The Dallas Stars' 2013 season schedule is 50% complete, and the team sits with 12 wins and 12 losses (12-10-2), good for 26 points and 10th place in the Western Conference Sunday.
Assessing the state of their little union at the halfway mark is difficult.
The narrow view of things out there Sunday afternoon is that the Stars needed a two-man advantage and a hall-of-fame NHL legend just to get one goal against a Coyote team that gave six to St. Louis the other night, and that Jamie Benn might be concussed.
Zooming out a little further you might observe that the Stars have been up and down, but have lost 6 of 11 games and are sliding a little in the standings.
Or if you want to look "bigger picture" than that, they're 9-5-1 in their last 15 games overall, which seems like a good pace, and they're finding the back of the net with regularity. That's a playoff pace.
Except they're not in playoff position. They're 10th, though their points percentage as this is typed is 8th best in the West.
In short, nothing has been sorted out halfway through this NHL season, save knowing that the Blackhawks and Ducks will be there at the end. The Oilers and the Blue Jackets at the other end of the spectrum cannot even be said to be "out" of it.
With just two points (TWO!) separating 3rd and 11th, no one can.
Columbus beat the Canucks the other night. In overtime, of course. Then they shut out the Red Wings. The Stars beat the defending champs at Staples Center. The Avalanche beat the Blackhawks. The San Jose Sharks have been to overtime or a shootout in four of their last six games, absolutely littering the conference with points.
Vancouver is two points ahead of the Stars because a two-game overtime loss streak.
So in that fashion the entire group stumbles forward together in a tightly bound bunch.
There are encouraging signs for Stars fans at the halfway mark. Erik Cole's game fits right in with what Joe Nieuwendyk would seemingly like this team to do. The younger players, though they had a rough game last night as a group, are continuing to contribute. Kari Lehtonen rounded back into form quickly after the injury. The power play is clicking. Ray Whitney is nearing his return.
The goal differential sits at even today through 24 games, and they have a winning record on the road. The defensive coverage issues have been masked somewhat of late due to a pretty high powered offense in February and March.
Yet for all of it, the Stars are no better, and perhaps no worse than most others in the conference, despite having the fourth most ROW wins (11). That may count for something down the line, but only if they accumulate some points in other ways along the path as well.
Specifically, they're not losing the right way again.
That's a dumb thing to type, but the NHL's point system necessitates it. The Stars had the same number of wins last season as the Los Angeles Kings. One team missed the playoffs and the other won the Stanley Cup. Wins and losses don't determine fates in a black and white way as in every other major team sport on this continent.
The Sharks, Canucks, Predators, Ducks, Blackhawks, and Coyotes have lasted to between five and seven shootouts already this season. The Stars have been to one, and have just two OTL points, tying them for the fewest in the conference.
Still, they have only four multi-goal losses on the year. They're keeping games close. Just not close enough? We'll know shortly - April 27th is coming quickly.
All a Stars fan can do at the halfway mark is take solace in the fact that there are 12 other fan-bases in the West feeling the same heat and confusion.
As long as the Stars continue to inch their way forward with the pack they buy themselves time to go on a run that will propel them into relative safety. With the way this season is going even just a four-game win streak might be enough, coupled with at least relatively mediocre play down the stretch.
That's not much of a battle cry, but it's life in the post-lockout shortened season.
First things first though, as we hold our collective breath for Jamie Benn's noggin.