Happy New Year Stars Fans! Hope you guys had as much fun as I did!
I was originally going to post the magic number updates Saturday morning, but due to the large volume of games last night, I decided to wait an extra day. Boy, am I glad I did. That was quite a win by Dallas, and, as you'll see below, they still remain in good shape for the playoff race, despite going 1-2 this week.
Overall, it's been a pretty interesting week. The rankings are a bit more shuffled compared to the last time we took a look at them. Personally, I think makes it that much more fun. But there has also been some stability in the bottom of the conference, which helps us narrow down the field a bit on who is really still involved in the playoff race.
For some in depth analysis on the Stars' magic number, as well as the rest of the Western conference, take a look after the jump.
Before I get started, if you haven't read my first post, or you aren't sure of what the magic number is or how it works, you can read last week's post here. It should tell you everything you need to know.
(Remember, the "Seed" column is how they are currently ranked according to NHL.com. The rank in parentheses is where they were on our charts last week.)
The Blues, who had the biggest change in position, had a busy 4 game week, only earning 3 out of a possible 8 points. This might be their first real "rough patch" since Hitch has taken over. Their projected points has decreased from 106 to 101.
Other than that, most teams really only moved a single spot, if they moved at all. One thing that is interesting to note, however, is the position of the Sharks and the Kings. According to the current NHL standings, the Sharks are ranked 10th, but they have also played 6 games fewer than some of the others. SIX! (Note to NHL schedulers -- WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU?) They are going to have a busy 2012 schedule in order to catch up on games played, that's for sure. That's something that could definitely hurt them in the playoff race if injuries start to mount.
Despite the fact that they lead our division in the NHL standings, you'll notice this week that the Kings are now in 9th place, having replaced the Coyotes as the first of the worst. That means that our magic number is now based off of how well the Kings do.
You can thank the Nucks for not doing us any favors on New Year's Eve by losing to the Kings. Had they managed to win in regulation, The Kings' total possible points would have dropped to 128 -- Thereby dropping our magic number to 86. Even without that help, though, the Stars have not lost much ground this week.
Last time we looked, the magic number was at 93. Dropping 5 points (especially when only 2 of those came from us) is pretty good for the miserable week we've had. Even if we lost another game in regulation, we would still be in control of our own destiny. The Stars even moved UP a position in possible points remaining. They held their ground this week with the rest of the conference. So for anyone who was all doom and gloom after the loss to Columbus, take a breath and relax... the Stars are no worse off now than they were before. (Of course, if they HAD beaten the Jackets, they'd be in even better position, but I digress...)
Now that we know what it takes to guarantee a playoff spot, let's take a look at the projected rankings, and see what we think we need in order to get there, as well as who we are competing with:
The chart above is organized by projected points. Again, L.A. remains the 9th place team, so our focus is to beat them. According to their current record, it will take a total of 94 points to make the playoffs. That's 2 more than last week. This is probably much closer to the norm than what we had seen before. So, in order to get to 94 points, we need an additional 51 -- or a record of 25-19-1. A tough record, but something that can definitely be accomplished by the Stars. (Personally, I will really begin to relax about the Stars' playoff chances when our record required hits .500. But that will require a few good winning streaks to make that possible.)
Based on the current projections, it's a 12 team race at this point. I also think you can break the standings into three groups at this point: The playoff race, the teams losing ground, and the teams who are out.
Any team currently out of a playoff spot needs 96 points to make the playoffs (since they would have to beat Nashville for 8th place), and the bottom three teams in the conference just have too much ground to make up. Edmonton would have to finish the season at a blistering 33-12 in order to make it to 8th place, and that's just not going to happen.
Above them, you have the next group of three -- Phoenix, Colorado, and Calgary. The gap between the playoff race and these teams is beginning to widen. While I'm not going to rule them out of the race, they have more ground to cover than the rest of us. Phoenix has to finish 27-16 to make the playoffs. After getting only 3 of 8 points this week, they certainly didn't do themselves any favors.
The top 9 teams are the ones that will be jockeying for position for the rest of the season. And, when April rolls around, one teams feelings are going to be hurt. (Dear Hockey gods, please don't let that be us. Again.)
In the end, the important thing to take away from this is that the Stars did not shoot themselves in the foot this week. A 1-2 record is not ideal, but it had almost no effect on their playoff chances, due to the fact that almost every team around them in the standings had a rough week as well. All teams go through rough patches, and sometimes they will lose games they shouldn't lose. This is nothing unique to the Stars. A 1-2 week is nothing to panic over. But we also need to bear in mind that a 3-0 week does not give us any room to relax, or assume we're guaranteed a playoff spot.
Next week we'll take a look at the divisional standings. The Stars have some division games coming up in the second week of January, so it will be good to establish the importance of the "4 point game." But with such a disparity in games played between San Jose, The Stars, and the Kings, I didn't want to mess with it this week.
As always, if you have any questions on this, just let me know, and I'll do my best to answer!