The biggest question I get asked about the Dallas Stars is "Is this a playoff team?" Through 28 games, I'm still not sure what my answer is. Some nights, absolutely yes. Other nights, you can see the defensive lapses and know that the team is still a few pieces away.
But dreaming about the playoffs is why I watch all 82 excruciatingly phenomenal games of the Stars' regular season. We're over a quarter of the way through this season, yet the answer to "Are they a playoff team?" is still elusive to me. A shake of the magic eight ball says check back later.
If the Dallas Stars hope to make the playoffs this year, they're facing some very stiff competition in the Western conference. The projected points needed to make the playoffs? 104 for the eighth seed based on projected points totals. If all things hold true to how they have been going so far this season, the standings would project out to have the Stars somewhere around a 10th seed in the West. (I took into consideration current teams' points percentages versus the Pacific, the Central and the East and projected out the points based on number of games played against each division/conference.)
How can the Stars take themselves from outside of the playoff picture to a spot in Lord Stanley's dance?
The answer is pretty obvious looking at the numbers above...Dallas needs to start making hay against their own division. The Stars have the second worst points percentage against the Central division in the conference (only Winnipeg is worse.) And while dominating the old Pacific division feels good -- who doesn't enjoy beating the Anaheim Ducks? -- the real crux to the Stars making the postseason lies in improving divisional play.
(Also -- that whole West dominating the East theme is quite apparent when you look at the points percentage the West is earning against the East. Twelve of the fourteen Western conference teams have a 60%+ points percentage versus the East.)
To get better against the division is easier said than done, however. One thing that is apparent when looking at the point production split of the Stars scorers is that, outside of the top line, there is not a whole lot in depth production in relation to the scoring that occurs against the Pacific and East.
Those nights where the Central division opponents are able to shut down the dynamic Tyler Seguin / Jamie Benn duo are those nights where the Stars look for, and struggle with getting, depth scoring -- and that translates into points lost. You can see that in games against the Pacific and against the East the scoring is a little more spread out. To earn more wins in the division, the Stars' bottom six really need to step up to shoulder the scoring burden.
Some other fun numbers for your lunchtime consumption:
- 1996 -- the last year Dallas had a rookie record a four-point night before Valeri Nichushkin did it last Saturday
- 45 -- number of points the Dallas Cowboys allowed the Chicago Bears to score on them en route to their win....can the Dallas Stars achieve a better fate against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight?
- 34 -- number of games left before the NHL trade deadline, 30 of which will come before the Olympic break
- 23 -- total goals scored in the first period, the least among the three periods in Stars games
- 12 -- the difference between home goals scored (33 in 12 games) and road goals scored (45 in 16 games played)
- 11 -- total power play goals scored by the Stars so far, tied for dead last with the Winnipeg Jets in the entire league
- 5 -- number of Eastern teams with winning records versus the West, as compared to the West's 12 teams with winning records versus the East
- 3 -- shorthanded goals scored through 28 games, all surprisingly scored at home (in lockout shortened 48 game season last year, Dallas scored two in the entire season)
- 1 -- total number of power play goals at home through 12 games. That's a pace of only about 3.5 power play goals at home for the year. It can only go up from here, right....?
- 0 -- the number of games the Stars have been clean-sheeted this season (it happened five times last year, including the last game of the season)