DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 29: Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars makes a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins at American Airlines Center on February 29, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
In the strange world of the NHL, it's worth pointing out that this year's version of the Stars is overall actually performing worse than last year's version did through this point in the season.
Back on March 4, 2011, Dallas was licking it's wounds after blowing a third period lead in Anaheim en route to a 4-3 OT loss thanks to Teemu Selanne and noted perennial Stars killer, Lubomir Vishnovsky.
Still, that left Dallas with 75 points through 64 games. That's the same point total the Stars are at, but with two additional games played.
Yet, the Stars are in better playoff position than they were last year, when that OT loss left them in a three way tie for 8th with Anaheim and Nashville.
I'll delve into why the situations are so different after the jump.
Starting last season, the NHL revamped their tie breaking procedures so that shootout wins would have less of an impact on the standings. Sure, a team can still get the same number of points eeking out a shootout win as they could by winning in regulation. And that still bugs me as somewhat of a hockey traditionalist.
But it's better than what it used be before the 2010-11 season. Now, the only wins that factor into a tiebreak are regulation and overtime wins. The good news for Stars fans is if it comes down to a tiebreak, Dallas is well positioned amongst their playoff competing brethren.
As you can see, Dallas has outpaced most of the playoff competitors around them with 30 Regulation/Overtime Wins. Their closest pursuer in this department is Phoenix with 28 with San Jose and Colorado right behind them with 27 and LA with 26. Obviously last night's 3-2 shootout win at Calgary didn't quite help them in this department.
But at the moment, it's a trump card that may come in handy down the road. For now, the Stars just need to worry about getting points any way they can with LA breathing down their necks and Chicago bouncing back to win three in a row to stay four points ahead them in 6th.
Now about the point I brought up in the opening about why the Stars are in better playoff position this year than last year...
Last season, there was an 11 point gap between the 2nd seeded San Jose Sharks, who finished with 105 points, and the 10th seeded Calgary Flames, who finished with 94 points. Obviously, Dallas finished with 95 points and outside the playoffs since they lost on the final day of the regular season to Minnesota.
This year, they're projected to finish with two fewer points but in the playoffs assuming all the Western Conference teams stay on their current pace for points. Not to mention, only three teams in the West eclipsed the century mark in points.
This year, the Canucks, Red Wings, Blues, and Predators are all on pace to finish with more than 100 points. And since Detroit, St. Louis, and Nashville are all in the Central, that almost guarantees that whoever amongst this trio that doesn't win the division with square off in the 4-5 first round matchup when the playoffs begin in a little over a month.
Obviously, the top half of the West is still strong, even if Vancouver is currently on pace to drop five points off last season's blistering pace. Where this season differs the most in the West is that there's a significant dropoff from the 4th best record to the 5th best. As it stands now, that gap is projected to be 8 points.
Right now, Phoenix has the 5th best record in the West and would project out to winning the Pacific with 95 points. Which is the same point total that Dallas missed the playoffs with last season. I don't know that any stat shows just how far off the pace the middle to lower seeds have fallen off from last year than this stat.
Last year the cut fell at 97 points. This year, the cut figures to fall somewhere around 93-94 points.
And in case you're wondering about how many points each team in the West is projected to need in order to clinch a particular seed (as well as how the Stars have fared against their playoff competition brethren and how many head to head matchups they have left against them)...
|Rank||Team||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||5th||6th||7th||8th||GmsPlayed||GmsRemain||W||L||OTL||Stars pts||Opp Pts||StarsPtPct||OppPtPct|
And a special message for those who still think the Ducks can make the playoffs. Even with an expected lower cut from last year, Anaheim would still need to pick up 28 out of a possible 32 remaining points just to tie. And their ROW isn't looking too good when compared to the rest of the conference.