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Stars Lead in the Pacific Slim But Steady as Halfway Mark Approaches

You know who when you're at the grocery store, waiting in line to check out, and some lady walks right up behind you and very nearly crawls right into your "backside", as if standing TWO FEET closer to you is somehow going to move her through the line any faster? (Seriously, don't be that person. Give me some space)

That's what the Pacific Division and Western Conference standings feel like these days.

Dallas was 20 minutes away from losing this points % lead in the Pacific when the cavalry finally arrived and gave Kari Lehtonen some well earned goal support, thus the Stars hold on to the top spot and will have at least 50 points when the halfway mark is reached Wednesday night.

GP Record Points % Points 5on5 GF/GA
DAL 40 23-13-4 .625 50 1.12
SJS 39 12-13-5 .603 47 0.99
LAK 38 22-15-1 .592 45 1.16
PHX 38 17-13-8 .553 42 1.01
ANA 42 21-17-4 .548 46 0.89

A curious thing has happened in the last month since we've talked about this: The projected cut line for the playoffs in the West has moved, and not insignificantly. 97 points looked like the pace just a few weeks ago but the extreme parity in the conference and the inability to separate top and bottom from the middle has driven the projection down, at least today, to near 94 points.

(Colorado's .577 points percentage being the 8th best in the West, the math points to about 95 points.) Sport Club Stats agrees, saying the Stars would very, very likely make the post-season with 95 points. That line will move as we go along, but it's interesting to watch the slug fest in the West push the line this way and that.

I included 5 on 5 goals for to goals against ratio in the table because I think it's an "OK" indication of who the good teams are. Perhaps we're far enough into the season now that we don't need anything other than points percentage to tell us who's good and who's not, but the closeness of the standings demands deeper insight. The Kings two games in hand on the Stars, their record against the Stars, and their stronger 5 on 5 play make me think, personally, that Los Angeles will win the division when it's all said and done, but I'd certainly like to be wrong.

Anaheim is only 4 points back but Jonas Hiller is almost single handedly keeping them in it. Phoenix is in a rough stretch right now and a strong wind could blow them over if January doesn't go well. We'd like to think that someone will just "go away!" but they probably won't. It's going to be a bitter battle to the end.

The Stars are in good position to afford themselves stumbles like last week, but it's time to put some more money in the bank for the next rainy day, starting with Chicago and the Rangers this week.

50 points is nice but 45-47 more are needed, meaning the second half needs to be just as good as the first.