the rest of the conference. But mathematically, they're still alive.
Nashville's magic number for eliminating the Oilers is 13 points.