We’re now roughly 60% through the season, just past the all-star break, so let’s take a look at how the Stars are doing compared to last season.
After 50 games last year, the Stars had a 20-20-10 record, good for 50 total points. Already, we’re 10 points ahead of last year’s team, with 8 additional wins, and some serious improvements in overtime. The Stars seriously struggled in overtime situations for much of last season, losing in the first five overtime situations, and sitting at a 2-10 overtime record after 50. This season, that has improved to 6-4, with a 3-2 record for both 3-on-3 overtime and shootouts.
These trends of improvement show up across the board. Our goals for and goals against per game have swapped. Last year, the Stars averaged 2.72 goals for and 3.2 goals against; this season it’s 3.1 for and 2.68 against. Hockey-Reference’s playoff projection also shows promise, with the Stars expected to finish around 97.3 points and in the top Wild Card spot given the current data. Overall, their projection gives Dallas a 68.3% chance of making the playoffs. One point that particularly stands out to me is that in their worst simulation, the Stars finish with 79 points. That’s where the team ended up last season, which shows just how much this team has improved in just a year’s time.
So, with all that said, let’s preview Tuesday’s game against the LA Kings, and why I think the Stars are likely to win.
First up, the Stars have been playing better than the Kings all month long. After winning their first game of 2018, the Kings proceeded to lose the next six. They’re now 3-7 for their last 10. Compare this to Dallas, who sit at 6-3-1 in the same time frame, and these trends are definitely there.
Second, the Stars are significantly better at home than the Kings are on the road. Dallas is arguably the third-best team at home in the West, behind Vegas and Colorado. Even though LA is arguably the best road team in the West, they have a worse road record than Dallas’ home record, which in my arbitrary terms means something.
And now for a brief aside to promote the illusion of fairness: the Kings have been pretty good in the AAC over the previous three seasons. In fact, one might even say that they’ve won more games than they’ve lost over the past few years in Dallas. However, before you point to this as clear, concrete evidence that disproves my earlier statement, I would like to direct you to the size of this particular sample, with the comment that it’s far too tiny to give us any meaningful conclusions. And before you say that I’m using smaller sample sizes than this to make points earlier in this article, I would direct you to ignore that fact and let me have this.
Here are a few questions which I think could be the key factors to tomorrow night’s game.
1. Can the Dallas Stars stop Drew Doughty?
Doughty has been the Kings’ equivalent of John Klingberg; a dangerous two-way defenseman who eats ice time, lives for the power play, and wears the ‘A’ with pride. Only, he’s older, uglier, not as talented offensively, not as tall, and 100% less Swedish. However, despite his devastating flaws, he’s a pretty good hockey player, and he’s not an easy dude to deal with. He’s easily the best defensive player on the Kings. If the Stars can neutralize him, or even just break his concentration a bit, that makes the Kings a much more vulnerable team. Whether or not that’s possible, I honestly have no idea. Historically speaking, the Kings are 20-13-5 against the Stars with him playing, but this includes that four and 24/41 seasons’ stretch during which the Stars were lukewarm garbage. Maybe Ken Hitchcock decides to adapt Hack-a-Shaq for Doughty and assign Roussel and Ritchie to go be annoying.
2. Can the LA Kings handle John Klingberg?
My gut tells me probably not, but at the same time, maybe. The Stars have done pretty well against the Kings in the 7 such games he’s played, but there’s not much information to go off. A few of the advanced statistics on Hockey-Reference show that he’s definitely a very good player, but there’s no objective, quantitative reason to claim he’s unstoppable. But that’s boring and not fun, so let’s put on our hyperbole hats and climb aboard the hype train! Thanks to things like point shares, we can tell that when John Klingberg feels good and plays well, the Stars do happy fun exciting things! So, I propose that, rather than discussing the best counter-defensive players on the Kings, we instead sit back and think happy, positive thoughts in his general direction.
3. Who would win in a fight: Antoine Roussel or Andy Andreoff?
This is not a hypothetical question that I’m presenting for public debate. This is a “place your bets” type question, because I’m pretty certain that if we are to see a fight tomorrow, it will be between these two. Both lead their respective teams with five fights this season, and both are known to be very physical (read: aggressive asshole) players. These two have never fought, but should the right situation arise, I wouldn’t doubt that gloves would drop. My money’s on Roussel, in case you were wondering.
4. What exactly are the LA Kings the kings of? Is there some sort of monarchy in Los Angeles that I’m currently unaware of? I read their Wikipedia article in an attempt to understand, but it only said that they wanted “an air of royalty”, which is a bunch of marketing nonsense. I need answers, people.
That’s enough of this nonsense for one day. Puck drops tomorrow night at 7:30PM. Thanks to Hockey-Reference once again for the mountain of data I browsed while writing this mess.
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