(Note: All games through Saturday are included)
Another great win from the Dallas Stars last night, and another boost in the magic numbers. I know that yesterday, there were several people like me watching the scores of games, and hoping that things would go our way. Well, for the most part, they did! We had 4 big games go in our favor on saturday: The Star won (of course!), And the Avalanche, Kings, and Wild all lost in regulation.
Admittedly, it could have gone better, but you can't really trust the Eastern Conference to win any games against the West at this point. (And the weaker conference is the one complaining about all the travel? I bet they also put band-aids on their booboos and sit out a game for it. Our guys get their teeth knocked out, then spit blood in a cup in between shifts.)
If this is your first time to read these articles, and you're not sure what the Magic Number is exactly, you can read about it here.
After the jump, we'll dive right in to the spreadsheets. There's more than usual this time, as we'll start to take a look at the divisional race as well.
First, we'll take a look at the divisional race, since there isn't a whole lot of analysis to be done at this point in the season.
The Sharks are running away with the division right now. 3 points up with 2 games in hand gives them a lot of cushion. They are going to have to go on a few losing streaks (and the Stars are going to have to win a few) just for this race to get interesting. Here's the magic numbers:
The magic number is 8 points higher than our possible points remaining. That means, in order to take the division lead, we need the Sharks to lose 4 games more than us for the rest of the season. If you look at the remaining schedule, you'll see that we play the sharks 4 more times. That means that as long as we match the Sharks win for win AND beat them in every head to head match-up, we can take the division lead. That's not much to ask for, is it?
Personally, I'd rather focus on the playoff race, since we're currently doing much better in those regards. Here's the standings:
As I said at the beginning of this post, the Avs, Kings, an Wild all lost in regulation last night. Teams 10,9, and 8 in our standings, respectively. Their losses help give us some room to breathe in the playoff race. Meanwhile, San Jose has taken over the top spot in the race. Really, the movement between this week and last week shows you the 3 distinct groups that have broken out. Spots 1-5 are all fighting for the top position. Spots 6-11 are all trying to make the playoffs. And spots 12-15 are just....stuck...where they are. I'd even remove Calgary and the others from this spreadsheet, but I know that would anger the hockey gods, and Calgary would wind up making the playoffs.
The projected points this week actually reflect the same order as the magic number rankings. The Stars need 93 points to get in, or a 23-19 record. (As usual, I'll start relaxing when we can get that projected record down to .500) On the other hand, the Flames need 95 points, or a 26-13 record. Phoenix, the next team that looks like they are about to bow out, needs to finish 25-15. It's doable, but it's not looking good for them either.
And, just for fun, San Jose only need to finish 21-22-1, while Vancouver needs to finish 19-21. Gee, you think they can do it?
Here's a look at our magic number:
At this time last week, we only had a 2 point cushion. After going 2-1, it's now 3 points. That gives us a bit more breathing room for mistakes, but I would really like to see our cushion expand over the next week. If things go well, we may have a much better cushion than we had before, thanks to the 4 point games coming up.
Next week, the Stars have 3 important games against the Ducks, Kings, and Avs. The Ducks, at least at this point in the season, is one of those games that we should absolutely win. And the Kings and Avs are 2 of the teams that we are fighting against for a playoff spot. Every time we face one of those teams (Preds, Wild, Kings, Avs, Yotes), I consider it a 4 point game. Let's discuss what that really means...
In order to first understand the concept, we'll have a simple scenario. Let's say that we have 2 teams, Dallas and San Jose, that are both tied with 90 points in the standings when they play each other. If you exclude the loser point, there are only 2 possible outcomes. Either the Sharks win, and go up to 92 points, or the Stars win, and go up to 92 points. So, at the end of the game, We'll either lead San Jose by two, or we'll be trailing by two. The difference between leading and trailing is your 4 points.
Okay, now let's make it a little more complicated, and apply it to what we'll see this week. Let's go straight to the game we have against the Kings. Right now, our magic number is based directly off of the Kings, since they are in 9th place. They can only finish the season with a maximum of 127 points this season. If we finish with 128, we will beat them. We also have 47 points earned already, helping us get one step closer to our goal. Let's say we play the Kings tonight, given the numbers we have above. If the Kings beat us in regulation, then nothing changes. They will still only be able to earn 127 points this season, and we will still have 47 points in the standings. That would keep our magic number at 81. On the other hand, if we beat the Kings in regulation, they would only be able to get 125 points, and we would now have 49 in the bank. That would bring our magic number down to 77.
For this game, while our magic number goes down four points, our possible points remaining only goes down by 2, since it was only one game that was played. That brings our cushion up to 5 points. We could potentially face the exact same situation against the Avs the following game, depending on hoe many they (and the Kings) win or lose in the mean time.
So this week, you have the Ducks, who should be beatable, and two of the 4-point games. This is a big week. If there was any time we would want the Stars to get going on a 5 game win streak it's this one. If they win out, I think you could see a potential 10 point change in the magic numbers, instead of the 6 we've seen each week. If they want to prove that they are a playoff team, they need to buckle down and get these wins.
Go Stars Go.