FanPost

2012 NHL Playoffs: Dallas Stars Magic Number Countdown, 4 Weeks To Go

It's been another successful week for the Stars, with our team managing to capture the full 6 possible points this week. As Worley has talked about before, the fans are practically salivating for some playoff hockey. Well, going on a 9-0-1 will definitely help you get there.

But they aren't safe yet. Despite all the good that they have accomplished over the last few weeks, it still can all be undone in just a few games. The playoff race is just as tight as ever, and the Stars cannot afford to take their foot off the gas right now.

While the same number of teams are jumbled up and all fighting for just 3 playoff spots, the good news is that the Stars have managed to scrap their way to the top of that pile. And boy is it so much more fun being on top and forcing the other teams to keep up with us. It's a refreshing change of pace, and I'm really hoping that it continues.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at how much closer the Stars are to the ultimate goal this season: making the playoffs for the first time in years. Take a look at all the numbers, both good and bad, after the jump.

As always, If you haven't read up on what the magic number is, or you would like a quick refresher, you can read my original post here.

If you'll recall on last week's post, the Magic Number for making the playoffs was 31, with the Stars being able to earn a possible 32 points (if they won the remainder of their games). While that was good news compared to where they were before the winning streak began, it did not provide a lot of breathing room. Just one regulation loss, and the Stars would once again be relying on help from other teams in order to get back into the playoff picture. Now, though, the standings are thus:

Conf_standings_medium

The ranking in parentheses is where the teams were in last weeks Magic Number Standings. Over the last week, Dallas has managed to climb from 8th place to 5th. That means we now have 3 additional teams below us to give us a cushion for a playoff spot. Before, we were relying on the Kings, Avalanche, and Flames to continue their losing ways. After this week, we can officially add the Blackhawks, Coyotes, and the Sharks to that list. Like I said before, it's exciting to be at the top of a pile for a change. There's a lot less stress (at least for me)!

One thing that is interesting to me in these standings is San Jose. This is proof of how valuable those games in hand can be. Right now, the Sharks, according to the traditional NHL standings, are ranked 11th. Here, they are ranked 7th. That means that despite their terrible run of game lately, they haven't really lost any ground. Don't be fooled by those NHL standings -- those Sharks are still very much a threat to make the playoffs. Brandon Bibb had a great post about projections for all teams, and he's in agreement. They are a team to keep our collective eye on.

Columbus has also almost officially been eliminated from the playoffs. What a shocker. One more loss or a SJ, Cal, LA, or Col win, and they are done. A moment of silence for them, if you please.

But I don't please. In fact, I'd rather look at our magic number:

Conf_mn_medium

21 points to go, and we have 26 points to get there on our own. That means that if we were to finish 10-2-1 (!!!), we could secure a playoff spot regardless of what anyone else in the race is doing. Granted, that's not going to happen, but it's nice to say. That five point cushion is going to be very nice to have, too. We are finally at a point where, if we lose a game, it's not going to be the end of the world. That's great news for us, considering this winning streak won't last forever. A tough back to back this week, as well as a game against Chicago is going to be a tall order for this team. I hope we don't have to eat up this cushion that we built, but it is there should they need it.

If you Look at LA and Calgary in the standings, they are projected to finish with 90 points. In order to finish ahead of them, we need to get 91. That's 10 more points on our own. A 5-8 record. That is something that can easily (I hope) be done. Realistically, I would expect that number to tick upwards a bit more, though. I think a 6-6-1 record , netting us 94 points, would be ideal.

We saw a 10 point decrease in the magic number this week. That was phenomenal. The Kings and Flames both had miserable weeks, and gave us a ton of help. But I wouldn't expect that run of luck to continue. If the magic number is below 15 or 14 next week, I will be pleasantly surprised. But the Kings and Flames are both on the edge right now, and they now that if they don't win most of their remaining games, they will be golfing in 4 more weeks. We face Calgary two more times before the season is out. Circle those on your calendar. Those games are going to be vital for both teams.

Now, on to the Divisional race. Last week, the magic number was 34, which meant that we had no control over our own destiny for winning the division. That is not the case anymore. The win against San Jose played a huge part in that, as well as the Sharks continuing their losing ways. here's the rankings and the magic number as of Sunday night:

Div_standings_medium

Div_mn_medium

Just like in the conference playoff race, we saw a 10 point decrease in the magic number. We can now lose one game, and still maintain control of our own destiny. Also, if you'll notice, even though the Sharks are 11th in the conference, they are second in the division race. Just a few wins, and they can essentially jump from 11th to 3rd in the standings. This race is still extremely tight. If we can manage to win the remaining games against the Yotes and Sharks, we can build a huge lead between those teams. Those are some big four point games coming up soon.

All in all, it was a successful week for the Stars. They've climbed their way up the standings, gained a lot of confidence, and earned the spot they're in now. The race is still incredibly close though. They need to continue their winning ways this week, especially against the Wild and the Hawks. I think if they earn another 4 out of 6 possible points this week, they will maintain that cushion, and be that much closer to the playoffs. There's still a long way to go in this race, so let's keep taking it one step at a time.

13 games remain. 4 weeks to go. Sit down, buckle up, and enjoy the ride!

[UPDATE]

Just for fun (or torture) I went back and looked at the standings through 69 games played last year. Despite a couple of teams flipping between the top and the bottom of the rankings, there are a lot of similarities between where we were then, and where we are now. Take a look:

Prior_year_medium

The projected points are higher, but the 9th place points total is almost the same. We have earned 1 less point through 69 games than we did last year. Our magic number is also only 2 less than last year as well. (Though, maybe since we missed the playoffs last year by two points, that can be considered good news?) Anyways, my point is this: It is not time to guarantee a playoff spot yet. Things can change far too quickly in this conference, and if we shed tears of joy today, we may just be shedding tears of pain on April 7th. Luckily, though, this is a far different team than the one we had last year. We have more depth, we have multiple lines with scoring ability, and we have a system of play that works (As long as Ribs only take offensive zone draws, right Josh?). I'm not expecting the same collapse that happened last year. I'm also not trying to be a Debbie Downer with this update. Just issuing a bit of reason with the rest of the good news we've had over the last week. But still, in order to end this update on a high note, I would like to show you an old hockey commercial from the 90s. They really need to bring these back! I linked this in the last GDT, but I think it deserves a little more attention.

Full Contact BOWLING (via JaimeFair2)

[END UPDATE]

This is a user-created FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Defending Big D. FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable hockey and Dallas Stars fans.

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