Going into this season, everyone knew the Central Division was the one to beat. Stacked with the Blackhawks, the Blues, the Avs and their Vezina nominated goalie, and an offseason strengthened Stars team, the playoff race was bound to be an interesting one. And it has – the Preds finally have a healthy Rinne and offensive weapons they haven’t before, the Avalanche have regressed to where statisticians expected them to be, and Winnepeg is refusing to go down without a fight.
And, well, the Stars are on the outside looking in.
All the Dallas fans know exactly how we got here, that horse is dead, and no one needs to beat it. The good news is that the Stars are on an upswing, one that’s unmatched in their division. The question really becomes – is it too little, too late?
Unfortunately, the answer is maybe.
If everyone on the bubble (St. Louis, Vancouver, San Jose, Winnepeg, Calgary, Minnesota, Dallas, and Colorado) keeps playing at the pace of the season thus far, we’re out by a long shot. But that’s unlikely.
If everyone keeps playing at the pace set by the last 14 games, we’d end up 7th in the West, and as one of the two wildcard spots. But with 39% of our remaining games being played against the Central Division, where the Stars just earned their first win on December 27th, that pace is going to be put to the test. This scenario is also unlikely.
We’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle of the two, which puts us frustratingly close to a playoff spot (9th in the West).
But hope isn’t lost. Momentum is on our side, and there are a lot of points on the table in January and February specifically. We play the Jets and the Avs three times each in those two months, and the Wild twice. Because these are all “bubble” teams, those are basically “4 point games”, and will allow us to close the gap even faster. We also play the Blues 3 times this year, twice at home, and given how they have backslid over the last month, those might be the most important games we play all year.
It’s going to take that special combination of hard work and luck for us to make the playoffs this year, but I still believe we will.
After all, the Stars have always liked playing from behind.