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Dallas Stars Path to the Playoffs: Breaking Down the Tiebreakers

This might give us all an ice cream headache. But today, I'll tackle the Western Conference playoff possibilities including all tiebreakers.

Ronald Martinez

Amazingly with six days left in the regular season, the Stars and the Red Wings, all control their destiny. And if Detroit beats Phoenix tonight and Los Angeles on Wednesday, and the Stars beat San Jose on Tuesday, this would effectively set up a "mini-playoff" for Dallas since they finish up the season with home games against Columbus and Detroit.

I stated earlier that Columbus controls their own destiny. But as Starzenheimer Schmidt pointed out, Columbus can only top out at 55 points. If Detroit wins out, they'll pass them outright.

And not to be forgotten in all this is Phoenix, which sits just two points behind both Detroit and Dallas with a game in hand (and a game against the Red Wings tonight). Unlike Columbus, Dallas, and Detroit, they do not control their own destiny.

So with so many teams still in it, it's time to discuss tiebreakers.

ROW Tiebreaker

  • Dallas has clinched the ROW tiebreaker over Columbus (20-17) as the Blue Jackets can only top out at 19 wins with just two games remaining.
  • Dallas has also clinched the ROW tiebreaker over Phoenix (20-15) as the Coyotes can only top out at 19 wins with four games remaining.
  • Dallas leads Detroit on ROW (20-18), but the Red Wings have a game in hand. Detroit could top out at 21 if they win their next three games against Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Nashville in regulation or overtime. If that happens and the Stars beat San Jose and Columbus in a shootout, Detroit would enter Saturday night's game against Dallas with a one game lead on ROW (21-20) and Dallas would have to beat Detroit in regulation to tie them in points and tie them in ROW. If Dallas beats either San Jose or Columbus in regulation or OT, they'd enter Saturday's game tied in ROW and would clinch it with a regulation win over Detroit.
  • Detroit leads Columbus on the ROW tiebreaker (18-17). The Red Wings can clinch with another regulation/OT win, a Blue Jackets' loss, or a Blue Jackets shootout win.
  • Detroit also leads Phoenix on the ROW tiebreaker (18-15). Detroit can clinch this tiebreaker, as well as effectively eliminate the Coyotes from any playoff possibilities, with a win on Monday night over Phoenix. The Coyotes have a game in hand on the Red Wings.
  • Columbus leads Phoenix on ROW (17-15). However, Phoenix has two games in hand on the Blue Jackets.

Head-to-Head tiebreaker

This tiebreaker would not come into play in any tiebreaking scenario involving Dallas and Columbus or Dallas and Phoenix since Dallas has already clinched the first tiebreaker over both teams.

The only way for the 2nd tiebreaker to come into play would be if Detroit wins 3 straight in regulation or overtime and Dallas beats San Jose and Columbus in a shootout. That would put Detroit in the lead on ROW, 21-20.

And even though Dallas beat Detroit, 2-1, in their first meeting of the year back on January 22nd at the Joe, for the purposes of this tiebreaker, that game doesn't get factored in because it was the first meeting of the year for both teams and Detroit has the extra home game in the season series.

As such, Detroit technically leads this tiebreaker 2 points to none by virtue of their 4-1 win back on January 29th. So Dallas would have to beat Detroit in regulation to tie them on this tiebreaker.

As a side note, had the 2nd tiebreaker come into play with Dallas and Columbus, the Blue Jackets' 2-1 win back on January 28th would've been thrown out as well since Columbus has the extra home game in the season series.

Phoenix had the extra home game in their season series with Detroit. The Red Wings' 3-2 win in Phoenix on March 25th gets thrown out. Phoenix' 4-2 home win on April 4th gets included, so they currently lead this tiebreaker (2 points vs none). With a win tonight, they would clinch the 2nd tiebreaker.

Goal Differential

And here's where it gets really interesting.

As of now, Detroit leads in this category by three goals. And you might be surprised to learn that Detroit actually has a negative goal differential on the season. Still, they do lead Dallas in this category by 3 goals (-3 to -6). Assuming Detroit wins in the next three games by one goal each and Dallas is forced to go to the shootout to beat San Jose and Columbus, this means Dallas would have to beat Detroit by four goals to make up the difference.

And if they did, that mean Dallas and Detroit would be tied in points (54), tied on ROW (21) tied in head to head (2 points each) and tied on goal differential.

Obviously, a lot can happen between now and then. And we'll get a better idea of what Dallas needs to do after tonight's game between Detroit and Phoenix.

Needless to say, it's hard to see Columbus finishing the year with anything less than 53 points since their finale is at home against Nashville. That means Dallas, for all intents and purposes, would be eliminated with a regulation loss tomorrow night in San Jose.