Last season, the Stars finished the first half of the season with a dud thanks to a 5-2 loss in Anaheim to the Ducks on January 10th, 2012. This defeat left the Stars with a 23-17-1 mark, which was good for 47 points and 9th place in the Western Conference.
Unlike this season where Anaheim is running away with the Pacific and now threatening the suddenly mortal Chicago Blackhawks for first place, the top spot in the Pacific was well within the Stars sights with just a four point deficit to the San Jose Sharks.
This season, Anaheim's 39 points have given the Ducks a double digit lead on every other team in the Pacific. That's the bad news if you're a Stars fan.
The good news is just as last season, they're still very much in the playoff hunt...
2011-12: 1.15 points per game
2013: 1.08 points per game
A deficit of 0.07 from one season to the next may not seem like much. That is, until you consider that a 1.08 points per game pace would only allow the Stars to top out at 89 points (88.56, actually.)
As we all know, the Kings grabbed the 8th and final playoff spot in the West with 95 points, or 1.156 points per game. The good news for the Stars is that since Chicago and Anaheim are running away with the top 2 spots in the West this year, the cut line has actually gone down to a point that a point pace of 1.12 points per game, or 54 points, would currently get a team into the playoffs.
And since 26 multiplied by 2 is 52, well...it's not hard to do the math to figure out that barring an utter collapse, the Stars have a fighting chance to grab a playoff spot at the end.
2011-12 ESGF/60: 2.669
2013 ESGF: 2.851
It's amazing what more balanced goal scoring will do for a team. Last year, the Stars were heavily dependent on Michael Ryder, Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro to score even strength goals.
Yes, Eric Nystrom did end up being amongst the Stars leaders in even strength goals scored last season with 16. But 12 of his goals were scored in the first half of the season. In the second half, he scored four goals in the first 21 games of the second half before going goal-less in the final 20.
All told last season, the Stars had a total of five players hit double digits in even strength goals. This season, eight Stars would be on pace to hit double digits in goal scoring IF they were playing a normal 82 game schedule.
Just like Nystrom last season, I don't know that we can expect Antoine Roussel to keep up the scoring pace he's set. But I'm sure a more detailed analysis on this specific point would prove just how balanced the scoring has been versus last season.
2011-12 ESGA/60: 2.639
2013 ESGA/60: 2.645
I have a feeling that if you told Glen Gulutzan and Joe Nieuwendyk that this stat would basically be the same this year as it was last year, they would have gladly taken it knowing that so many rookies would be assimilated into the defense corps this season.
I suppose there's still time for things to go south on this front as 24 games is still a rather small sample size. But there's probably as good a chance that this number will steadily improve as the season wears on. Brenden Dillon's been a nice surprise all first half long. And Jordie Benn and Jamie Oleksiak may have started to figure a few things out at this level that they weren't figuring out earlier in the season.
And the Stars have made great strides in the last 15 games when it comes to limiting the amount of lopsided negative CORSI and Fenwick games that had plagued them early on.
2011-12 PPGF/60: 4.901
2013 PPGF/60: 7.032
Before I start my analysis on this point...yes. Small sample size. In fact, special teams' sample sizes, especially in a 24 stretch, can be misleading.
Still, the Stars power play last season had only scored 19 goals through their first 41 games last season. This season, they've scored 17 through 24. It is worth pointing out that Dallas has benefited from more power play time this season than last season through the midway point (6:03 vs 5:40 per game).
2011-12 SHGA/60: 6.285
2013 SHGA/60: 5.825
Just for clarification sake, SHGA means any goal that the Stars surrender while they are shorthanded.
And this season, the Stars have been shorthanded by an extra 49 seconds per game over the midway point of last season. To be exact, the average amount of time per game the Stars have spent killing off a penalty is 6:52.
And this is after the Stars jettisoned Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott.
Now, I know what you all are thinking. Reducing the GA while shorthanded from 6.285 down to 5.825 is a good thing, right? Well, in a sense I suppose it is.
On the other hand, the Stars have surrendered a total of 16 goals against while shorthanded. That puts the Stars on pace to surrender 54 goals in an 82 game season. Last season, they surrendered 41.
And if I had to pinpoint one area that's still holding the Stars back, it's this area.
Now from a trend analysis standpoint, the Stars have done a much better job recently staying out of the penalty box. Through their first 19 games, the Stars spent 5:00 or more shorthanded 17 times. In their last five games, they've cut that mark down to just the home game against Edmonton 10 days ago. And in their last three games, they've taken a grand total of four minors.
2011-12: 21 home games / 20 road games at the halfway mark
2013: 10 home games / 14 road games at the halfway mark
Which obviously means the Stars will spend more time in the second half at home.
Unfortunately, they really haven't been a dominant team on AAC ice this year. Their record at home is a pedestrian 5-4-1. What's more, they've played a grand total of two games against the Blackhawks and Ducks in the first half. That number will triple in the second half of the season.
That having been said, Dallas was the first team to take away points in a contest against the Hawks back on January 24th when they blew a 2-0 second period lead, but were able to hang on to get to OT before Marian Hossa won the game in the extra session. And the Stars are one of only three teams to hand the Ducks a regulation loss.
The success the Stars have had against these two teams has helped cover up the warts from three losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames.
I'm not sure the Stars can count on the same level of success in the second half against those teams. And if Dallas regresses back to the mean in games against these two Western Conference powers, it'll behoove the Stars even more to make sure they win the games they're supposed to win in the second half.