Monday, November 22, 2010
West shaping up to be tighter than ever
By Mark Stepneski
The good news for the Dallas Stars in their last two games was they were able to overcome deficits and get three out of four points in games against Western Conference opponents.
On the flip side, by going to overtime in both games and falling in a shootout in one of them, those two opponents picked up a combined three points as well.
In what is usually a tight conference race there is always on a premium on points, and based on how things are going so far in the West this season that premium on points is going to be higher than ever.
“I’ve never seen a season like it where one side is ridiculously efficient in the points that we’re getting,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “It hasn’t been a particularly large season in terms in the amount of overtime games and shootout games, but they are starting to pick up. And you have to get the points when you can.”
Crawford noted that on Friday night there were eleven Western Conference teams playing and eight of them picked up points. Saturday night ten West teams played and seven of them registered at least one point. On Sunday it was four of six teams getting points.
What that’s added up to at this point in the season are seven teams – second place to ninth place – separated by just three points points. The nine teams from second place to eleventh are separated by just four points.
There is a five point difference between the first place team and the eighth place team in the West. The 13th place team in the conference is just two points out of eighth and seven points out of first.
At this same point last season – a little under one-quarter of the way through the NHL schedule – the difference between first and eighth was eight points. The difference between the top team and 13th was 16 points. The 13th place team was eight points out of the final playoff spot last season.
Stars hit the road
The Stars didn’t practice Sunday. They had an early afternoon flight for Toronto, where they will play the Maple Leafs on Monday night. They have a game in Ottawa on Wednesday before returning back to Dallas.
“These are a couple of teams that are struggling, Toronto and Ottawa. I think they’ve been struggling the last little while as much as I’ve been trying to keep an eye on the East,” Stars forward Steve Ott said. “These aren’t going to be easy. You’re kind of going into a bee’s nest and our road performance hasn’t been so great lately. We had a great homestand and if we can take that same kind of presence onto the road, hopefully we can pull some big points out of there.”
The Stars have lost three straight on the road and four of the last five away from home. They are 5-1-0 against Eastern Conference teams this season.