The All-Star break came and went, and the Stars had just 32 games remaining on their schedule coming out of it (before whatever that was happened against the Kings). With home and away games being split right down the middle at 16 a piece, what is going to be the toughest stretch for Dallas coming up?
There are six teams, who in my mind are arguably going to make or break the rest of the Stars’ upcoming season:
1st. Winnipeg Jets
Dallas has two games remaining against the top team in the Central, one in late February(Feb. 24th) and the other in mid March(Mar. 18th). The Jets are currently sitting at a 30-13-8 record with 68 points, and along with the Predators, are the team to beat. With a +30 goal differential and a quite stellar home record of 18-3-1, the Stars will play them once on the road and once at home.
The Stars have been out-skated and simply beaten down against the Jets in the prior two meetings, losing to them on the road 5-2, and then going home only to lose 4-1. If the Stars want to prove themselves as a top contending team come playoff time, they will need to show that by beating one of the best. They will need to show that by taking the reigns in these next two games and evening the series against Winnipeg.
2nd. Nashville Predators/ St. Louis Blues
Being as indecisive as I am, I couldn’t really choose who ranked higher on this list between either team. As both teams are slightly above Dallas in points, yet with the jam packed race in the Central Nashville, St. Louis and well even Winnipeg could swap places at any time.
The Predators right now are in second place in the division, only one point out from first. Dallas is currently down 1-2 in this series with their only win coming in the shootout. They have one game left against Nashville and it will be a key match-up come early March. That is if Dallas can string together some wins beforehand and come in looking to cut their way into a top spot in the Central. Nashville is second in the Central Division in goal differential with +21, just three above the Stars.
The St. Louis Blues are the only other team above the Stars right now, holding their third place spot with 65 points. Dallas plays St. Louis two more times and are down in this series 1-2 as well. A key factor in the Central is that every team above Dallas in the standings are sporting a positive away record, while the Stars have improved are still just even at 11-11-3. The Stars two remaining games with the Blues are home games for Dallas and with the Stars’ 17-8-1 home record, that looks quite favorable.
3rd. Tampa Bay Lightning
What? No way, a non-Central Division team in the top three? Well, if the Lightning weren't insanely good right now, with four all-stars, and didn't have such a positive goal differential, then it would be all Central teams. But the Lightning are simply unstoppable, and if it weren't for such a tight race in the division, I would've put Tampa Bay up top for the toughest team the Stars have upcoming.
Arguably the top team in the league right now with a 34-13-3 record, +48 goal differential and 71 points. Their home record is nearly just as good as their away record and that is scary. The Stars have just one match-up with them left in early March but Dallas definitely has something to prove this time after losing 6-1 in their previous match-up. The Stars have shown that top team potential that can be scary come playoff time, but this game will be a real test for them. To play against the top team in the league and to say that they are playoff contenders, well, they are going to have to bring their A game and walk the walk in this one.
4th. Minnesota Wild
Back to the Central Division we go, this time with the Minnesota Wild. The Stars have played just one prior game this season against the Wild in which they lost 4-2 out in Minnesota. So that means the Stars will have three games upcoming against the Wild, two at home and one on the road. The Wild have a poor away record, sitting at worst in the division but the Wild are looking to cause fits for Dallas.
Minnesota is one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche at 59 points, only one behind Dallas. If Minnesota can get on a string of wins, well then that looks to shake up the Central unless Dallas can do the same. There are so many possibilities here especially with three games to look forward to but that’s what scares me. If Dallas cannot get the job done finishing opponents in their division this late in the season and with an already poor division record then playoff hopes will surely slip away. Even if the match-up looks to be in Dallas’ favor, don’t tread on the Wild and their hopes of making a comeback. With a game in hand right now, they’re sitting in a good spot.
5th. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Stars and the Penguins are two teams with A LOT to fight for after getting where they are today. For both teams but more so for Pittsburgh, they got off to a rough start to the season but are now trending upwards. The Penguins have worked their way up the Metropolitan Division and just like the Stars are just six points out of first.
The defending champs are a team that shouldn't be taken lightly and the Stars will play the Penguins twice before the end of the regular season. These two games are going to be key down the stretch for both sides. For the Stars, it’s about climbing up the points ladder and to see if they can handle a playoff contending team that has proven excellence, yet one that also finds themselves in the same boat as Dallas this season. And for the Penguins, well they will be itching and scratching just like Dallas to fight for a top spot in the playoffs, not just a wild card bid.
These two games will be the only games the two will play against each other this year. And the question is, which team will go from being a middle of the road contender in their respective division to top tier talent?
There’s no doubt in anybody's mind that the Central Division is the tightest race in the league right now. And the competition is only getting tougher. With EVERY team showcasing a positive goal differential, no team is going to go down easy.
The remaining games Dallas has left to play in their own division are of course going to be crucial. With the highest team, the Winnipeg Jets, sitting eight points above the Stars and the lowest team, the Chicago Blackhawks, at five points below. With the Stars sporting a rather poor 7-10 record against the Central you can see that something needs to click within them to turn this negative record into something positive, especially as not to get passed up by the teams close by in the division.
Who do you think the Stars toughest upcoming opponent is?
This poll is closed
St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning