Despite a near-complete late-season flop, the Dallas Stars have destiny completely within their own grasp. During the final two weeks of the season, the Stars have relentlessly kept the pressure on the No. 8-seed Chicago Blackhawks. After dropping six consecutive games, Dallas has won four straight to keep pace with Chicago. In their last two games of the season, the Blackhawks held a home-and-home series against their original-six rival Detroit Red Wings. After winning the first game, Chicago could not muster enough to garner at least a single point in their final game of the season to eliminate Dallas and clinch the 8th seed. So, Dallas, here you are. After falling completely off the map in the last two months of the season, Dallas is, somehow, on the brink of clinching a playoff spot. The Stars face the Minnesota Wild, in Minnesota, for its last game of the season. All Dallas has to do to clinch the 8th seed is to win in regulation or overtime: a shootout win will not get the team into the playoffs. Here’s why:
The Stars currently trail the Blackhawks by two points — 97 points for Chicago and 95 for Dallas. So if Dallas wins, they will also have 97 points. The first tie-breaker to decide who makes the playoffs is called ROW (regulation and overtime wins). Chicago currently has 38 ROW, while Dallas has 37. Therefore, a shootout victory will not suffice for Dallas, because it will keep its ROW factor at 37, granting Chicago the tiebreaker and the 8th seed. However, if Dallas wins in regulation or overtime to increase its ROW to 38, the next tiebreaker looks at the series record between the two teams. Dallas won the season series three games to one over Chicago (wow, do those three wins look important now).
So to sum it up: if Dallas beats Minnesota in regulation or overtime, the Stars will tie Chicago in points and ROW, but the Stars hold the head-to-head season series against the Blackhawks; therefore, the final 8th-seed playoff spot would go to Dallas.
So this is it for Dallas. Every team wants the chance the Stars have: win one game and you are in the playoffs. Despite the late-season collapse, the Stars are still in the picture. Perhaps it is fitting for the Stars to make the playoffs. Dallas had a roller-coaster ride of a season — clinching a playoff spot would put one final loop-the-loop on the team’s year.
Finally, I have to apologize to any Stars fan who read one of my latest articles that stated Dallas was resigned to missing the playoffs for the third-straight season. After seeing the team lose six straight, and being five points out with five games remaining, I didn’t think Dallas had it left in the tank to win its remaining five-straight games in order to clinch a playoff berth. But here we are, four games later and Dallas is on the brink of performing an extraordinary hockey comeback. But whether Dallas makes the playoffs or not, the fact that the team made it to this point, to push all the way to the last game and be on the verge of playoff contention, is reason enough for any hockey fan to recognize the extent of what Dallas has done. So, to the Dallas fans who pointed out that I had counted the Stars out too early, thank you for correcting my error. The Stars’ playoff hopes are alive and well, and I, for one, think the Stars will beat Minnesota today and play Vancouver next week — wow, what a turnaround.