Non-Shootout Win Tiebreaker Could Make or Break Stars' Season

Under the old tie breaking procedure, the Dallas Stars playoff chances would be a little slimmer than they are today. The Chicago Blackhawks have 43 wins and the Stars have 41, meaning that under the old system, the best Dallas could hope would be to tie them in overall wins, meaning any kind of win would get the Hawks in over the weekend.

On August 22nd, 2010 when the league first passed this rule change (eliminating shootout wins from the first tie breaker), many applauded the move for it's philosophical stance against shootouts deciding who lives in and who dies. Many others asked: Does it do enough? After all, if you win 14 shootouts (cough2009phoenixcoyotescough) you're still going to bolster your position considerably and make the playoffs.

Dallas Stars fans could find themselves in the unenviable position of really feeling the true power of this rule change tonight or Sunday if a nightmare scenario should play out just right.

Imagine Chicago wins in Detroit tonight (6:30pm CDT start). The "peeking" at the scoreboard that players and coaches say they do or do not do will be required if the Stars and Avalanche are tied (or worse) going into the third period because Marc Crawford might be put into a most uncomfortable position should the game go to overtime.

He'll have to pull Kari Lehtonen at even strength in a tie game to try and get the winner while he still has clock left.

At that point a shootout win would mean nothing for the Stars. Chicago would have 97 points, a total Dallas could still equal, but they'll potentially have 38 ROW's (regulation+overtime wins), and the only way to catch that is to win the game before the shootout begins. The scenario could easily play itself out in a variety of ways on Sunday as well.

It's a horrifying thought and a real possibility when you consider that statistically over 26% of Stars games this year have gone to extra time, and the majority of them needed a shootout to decide a winner. Dallas is 5-7 in shootouts, ironically putting them in this position in the first place. It's precisely the tangled web the NHL weaved last summer when the Columbus Blue Jacket's GM proposed this rule change.

When Loui Eriksson scored on Martin Brodeur in overtime on October 8th of this season, did you ever imagine that particular "ROW" could save the Stars playoff chances? Most fans had never considered what an ROW was.

Then again, did anyone ever imagine that earning 97 points might not get them into the playoffs?

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