Last season the Dallas Stars saw their seven game home stand mid to late March as a tremendous opportunity to bolster their playoff standing after a very productive Western road swing. It ended with them having lost five of the seven contests (2-2-3). They fell from 5th place to 9th place in the process, and you know what happened next.
The season before that the Stars had a lengthy six game home stand in mid March. They were looking to use it to catapult themselves closer to the playoff picture, starting it in 10th place. They dropped four of six (2-2-2) and moved down to 13th place. You know what happened next.
The season before that they had a stretch of 11 of 14 games at home straddling February and March. They started that one off in...You get the idea. It was disastrous as well.
Long home stands haven't been this team's cup of proverbial tea in quite some time, which is why I, for one, was pleased when this schedule came out last June and revealed few of any real length. They have a critical four-gamer coming up here, however, against Chicago, Phoenix, Vancouver and Calgary. Their only other four game home stand this season (November - SJS, EDM, LAK, TOR) ended 2-1-1. That would be just perfect this time as well.
This time it's different. This time the Stars don't desperately need to utilize a stretch of perceived advantageous circumstances to propel themselves to where they want to be. This time they're already where they want to be. This time they just have to keep themselves there.
The fact that they're having their best season on the road in four years helps take the pressure off a little too...
Continued after the jump. And our jump is free.
The Stars boast a 19-15-2 record on the road this season. Only Vancouver has more victories away from home right now with 22. The 10-0-1 streak included six straight victories on the road, until the second half of the back to back broke that streak last night. Since the All-Star break the team is 8-3-2 away from AAC (.692).
With five additional road games remaining (@Caglary, @Edmonton, @Vancouver, @San Jose (back to back) and @ Nashville) the Stars have a chance to tie their best road record in five seasons.
(Your eyes aren't deceiving you. They had the exact same record on the road in the 06-07 and 07-08 seasons.)
The road success takes the pressure of their yearly March home stand. They don't need to sweep it to keep themselves where they want to be, though points in three of four would go a long way toward really shoring things up before finishing with five of seven on the road.
The Home Stand:
1.) Chicago - The Hawks are 4-1-1 in March and sit just a single point ahead of Dallas. They have a favorable schedule moving forward and are confident right now, even without Toews. If Dallas is to keep the 6 seed as a possibility, not just the 7th and 8th seeds to along with the division winner, they need to win this one. Toews will not travel with the team and Hjalmarsson is questionable, but they've been winning despite injury concerns.
2.) Phoenix - If you could pick one to make sure you have, this is it. The old "four point game". The Coyotes came into the AAC on February 7th and handled Dallas easily 4-1. A second loss to them on home ice down the stretch would be pointed at frequently later, if things don't work out the right way on April 8th. Say what you will about it perhaps being better for Dallas to start on the road in the (potential) playoffs - The standings are a lot more fun to look at when the Stars are in 3rd rather than 7th, 8th, or 9th. Big, big game.
3.) Vancouver - The Canucks let the Coyotes walk into their building last night and take the full two points. They're sputtering a bit but they'll have three games before this one to get their ship righted. They'll play in Chicago the night before this one, so if fatigue affects them it could benefit the Stars. Though Dallas has had a rough time taking advantage of teams playing on the second night of their back to back.
4.) Calgary - The Flames, like Colorado, like Phoenix, like Los Angeles - are charging. They've won four in a row and sit two points out of a playoff spot. They have five games between now and this matinee (it's a 1:00 start for some reason) so their mindset coming in could be anything. They have the Wild, the Blue Jackets and the Oilers, so I'm betting they will still be in the hunt. This one could be just as big as the Phoenix game by the time we get there.