When last we examined the Western Conference playoff race, the Stars were a pair of points behind Detroit with a weekend set of back-to-back's against the Predators and Sharks still on the horizon. I suggested at the time of that writing that anything less than picking up 3 points out of these games would constitute fool's gold.
Well, the weekend set has come and gone and for the first time this season, the Stars swept both ends of a back-to-back. That's the first time since last season that the Stars have accomplished this feat.
And when you factor in Detroit's back-to-back shootout losses at home against San Jose and on the road at Chicago? Well, it means the Stars are officially in the 8th and final playoff spot by virtue of holding the tiebreaker over Detroit (ROW) and Columbus (one game in hand).
But can they stay there?
Last week, I pointed out that Dallas' remaining schedule was significantly tougher. Today, I decided to also look at the schedules of St. Louis, Minnesota, Columbus, and Detroit.
A dangerous road to the playoffs, indeed. But probably not as bad as the Road of Death in Bolivia or the road from Jalabad to Kabul in Afghanistan. I'd say this draws parallels to the Zoji Pass in India.
But I digress.
Anyway, the W-T-OTL-Pts are the combined totals for remaining opponents on each team's schedule. If you want an idea just how much tougher the Stars schedule is compared to the team they're chasing for the 8th seed, just look at the difference in cumulative points. The teams left on the Stars' schedule have accumulated 95 more points that the teams left on Detroit's schedule.
The biggest reason for the descrepancy in the Stars' strength of schedule and the SoS of all the other teams is that the Stars no longer have any games remaining against teams that are out of the playoff race while everyone else has at least one so-called "freebie" against the likes of Colorado, Edmonton, Calgary, or Nashville.
Now before I go any further, let's review the NHL tiebreaking procedures per the official NHL.com website:
- The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).
- The greater number of games won, excluding games won in the Shootout. This figure is reflected in the ROW column.
- The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.
- The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season. NOTE: In standings a victory in a shootout counts as one goal for, while a shootout loss counts as one goal against.
For all intents and purposes, you can skip step 1 since all teams finish the season with 48 games played. We also know what ROW pertains to. Where I want to draw everybody's attention to is the third tiebreaker.
In seasons' past, the exception to the rule in this tiebreaker never applied because everybody played their conference opponents an equal number of games both home and away. The only time there was an odd number of games in a season series involved games against the Eastern Conference when you played an opponent once per season and that was it. And I don't recall an instance where home ice in the Stanley Cup Final ever came down to this tiebreaker.
This season, it could very much come into play due to the fact that every season series with an opponent outside of the division as well as two series within the division involve an odd number of games. For the Stars, this could have some interesting ramifications, depending on who the potential third tiebreaker could be applied against.
And as the bold part of the tiebreaker indicates, the first game played in the city that had the extra home game shall not be included. What this means for Dallas is the following games won't be factored into the tiebreaker against the following opponents should it get this far:
|Jan 26||L||vs||St. Louis|
The good news for the Stars on this front is they still hold a 19-18 lead over Detroit in ROW. And if there is a two point deficit to Detroit, they would need to win in regulation to at least catch them. And doing so would render the 3rd tiebreaker moot, sending the Stars and Red Wings to a theoretical tiebreaker on goal differential.
But that's neither here nor there. The Stars still have 6 very important games to play between now and April 27th. And as of this writing, they're the only non-playoff team that controls their destiny. In fact, even if they lose in regulation to Chicago tonight, they'll still be in control of their fate.
I'll leave you with the magic/death numbers for all the teams in the Western Conference as well as the predicted number of points needed to get a particular seed. Keep in mind, the cut line is currently projected to be 54 points: