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Chicago Blackhawks Shouldn’t Worry About Dallas Stars

By Colin Likas
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While the Chicago Blackhawks were busy earning a 4-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars were busy … having an adventure.

You see, the Stars led 4-0 after one period at home against the Carolina Hurricanes, and 5-1 after two periods. The Stars, going into this game, had the best record and most points in the league, while Carolina was scraping the bottom of the barrel in both categories.

But something strange happened: The Hurricanes came back. They had tied the game at five at the 13:17 mark of the third period. Former Blackhawk Patrick Sharp managed to score in the final minute of regulation to save the Stars from themselves, but how this game went down got me thinking.

Are the Dallas Stars really worth as much fear as we fans bestow upon them? I mean, yes, they have 44 points in 28 games and have lost just five times in regulation. They’ve also amassed 11 wins against just four overall losses on the road. That’s all very impressive, to be sure. But what if you consider the quality of opponents when looking at those stats. Are they still impressive?

Let’s take a look:

Records of opponents Dallas Stars have defeated

Pittsburgh Penguins: 14-10-2

Edmonton Oilers: 11-15-2

Tampa Bay Lightning: 13-12-3

Florida Panthers: 13-11-4

Philadelphia Flyers: 11-11-6

Pittsburgh Penguins: 14-10-2

Anaheim Ducks: 11-12-5

Vancouver Canucks: 10-11-8

San Jose Sharks: 14-13-0

Boston Bruins: 14-9-3

Carolina Hurricanes: 10-14-4

Detroit Red Wings: 15-8-5

Winnipeg Jets: 13-13-2

Minnesota Wild: 14-7-5

Buffalo Sabres: 11-14-3

Washington Capitals: 19-5-2

Buffalo Sabres: 11-14-3

Vancouver Canucks: 10-11-8

Minnesota Wild: 14-7-5

Vancouver Canucks: 10-11-8

Carolina Hurricanes: 10-14-4

Total record: 262-232-84 = 262-316 (45.3 winning percentage)

Well, that’s not entirely impressive. The Stars beat the Capitals at home, which is a very good win, and they’ve beaten the Wild a couple times. But beyond that, what’s there to brag about? Not much, as evidenced by the collective 45.3 win percentage of the opponents they’ve defeated. But the teams they’ve lost to must be monsters, right?

Records of opponents Dallas Stars have lost to

Colorado Avalanche: 12-15-1

Florida Panthers: 13-11-4

Toronto Maple Leafs: 10-13-5

Toronto Maple Leafs: 10-13-5

Ottawa Senators: 15-8-5

Calgary Flames: 11-4-2

Edmonton Oilers: 11-15-2

82-79-24 = 82-103 (44.3 winning percentage)

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Not quite. There’s hardly a good loss on this list, especially considering the Stars lost to Ottawa at home. What’s even more startling is the number of goals the Stars allowed in each of these losses: 6, 6, 4, 3, 7, 4 and 2. My goodness, how do you give up that many goals to teams on the above list? And how do you lead the entire league in points while doing so?

The Stars are a strange study when you look at them closely. They score a boatload of goals — most in the league at 99 through 28 games — but their defense and goaltending are shoddy at best. They’ve permitted 75 goals. That’s tied for third-most among current playoff teams, behind Ottawa (which is pulling a Dallas-like act with 90 goals scored) and Vancouver (which is sub-.500 and benefits from playing in the Pacific Division).

Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have made the timeshare at goaltender work for Dallas, but their major stats are entirely unimpressive. Niemi has a .909 save percentage and 2.55 goals-allowed average, while Lehtonen is carrying a .911 save percentage and 2.63 goals-allowed average. For a point of reference, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford holds a .918 save percentage and 2.44 goals-allowed average for a team with 10 fewer points than the Stars.

So what am I getting at? The Stars haven’t hit the bulk of their schedule yet, and they could very well implode when they do. They haven’t faced the Blackhawks or St. Louis Blues yet, nor have they played the Nashville Predators or Los Angeles Kings. It’s pretty easy to rack up points when you’re facing a sub-.500 schedule.

To be fair, I’m not knocking the Stars for doing just that. Good teams take advantage of situations like this. And the Stars’ early-season success could be enough to give them a division title and home-ice advantage in the postseason. But, their early-season success could also mean nothing as they take on playoff contenders down the road. That’s where teams like the Blackhawks, Blues, Wild and Predators come in as far as the Central Division chase goes.

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If you were wondering how the Blackhawks look in a similar breakdown to the one I did with the Stars above, I’ve got that covered:

Records of opponents Chicago Blackhawks have defeated

New York Islanders: 16-8-5

New York Islanders: 16-8-5

Columbus Blue Jackets: 11-16-2

Florida Panthers: 13-11-4

Tampa Bay Lightning: 13-12-3

Anaheim Ducks: 13-13-2

Los Angeles Kings: 18-8-1

Edmonton Oilers: 11-15-2

St. Louis Blues: 16-8-4

Calgary Flames: 11-14-2

Edmonton Oilers: 11-15-2

San Jose Sharks: 14-13-0

Anaheim Ducks: 11-12-5

Winnipeg Jets: 13-13-2

Nashville Predators: 14-9-5

201-175-44 = 201-219 (47.9 winning percentage)

Records of opponents Chicago Blackhawks have lost to

New York Rangers: 18-7-3

Philadelphia Flyers: 11-11-6

Washington Capitals: 19-5-2

Winnipeg Jets: 13-13-2

Minnesota Wild: 14-7-5

St. Louis Blues: 16-8-4

New Jersey Devils: 14-10-4

New Jersey Devils: 14-10-4

Calgary Flames: 11-14-2

Vancouver Canucks: 10-11-8

Los Angeles Kings: 18-8-1

Minnesota Wild: 14-7-5

Ottawa Senators: 15-8-5

187-119-51 = 187-170 (52.4 winning percentage)

The Blackhawks’ wins aren’t against a collective group that’s so much stronger than what the Stars can boast, but many of their losses are to legitimate teams. Losing to the Devils, Flames and Canucks isn’t going to look good at the end of the season, but the rest of those teams should be hanging around the playoff picture for the foreseeable picture.

It doesn’t make the Blackhawks look great losing all of those games, but we’re not talking about losses to the Maple Leafs, Avalanche, Flames, Panthers and Oilers in which a massive number of goals against is being compiled.

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The ultimate point is this: While the Blackhawks are 10 points behind the Stars through 28 games, they have no reason to fear them in the Central Division race. If Dallas starts annihilating its competition once it gets to the tougher portion of its schedule, we’ll reopen this conversation. But for now, the Stars are just a team taking advantage of their competition. It’s what good teams do, but it’s not a slate by which to declare them a great team.

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