Stars continue their playoff push
Two weeks to go in the NHL regular season. Two pressure packed weeks ahead for the Dallas Stars and other teams vying for a playoff spot. The Stars sit atop the Pacific Division with 87 points. The Phoenix Coyotes, whom the Stars beat 4-3 in a shootout on Tuesday, also have 87 points but have played two more games than the Stars.
Western Conference Standings (standings through Sunday night)
- St. Louis 103 pts. 47-20-9 (76 games played)
- Vancouver 99 pts. 45-21-9 (75 games played)
- Dallas 87 pts. 41-29-5 (75games played)
- Nashville 96 pts. 44-24-8 (76 games played)
- Detroit 95 pts. 45-25-5 (75 games played)
- Chicago 92 pts. 42-26-8 (76 games played)
- Phoenix 87 pts. 37-26-13 (77 games played)
- Los Angeles 86 pts. 37-26-12 (75 games played)
- San Jose 86 pts. 38-27-10 (75 games played)
- Colorado 86 pts. 40-31-6 (77 games played)
- Calgary 83 pts. 34-27-15 (76 games played)
The battle for the Pacific Division and the seventh and eighth playoff spots will go right down the wire. Six teams, three spots. This is essentially playoff time now. The Stars have to win to play on. This could be a real benefit to the teams that gain these last three spots. They’ll have the momentum and already be in that mindset, that playoff mode. Based on the matchups if the regular season ended today, Dallas would be taking on Chicago. That doesn’t bode well for Dallas. Chicago has a ton of talent with Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane.
Dallas’ potential first round matchup with Chicago will be difficult with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane playing really well for the Blackhawks again this season.
The will be lot for Dallas to deal with, but Chicago’s goalie situation hasn’t been nearly as good this season as it has been in years past, like when they won the Stanley Cup a couple of years ago. The playoffs are going to be great and here’s hoping the Stars make it in. They’ve got some work to do though.
The Stars went 2-1 last week, all three home games. It was a high intensity, high energy game Tuesday night for the Stars when the took on the Phoenix Coyotes. Plus, it was Kari Lehtonen bobblehead night. And over 17,000 fans got to see the Mike Ribeiro score the lone shootout goal to get the victory and grab sole possession of first in the Pacific. Michael Ryder scored two goals for the Stars. They did let a 3-1 lead slip away in the third period. Cause for concern? Perhaps. Phoenix is a good team, but the Stars shouldn’t let a two goal lead slip away at home.
Thursday night didn’t go well as the Stars lost 2-1 to the Vancouver Canucks before a crowd of over 16,600. The Canucks scored the first two goals, a deficit the Stars could not overcome. The Canucks are one of the best teams in the NHL, so this loss shouldn’t be considered a disappointment despite the fact that the Canucks were playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
Saturday night, the Stars came back with a vengeance beating the Flames 4-1 before a crowd of over 17,200 (we’ll talk later in the week about the crowds and about hockey in Texas and the Sun Belt). Jamie Benn scored two goals in the win. The Flames are trying for a playoff spot too, but the Stars just wanted it more. The Flames had a chance to get revenge last night **Editor’s note: This blog post was published before completion of the Stars-Flames game last night.** The Stars now begin their Canada trip plus a trip to division rival San Jose on Saturday. This is a critical week for the Stars and their playoff and division chances.
Once again, the power play unit for the Stars was terrible this past week. They had ten power play opportunities and scored just once. Why do they struggle so much? Well, looking at this team, they don’t have that one dynamite player, that one scorer that can really make other teams pay. Yes Michael Ryder has 33 goals, but I don’t think teams are fearful of him like they are an Evgeni Malkin, Sydney Crosby, or Alex Ovechkin, you get the point. For some reason this unit just hasn’t gotten all of the components or scheme to make the other team pay when they go to the penalty box. The Stars have the 28th best power play in the league. That’s the third worst in the NHL. When you only average 2.5 goals a game (19th in the NHL), it is critical that you take advantage of power plays when you get them, but the Stars just can’t seem to get the unit going, something that could cost the Stars from advancing deep into the playoffs, or even making the playoffs at all.
The penalty killing unit though is very good. They rank 9th in the NHL in that special teams category. And the unit had another strong week, killing off eleven of twelve opponent power plays. They were a man down four times each game last week. The Stars need to have more discipline. They’ll face far better competition and power play units in the playoffs and how this unit will fair if they keep taking penalties is something Stars fans should be worried about. Still though, the penalty killing unit is as good as the power play unit is bad. Balance those out, and the team is a very good five-on-five team as evidenced by the run they’ve been on in rising to the top of the Pacific Division.
Coming up this week…
Monday 3/26…@ Calgary 9:00 PM ET
Wednesday 3/28…@ Edmonton 9:30 PM ET
Friday 3/30…@ Vancouver 10:00 PM ET
Saturday 3/31…@ San Jose 10:30 PM ET
This is a critical week for the Dallas Stars. Here’s hoping they can survive and maintain their playoff position in the Western Conference. The fate of the season and the playoffs is written in the stars.