Monday, 02.18.2008 / 3:49 PM CT / Feature
By Seamus O'Callahan - Hockey Historian
Big Wins Have Put the Stars in a Good Position for the Final Stretch
How big were the two wins by the Dallas Stars this past weekend over the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings? Other than two wins against arguably the best teams in the West, the four points earned in the standings could go a very long way.
The win over Anaheim alone has a huge impact. It meant the difference between a six-point lead in the division or just a two-point lead. And the shutout victory over Detroit certainly gives the team confidence heading into the final stretch.
“It was a big weekend for us and we got two important wins,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “We feel good about ourselves and where we are. We have a lot of confidence and want it to continue.”
The battle for the Pacific Division will certainly continue, perhaps all the way to the final day of the season. A look at the race between the Stars, Ducks and Sharks can be looked at from different angles. We’ll start with simply looking at Dallas and Anaheim – currently ranked 1 and 2 in the division.
Dallas now leads the division by six points with a record of 37-21-5 for 79 points. The Ducks are in second place with a record of 33-23-7 for 73 points.
There are two keys here that work in the Stars’ favor: games remaining (19 for each team), and wins. With just 19 games remaining, the six points between the two clubs is actually much larger that it seems. Dallas’ point percentage this season currently sits at .627 (79 points out of a possible 126). If the Stars finish the remaining games with a .600 points percentage (which would be 11-7-1), they would finish with 102 points. The Ducks would have to go 15-4-0 over their last 19 games to pass Dallas. Even if the Stars drop to a .500 clip the rest of the way, Anaheim would have to go 12-6-1 to pass them.
Notice that the Ducks have to finish at least one point ahead of Dallas in these scenarios since the Stars have more wins and thus, the tie-breaker. That one point could be huge.
Of course Anaheim is totally capable of finishing the season strong (they’ve won six of their last seven), but these examples show how the math works in the Stars’ favor.
Another key in this race is the two clubs play each other twice. The Ducks will be hoping to win both and make up four points on the Stars.
Now let’s look at the San Jose factor in the Pacific Division race. The big thing about the Sharks is that they have played four games fewer than both the Stars and Ducks thus far. Currently in third place with 70 points, they would still be one point behind the Stars if they win all four of their games in-hand. San Jose is currently on an eight-game road trip out East (going 0-2-0 thus far after dropping a 3-2 decision on the Island on Monday afternoon), also traveling to New Jersey, Philly, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Detroit and St. Louis.
|"It was my understanding that there would be no math"|
“The entire Pacific Division is playing well right now, but we can only worry about us,” said Head Coach Dave Tippett. “We’re only concerned about what we can control. And that’s improving every night and finding ways to win.”
The bottom line – the Pacific Division is basically a three-team race and the Stars have put themselves in position to have a decent shot at winning their eighth division crown in the last 11 seasons.
The Stars’ hot streak since the All-Star Break has also put the team in a great position in the conference. The Western Conference is as tight as it has ever been, but the Stars have given themselves some breathing room. Dallas is now 10 points ahead of sixth-seeded Nashville and 13 points in front of seventh-seeded Vancouver.
Dallas has its sights set on a top-three seed as a division champion, but every win that the team earns makes it more and more likely that the Stars will finish with one of the top five seeds, at the worst.
“We’re simply focused on the next game and trying to get two points,” said Tippett. “When you can do that and win the game, the standings begin to take care of themselves. Our focus is on Calgary on Wednesday.”
Two points on Wednesday would do nicely towards the final objective. And the Stars are doing the math by adding points on a regular basis.