Most NHL teams have now played a quarter of their season and the cream has risen to the top and the dregs are being separated.
No surprise to me but almost unnoticed by the national media is just how absolutely dominant the Dallas Stars have been this season.
The Stars are sporting a record of 17-4 with no loser points and despite not showing up for 2 losses against the Leafs.
The Stars have a 6 point lead over the Blues who have the second best record in the West and they’ve scored 12 more goals (74) than the second place Canucks (62).
Montreal is pacing the Stars with 74 goals as well but they’re playing in the weaker conference while Dallas has run up a 6-1 record against the tougher West. The Stars will be playing more games against the West as the season progresses but there is absolutely no reason to think they can’t keep up the pace.
The most remarkable thing about the Stars is not the all world performances from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin (which I expected) but the emergence into an elite defenseman of 23 year old John Klingberg.
Klingberg is tied for the league lead in assists with Patrick Kane and Seguin at 19 apiece and has hit 3 goal posts in his last 2 games.
Worth noting…the last defenseman to lead the league in assists was some guy named Bobby Orr.…Klingberg might soon make history.
We’re only a few days away from the defacto playoff doomsday for teams that are at least 10 points out of a playoff berth. It is almost impossible for those teams to make up enough ground to grab a spot so let’s take a look at which teams could see their seasons effectively over by Black Friday.
The Pacific Triangle
In reality, there is very little chance that the Central Division won’t send 5 teams to the playoffs so that leaves the last 3 spots for the Pacific Division.
Edmonton has a 7-12-1 record heading into the week and have only 4 wins in their past 10 games.
The Oilers face Washington, Carolina and Detroit in the next week and would need to win at least 2 of those games to stay in the hunt. Even then, they would need just the right combination of losses from other Pacific Division teams to remain viable.
What is germaine here for the Oilers is the schedule for the teams that are ahead of them this week.
As of this writing, the LA Kings are losing to the Carolina Hurricanes and both San Jose (vs. Columbus) and Vancouver (vs. New Jersey) play later today and both could enhance their chances substantially with a win and an Oilers’ loss to red hot Washington (6-3-1 in their last 10) would leave them 9 points out.
It also doesn’t help that two teams the Oilers are chasing, Anaheim and Calgary, play each other Tuesday or that Anaheim also plays Arizona on Wednesday and Calgary plays Arizona on Friday.
If there are any 3 point games among that group and the Oilers don’t win at least 2 of 3, their season is pretty much done.
Vancouver also has a couple of tough games this week against the Wild and Stars but have shown an ability to keep games close and pick up points.
If the Canucks can build on last night’s 6-3 hammering of the Blackhawks and pick up at least 3-4 points this week they should hang around but anything less and they may be in trouble.
The Calgary Flames, of course, are also in a very precarious spot but have been playing much better (6-4-0 in their last 10) since TJ Brodie returned to the lineup.They can pretty much write their own story if they can win against Anaheim and Arizona but that’s certainly not a given although I like their chances.
Things will be much clearer by Black Friday.
We would be remiss to not mention a superb performance by the Sedin twins last night.
Daniel scored 3 and added an assist while brother Henrik had a 5 point night including a goal.
Both have now moved into the top 15 in league scoring (Daniel tied for 6th…Henrik only 2 points back.)
Watch out Pacific Division if the Sedins catch fire.