2013 NHL Playoff Picture: Why The Dallas Stars Can And Can't Make The Postseason

Ronald Martinez

An impressive three game winning streak has playoff hopes back on the rise. But should Stars fans temper their enthusiasm for hockey in May this season?

The trades of Brenden Morrow, Jaromir Jagr, and Derek Roy in the last few weeks may have appeared to be signs by the front office that the team was giving up on this season and rebuilding towards next year. But a three game winning streak against Pacific Division rivals Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles have put the Stars right back in the playoff race.

So much so that they actually control their own destiny at this point. In fact, they're the only team on the outside looking in that controls their destiny,

That said, their chances of making the playoffs this morning stands at 22.1% according to Sports Club Stats. That said, those chances stood at 12.6% yesterday.

Why They Can

Unlike season's past, the Stars have made quite a bit of hay within their own division picking up 18 out of a possible 30 points while only surrendering 14 points to their rivals. Especially against the likes of Los Angeles and San Jose, who the Stars will see three more times this year before closing out play against their current divisional rivals.

With Tuesday's 5-1 win over the Kings, the Stars won the season series over the defending Stanley Cup Champions. And unlike their previous two wins out in Los Angeles, Dallas didn't need to lean heavily on their netminding.

Against San Jose, Dallas has scored no less than three goals in their two meetings against the Sharks. They've also dominated San Jose in the third period of both their games having outscored them, 3-1 in the latter frame.

Why They Can't:

If there's been one achilles' heel for Dallas this season, it's been their play against the Central Division. Through 10 games, Dallas doesn't hold a season series point lead on any team in the Central only picking up 8 points while surrendering 15.

And 5 of their final 9 games against the Central Division starting with their next game Friday in Music City against a Nashville team that Dallas inexplicably allowed to rally and beat them in February. A month later, the Predators somehow shut the Stars out at the AAC.

Granted, this won't be the same team the Stars faced earlier in the season before Martin Erat begged for an exit out of town. But this will be far from an easy game for the Stars. Nor will their next two games against Central Division teams as Dallas still has visits left on the schedule to St. Louis and Chicago.

And even though the Canucks aren't anywhere near the Central, the Stars have one home game left to play against Northwest Division leading Vancouver before they close out their season series with them.

All told, the combined winning percentage of teams left on the Stars schedule is 0.528 while the point percentage is 0.599. Not to mention, Detroit appears to have an easier schedule down the stretch with a pair of games left against Nashville and one each against Calgary and Phoenix.

Bottom Line

As we all know, the Stars will close out this season 17 days from now at home against the team that currently sits two points ahead of them in the 8th seed, the Detroit Red Wings. Both teams have the same number of wins (19) and the same number of wins in regulation and overtime (17) and if both teams match each other point for point and non-shootout win for win, that finale on April 27th could be for the final playoff spot.

Obviously, a lot can happen between now and then as the Stars are tied with Columbus in points (Dallas holds a game in hand on the Blue Jackets) and sit just a point ahead of Phoenix (both teams have played 39 games).

To get into a possible 'win or go home' scenario, Dallas will likely have to pick up 10-12 points over the next 8 games. That's equivalent to going 5-3 or 6-2.

The problem with that line of thinking, however, is I'm not sure Dallas can afford to drop three games in regulation the rest of the way given Detroit's schedule. And you could argue that last week's trades took a lot of pressure off the Stars when it came to a playoff chase.

But now that the hopes are back up, so is the pressure. And this weekend presents a favorable slate for Dallas as they have a road game in Nashville and home against San Jose. If they can take care of business and pick up at least 3 points this weekend while hoping Detroit stumbles against either San Jose at home on Thursday and/or at Chicago on Friday, then it really is Game On as far as a playoff chase goes.

Otherwise...Fool's Gold and go ahead and look towards next year.

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