From an emotional standpoint, we know how much yesterday's loss to the Kings was. It felt like a gut punch in some ways while in others, it felt like a deserved result when you consider how much the Stars meandered through the first 35 minutes before waking up.
And from a playoff positioning standpoint, it was also costly. Dallas had a chance to pull within two points of the division leading Sharks with an opportunity to possibly tie them depending on Monday night's Sharks-Blackhawks game in Chicago, which you'll be able to see on Versus, BTW.
Instead, Michael Handzus erased that possibility with his game winner with 20 seconds left. And in the process, the Kings leapfrogged the Starsf for the 4th seed, dropping Dallas into a tie with Chicago for 6th. The Stars do hold the tiebreaker, but by only one point in the season series with Chicago.
And as we've learned throughout the year, it doesn't take much of a slide to go from being in the playoffs with a salty seed to being on the outside looking in.
After the jump, an updated look at the standings and projected cut line.
From a strength of schedule standpoint, the Flames have the easiest schedule as they play Northwest Division rivals Edmonton and Colorado twice and the St. Louis Blues once.
Next easiest? Probably Phoenix. The Coyotes have single games left against Columbus, St. Louis, Colorado, and Edmonton. Then again, they do play Vancouver once more this season and have three games against division leading San Jose.
Speaking of the Sharks, they have one of the most interesting schedules from the standpoint they're already finished with Vancouver and Detroit in the regular season. They're also finished with the bottom feeders in the West, Colorado and Edmonton. In fact, all but one of their remaining games (against St. Louis) are against current playoff contenders. That is, if you haven't written off the Minnesota Wild yet.
Idle thought while working on this: Remember when the Blues were so dominant at home that they were the last NHL team to a lose a home game in regulation this season?
This late into the season, the schedule is normally balanced for everyone. That is, there isn't a great disparity between home games and road games left on the schedule.
That's not the case for the Nashville Predators, who have played such a road heavy schedule up to this point that they'll play 10 of their final 13 games within the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena where they've lost an NHL low seven games in regulation this year (17-7-7).
Now why do I point all this out? Simple. Because the Stars don't seem to have many "easy" games the rest of the way. Sure, two of their remaining tilts are against Colorado. But the Stars have struggled against the Avs in the last two years. Especially at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Now here's the good news as far I see it.
Minnesota's already without Cal Clutterbuck and Mikko Koivu. And they found out that Guillaume Latendresse, who just came back from missing four and a half months with abdominal issues before leaving during the second period of their game against Dallas on Friday, is going back on the shelf.
And Anaheim may not be long for this playoff race with Dan Ellis and Ray Emery backstopping them. Ellis got pulled against Phoenix last night when he surrendered four goals through the first two periods.
With all those home games coming up for Nashville, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if the rockey past the Flames, who are at a bit of a disadvantage having played as many as two more games than most of the teams they are fighting with.
Drop those two teams and this becomes a nine horse race for eight spots. And the Stars, despite yesterday's loss, still control their own destiny. Play .500 hockey and they probably get in.
And In case you're wondering, the Pittsburgh Penguins officially ended any hopes the Oilers had on the playoffs with a 5-1 win last night. And Colorado's not far behind as their magic number for elimination is 9.