For the past few weeks, the Dallas Stars have been sitting ahead of the pack in terms of games played. Over these next few days however, that gap will even out a good bit.
In most everyday cases, it’s good to be ahead. Whether it’s waking up early, finishing a project ahead of its due date, or even going to the bathroom before a movie, it’s always nice to be one step ahead.
But in the Dallas Stars case, it’s not the best thing in the world that they are currently ahead of most of the competition. Well, it would be if they had built a stronger start to their 2016-17 campaign.
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The Stars entered 2017 with a record of 16-15-7 and 39 points. They have 38 games in the rearview mirror and 44 ahead of them. While the result of this 38-game span was nowhere near what Dallas had expected back when the season started, they are still in the middle of the fight with plenty of hope left.
But the fact that they played 38 games had a bit of a negative connotation to it. The Stars entered the new year playing at least one, two, or even three games more than a good number of other NHL teams, especially those currently intertwined with Dallas in the standings. Only five teams had played more games than the Stars on January 1st.
That’s because the Dallas Stars had a pretty jam-packed November and December. They played a ridiculous 16 games in the first 29 days of November, meaning they played a game every 1.81 days. This included three back-to-backs, one four game homestand, and one four game road trip.
That’s not a whole lot of time in between for rest and recovery. But somehow the Stars escaped with a decent record.
But it became difficult to track their spot in the standings. At a given point, the Stars may have been sitting one point ahead or behind of the Nashville Predators, Los Angeles Kings, or Winnipeg Jets. But all of the teams just ahead of or behind Dallas would either have one, two, or three games in hand.
Would they win those games and gain the ground back on Dallas? Would they lose them and remain where they were? Nothing was for certain, and the Dallas Stars could do nothing more than just focus on their own play (which is what they should be doing).
Right now, there are a couple of teams clustered just around Dallas. Here’s a quick look at the standings.
WC1. Calgary Flames 39 GP 42 PTS
WC2. Los Angeles Kings 37 GP 40 PTS
Dallas Stars 38 GP 39 PTS
Vancouver Canucks 39 GP 39 PTS
Nashville Predators 36 GP 38 PTS
Winnipeg Jets 39 GP 37 PTS
The Stars do not currently hold a playoff spot in the Western Conference and are still a few points away. The Kings, who are directly above Dallas, have one game and one point in hand on Dallas.
And as you can tell, all of the other teams are clustered close to the Stars.
But over these next few days, it looks as though things may clear up. That’s because the Dallas Stars have very few contests scheduled over the next few days while the teams around them have pretty packed schedules.
The Stars will host the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday after three consecutive days of rest. Following that, they will be off until Saturday when they travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues. That’s five of the first seven days of the new year being used for rest.
Here’s a quick look at the number of games for each team in the standings above between January 3-8:
Calgary Flames – three games
Los Angeles Kings – three games
Dallas Stars – two games
Vancouver Canucks – three games
Nashville Predators – four games
Winnipeg Jets – three games
Though it doesn’t look like a huge difference, the games played will help Dallas get back to a level playing field and even have games in hand on a good majority of the competition around them.
Besides a critical game against the Kings on Monday, January 9th, the Dallas Stars will not see any of these teams over the remainder of the month, so wins will be critical to stay in the race before they can go head-to-head against the teams around them.
While it’s disappointing that the Stars are currently locked in a race for a playoff spot, there is still plenty of hockey left to be played. Keep an eye out and keep checking back to the standings. You never know what you may find.