If any readers were, like me, watching the game against the Anaheim Ducks on December 12, they may have noticed one of those moments that defied explanation. The Dallas Stars surrendered a 3-1 lead by allowing five unanswered goals, four of which came in the third period. Frankly, the team looked absolutely terrible in the third period. The game would have been even worse, had the Stars not figured out how to do that hockey for a 12-minute stretch in the second period. It was one of those, “I’m not mad, just disappointed,” moments that all sports fans go through.
For the Dallas Stars and their fans, the disappointment is really confined to one area: the road, and it’s not even close.
The Stars are also just an incredibly poor road club- since 2016-17 they have posted a record of 34-53-12 for 80 points.— Robert McClay III (@McClayR21) December 14, 2018
Their home record in the same stretch- 58-28-10 for 126 points.
Two completely different clubs
I’ve written before that the NHL is rigged to where the home team has a distinct home ice advantage. It’s understandable, the home team wakes up at their own homes, they are privy to all trappings of their own facilities, and benefit from 18,000 people in their corner. They are able to put their sticks down first, make the last change, and they are familiar with the glass and boards.
However, these factors do not excuse the Stars and their 34-53-12 record in road games over the past two-plus seasons. If the goal is to win most of your home games and go .500 on the road, the club has failed, and by a very large margin.
To put in a more painful context: let’s look at the Stars’ record in the above-mentioned seasons.
Final Record in 2016-17: 34 Wins, 37 Losses, 11 OT Losses for 79 Points
The Stars followed their fantastic 2015-16 season with a major drop off in 2016-17, which was something nobody predicted when the season began. Injuries really hammered this Stars team and they steered away from the style that led to 50 wins the year before. It was a major dud of a season.
However, the team performed well above .500 at the American Airlines Center, picking up 50 of their 79 points at home. While there was a drop-off from wins at home from the season before, the team still held a good advantage. The road record, however, was terrible.
After posting 22 wins, 12 losses, and seven OT losses on the road in 2015-16, the Stars would crater in their white sweaters the next year, with a 12 win, 24 loss, five OT loss effort in 2016-17: a dismal 29 points.
Chalk it up to injuries or what have you, but if they had gone .500 on the road, the Stars still would have missed the playoffs. However, it is obvious that the issues on the road really sunk this team before they could really get rolling.
Final Record in 2017-18: 42 Wins, 32 Losses, 8 OT Losses for 92 Points
This season has been spoken about to the point where we have performed the autopsy and buried the body, but we dig it up again because the final stretch was just so bad. The final span of road games was also what sunk this team. Going into the game on March 11 in Pittsburgh, the Stars carried 14 wins, 14 losses, and three OT losses on the road. A .500 on the road for a 38 win, 25 loss, six OT loss record, and a safe playoff spot. If the Stars go .500 on this trip, they are looking great for a playoff spot in April.
The Stars would lose all six road games, picking up only two points out of a possible 12. They left the trip with a 14 wins, 18 losses, five OT losses road record, an eight-game losing streak, and the hopes of the playoffs all but gone. It was an unmitigated disaster.
To put into perspective, if the Stars had still lost the games in OT to Toronto and Ottawa and managed to pick up two wins on that trip, the final record on the road would sit at 18 wins, 16 losses, five OT losses for 41 points. Combine that with the home record and the 55 home points, and the Stars would have made the playoffs by one point. Ouch.
As we sit here on December 15, the season is not even at the halfway mark. However, it seems as if the team is starting to slip into the same, uncomfortable habits on the road. If they do, there is no way this roster is going to make the playoffs. It will be a third consecutive season where the Dallas Stars will stare at their road record and know that there were winnable games that they lost.
One time is a bug, twice is a symptom, three times is chronic. The Stars need to start the treatment of fixing their road woes, and fixing them fast. If the current stretch is any indication, this team will once again be on the sidelines come April, having to tell the fans that they will fill the holes through free agency once again.
And around and around it goes.