Dallas Stars: One Misstep Could Be Critical In Central Division Standings

ST. PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 27: Jared Spurgeon
ST. PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 27: Jared Spurgeon /

The Dallas Stars dropped a 4-2 decision to the Minnesota Wild last night to open up post-break play. The loss just goes to show how crucial and costly one loss can be in the standings right now.

It wasn’t the greatest start to post-holiday play for the Dallas Stars.

The Stars traveled up to Minnesota to take on a Wild team that is dangerously close to overtaking Dallas in the standings. They only got closer with the eventual 4-2 win over the Stars.

Dallas looked as though they were a step behind for most of the game, had trouble getting into a groove, and struggled to keep a much more prepared Wild team at bay.

This game came after the league-wide three-day long break for the Christmas holidays.

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It was definitely a Merry Christmas for the Stars, though. Just before the break, Dallas had downed Chicago and Nashville (two teams that were ahead of them in the standings) and picked up points in four straight games. They looked like a confident team that was preparing to build a sizable win streak.

But obviously the break didn’t help them out too much. With the loss, the Stars actually lost some of the ground that they had earned just before Christmas in the standings.

One loss really hurt them that much? Indeed it did.

It just goes to show how tight things are in the Central Division standings. Sure, the Dallas Stars entered the break on a 9-4-2 run and jumped from just outside the playoff picture into the first wild card spot. But that could be a short-lived stay.

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As of right now, there are multiple teams in the race for the Western Conference playoffs. More inconveniently for the Stars, all seven Central Division teams still have a legitimate reach at the playoffs. A maximum of five teams can make the playoffs from any one division, so the Stars simply have to be in the top five by the end of the year. But that only fixes the divisional problem. Then there is the rest of the conference to deal with.

As of right now, here is how the Western Conference standings are laid out.

  1. Nashville Predators 36 GP 49 PTS
  2. Winnipeg Jets 38 GP 48 PTS
  3. St. Louis Blues 39 GP 48 PTS
  4. Dallas Stars 38 GP 43 PTS
  5. Minnesota Wild 37 GP 41 PTS
  6. Chicago Blackhawks 35 GP 39 PTS
  7. Colorado Avalanche 36 GP 37 PTS

When there are only 12 points separating first place from last at the midway point of the season, it’s safe to say that things are tight. The Central Division is known for being one of the most stacked divisions in hockey, and it’s showing right now.

Things get even closer when you look at the wild card standings.

1. Dallas Stars 38 GP 43 PTS

2. Minnesota Wild 37 GP 41 PTS

Anaheim Ducks 38 GP 40 PTS

Chicago Blackhawks 35 GP 39 PTS

Calgary Flames 36 GP 39 PTS

That’s a look at just a few of the teams that are anxiously chugging along closely behind Dallas.

Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars /

Dallas Stars

It just goes to show that as we approach the halfway mark of the season, there is very little room for error for the Dallas Stars. As we saw last night, a win catapulted them over the Ducks and into the playoff picture. They still have a game in hand on Dallas and sit two points back.

There’s a lot going on and a lot of moving around in the standings right now. This is unlike most years in the NHL.

Typically by the halfway point, at least two or three teams are too far gone in the playoff hunt. This year, Arizona seems to be the only team out of the hunt. All other teams are within six points of the final playoff spot.

It’s not going to make things any easier on the Dallas Stars. As surprising as it may seem, their play before Christmas break is not enough.

The race is just now getting started and is already interesting. Two or three wins in a row could help Dallas find the top three in the Central, while two or three losses will likely drop them out of the playoff picture entirely. It’s all a matter of how they approach it. Practically every team in the Western Conference is playing great as of right now, so Dallas must keep up with the pace.

And with four playoff teams in a row coming down the pipe in their schedule, the time for dwelling on their most recent loss is gone. The Stars need to be near perfect over this upcoming span to keep their momentum alive and stay ahead in the race. Otherwise, the results could be fatal.

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“After New Year’s, if you aren’t in a playoff spot, it’s hard to catch it,” said Stars center Radek Faksa. “Last year, we were trying to catch it and we never did, so it’s really hard.”

With the new year coming up, the time for action is now. The Dallas Stars are in a good spot in the standings, but that spot can be taken away quickly with one misstep. We saw that with last night’s loss in Minnesota.

It will be interesting to see what the Stars have in store for the Blues (another team ahead of them) tomorrow night at home.