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Playoff Race Update: Dallas Stars Face Dwindling Odds

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And it all looked so promising when an early goal from T.J. Oshie put the Blues up 1-0 just 17 seconds in at the United Center. Oshie followed that up with another early period goal in the second to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead.

Then the Chicago Blackhawks got the benefit of a very controversial Marian Hossa goal and they were off and running. Sure, Chris Stewart made things a little interesting by tying the game midway through the third period and sending it to overtime.

But Jonthan Towes, who was in the penalty box the night before in Montreal when the Hawks were victimized by a very iffy tripping call in the OT that led to the power play on which P.K. Subban cashed in, snuck behind the Blues defense, took a pass at their blue line, skated in, and found a lot of net to shoot at on Ty Conklin's short side.

And he didn't miss, giving the Blackhawks a much needed 4-3 OT win and a four point lead over Dallas with a home and home against Detroit remaining. Oh yeah, that goal also eliminated Calgary from the playoff race.

The rest of the night didn't go according to plan either down in Southern California. San Jose gave Antti Niemi the night off and the rest of the team decided they could take the night off as well as the Anaheim Ducks blitzed the Sharks, 6-2.

Then the Phoenix Coyotes couldn't hold onto a 2-1 second period lead, went to OT, and then the shootout where the Los Angeles Kings prevailed.

So as it stands now, the Canucks, Red Wings, Sharks, and Kings have clinched playoff spots. Calgary, as I mentioned, is officially out, leaving the Stars as the only team on the outside looking in with a chance.

Five teams fighting for four spots.

And there's more beyond the jump.

First thing's first, Chicago's OT win dropped the Hawks magic number own to 3. That's the combination of points needed by Chicago and points dropped by Dallas to officially clinch a playoff spot for the Hawks. If you're a pessimist, what that simply means is the earliest the Stars can be eliminated is Friday, assuming a Stars regulation loss to Colorado and any kind of a point picked up by Chicago at Detroit.

The magic number for the Predators and Coyotesis at one point. If any of those three teams so much as pick up a point in their remaining two games, or Dallas drops a point in their remaining three games, they'll clinch a playoff spot. Anaheim's magic number is now two after hammering the Sharks, 6-2. Any kind of a win in any of their remaining two games against Los Angeles or a regulation loss by Dallas will clinch a playoff berth for them.

And if that happens, it'll mark the first time in NHL history that both Southern California teams will make the playoffs in the same season.

Nashville Predators

As amazing as their run of late has been, I'm a little surprised they haven't officially wrapped up a spot just yet. They sit at 97 points, which is the point total that Dallas can max out at.

But they only have a ROW of 37. If they somehow lose at home to Columbus and on the road at St. Louis, Dallas can surpass it by winning their final three games and ensuring none of those wins comes via the shootout and winning the tiebreak. Otherwise, they'll tie in ROW, and because they split the season series at four points apiece, the tiebreak would go to goal differential.

Right now, Nashville holds a commanding edge with a +24 to Dallas' -7.

Phoenix Coyotes

I know Puck Daddy linked to a Kings' blogger that was getting more than a little nervous at the prospect of a late season collapse. LA averted that possibility by getting the full two points from their contest against Phoenix.

And on paper, it would appear that Coyote fans shouldn't have the same worries going into this final weekend of hockey as that aforementioned LA blogger did.

That is, until you consider that the Coyotes haven't beaten the Sharks yet in four previous meetings. Add to that the fact that the Sharks getting drilled by the Ducks will have them more than a little motivated to get back on track against Phoenix heading into the playoffs.

As of now, the Coyotes hold a 37-35 edge in ROW over Dallas. That deficit can be eliminated with three straight Dallas wins in either regulation or overtime coupled with two Coyote defeats in regulation.

Otherwise, Dallas ties in ROW and loses the tiebreaker on points earned in head to head meetings (Dallas picked up six points while Phoenix picked up eight)

Anaheim Ducks

As mentioned on Monday, Anaheim already has 41 wins in regulation or overtime. And Dallas can only top out at 38. So if Anaheim hits 97 points, they'll clinch a playoff spot.

Therefore, Dallas has to hope that the Kings, who still have a great chance of getting home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, sweeps the home and home series this weekend with at least one win coming in regulation.

Chicago Blackhawks

Again, for newcomers to Defending Big D, I blog about the Stars. They're my favorite team.

But they're not one of the teams I grew up idolizing. No, that would be the New York Islanders and the Chicago Blackhawks.

I remarked in the scoreboard watching thread that it felt very weird once the Blues went up 2-0. I should have been ecstatic the moment Oshie scored that goal.

But I wasn't. I didn't really feel...anything. And the growing possibility that it'll take a collapse by the Hawks for the Stars to even have a chance to get into the playoffs just hasn't sunk in for me yet. Not completely anyway.

Like the Ducks and Coyotes, the Blackhawks will finish the season with a home and home against a divisional rival. Unlike what the Stars will be asking of the Kings and Sharks, the Stars do not need Detroit to win both games to give Dallas control of their own destiny back.

At least not yet. A pair of OT or shootout wins this weekend coupled with Dallas running the table would do the trick, just as long as two of Dallas' wins come via the regulation win or shootout win variety. Right now, Chicago holds the edge in ROW with 37 wins to Dallas' 35.

And as I pointed out on Monday, Dallas won the season series against Chicago (6 points to 3 points). They don't need to beat the Hawks in ROW. They just need to tie them to trigger the season series tiebreaker.

That's the good news.

The bad news is Detroit may have to face this final weekend of the regular season without one of it's big guns in Henrik Zetterberg, who left Detroit's contest against Carolina in the first period.

And they've dropped three straight decisions to Chicago.

And you'll probably run out of whichever product you self medicate with to help you deal with the stress and anxiety of watching the Stars fight their way to the end of this mess.

Still, I'd much rather take this route as a fan than take the one we've dealt with the past two seasons where the end of the regular season simply meant playing out the string and playing for pride.

And the good news is as of this writing, you've got just over 18 hours to make sure you're fully stocked up with Rolaids. Or Beer.