A solid first half of the season has the Dallas Stars in a good place, but a dive into the numbers shows that they still have a lot of work ahead of them.
There have been three distinct segments of the season for the Dallas Stars in the 2019-20 NHL campaign. There was the 1-7-1 start that had a lot of people in a legitimate panic. But then the team did a complete one-eighty and rattled off a 14-1-1 mark between October 19th and November 25th. Finally, since November 26th, they’ve gone 12-9-2
The bottom line is that this is good for an overall record of 27-17-4, which as of right now is good for 58 points and the three seed in a tightly packed Western Conference. They’re on a 99-point pace, which is quite a nice spot when you consider that the current eight seed, the Vegas Golden Knights, are on an 89-point pace.
Furthermore, if you take 1-7-1 out of the equation, the Dallas Stars are simply one of the premier clubs in the NHL. Since October 19th, they’re 26-10-3. Only the Washington Capitals have won more games in that span. The Stars are third in overall points in that stretch as well, only trailing the aforementioned Capitals and the St. Louis Blues.
But if you’ve been following this franchise for any length of time, then you know that all it takes is a wobble to bring back that old “sky is falling” mentality. So, in spite of entering the weekend’s All Star break on a 7-3-0 run, the last two games prior to the bye week certainly evoke that ill wind feeling of Stars dread. Consecutive losses of 4-1 to Buffalo and 7-0 to Minnesota will do that.
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Because for all the good this team has done this year–and there’s been a lot–the Stars are only four points from being out of the playoffs altogether. Winnipeg and Chicago currently sit as the ninth and tenth seeds in the West with 54 points apiece. It wouldn’t take a big stumble for Dallas to wake up one day and discover that they’re on the outside looking in. All this does, really, is put into sharp focus how insanely close the NHL’s Western Conference is. Only 11 points separate the top-seeded Blues from the eighth-seeded Golden Knights. This applies to the Eastern Conference as well. Only ten points divide the one seed Washington Capitals from the eight seed Carolina Hurricanes. In other words, there is almost no room for error.
And that’s where it will always be a white-knuckle ride with this bunch. Sure, they’re still the stingiest defense in the entire NHL, but that top-10 goal differential that looked so nice a couple weeks ago took a hit with the last two games being a combined 11-1 shellacking. As it stands right now, the Stars are a bottom-five scoring team in the entire league. They’re going to have to find more scoring punch–internally or otherwise–to help their defense and stellar goaltending.
It all starts up again tonight with the Tampa Bay Lightning in town. The Stars won the last meeting in Tampa, but were thoroughly dominated before somehow pulling out a 4-3 win in overtime. Chances are the Lightning have had this date on the calendar circled since then and will be eager to exact a measure of revenge. We’ll see how the Stars respond and start the nominal second half of the season.