Brad Richards was saying the other day that you really need to be pushing for a .700 winning percentage if you want to be sure to make the playoffs.
I thought that was ridiculous at first _ .700 is 114 points and that should be Presidents' Trophy level.
But Richards does have a point. It took 95 points to make the playoffs last year, a winning percentage of .579. And for every point you fall behind that winning percentage during the season, that's all the more you have to make up.
For instance, Chicago has 24 points after 23 games. That's .522. To get to 95 points, they need 71 points in their remaining 59 games (or a winning percentage of .602). And that's just to make the playoffs. So if the defending Stanley Cup champion doesn't play .602 hockey the rest of the way, they could be on the outside looking in.
``I think it will take more than 95 points this year,'' Richards said. ``Teams are playing that well and it's so hard to get points in the West.''
The Stars currently have 23 points in 20 games and are on pace for 94 points. That's not good enough. They are playing at a .575 pace, and Richards and his teammates know they need more. Now, is it .700? Probably not. But it's not a bad goal to keep in mind.
The point of this exercise is that the West is extra tough this year, and points are going to be extremely tough to come by. That's a lesson the Stars are quickly learning. They left a point with Colorado last week when the Avalanche was tired and on the second night of back-to-back. They squandered two points with an uninspired performance Monday in Toronto. They have a ton of games creeping up on them, and they need to win a lot of them.
And Wednesday night's 2-1 win at Ottawa showed just how close these games are and just how hard you have to work for those points.
The Stars dominated this game. They had a ton of scoring chances with either the goalie out of position or simply the right series of passes that led to the right player having the puck on his stick at the right time. But too often the shot was high or wide or right into the letters on the chest of the goalie. Too often, the Stars did everything except get the puck over the goal line.
And that has to change.
Now, because goal scoring is the toughest thing to do in the NHL and because playing team defense is a much more practical solution to close games, the Stars were able to hold tight against the Senators and still get the win. Instead of getting frustrated, they stuck to the plan. Instead of cheating for an offensive chance, they created offense out of defense.
``I just think we stayed with the game plan better,'' said Brenden Morrow, who scored the game-winning goal 1:13 into the third period. ``Instead of pressing too much and trying to win the game with one shift, we kept the third man high and kept recovering and didn't make that cheating pass, and it really paid off for us.''
Marc Crawford talked about the details of the game on Tuesday and at Wednesday's morning skate, and the Stars were better at the details of the game against the Senators. That allowed them to stay on task and win the kind of game that got squandered in Los Angeles and Anaheim. There, a 1-1 score in the third period turned into losses of 3-1 and 4-2. On Wednesday, a 1-1 tie turned into a 2-1 win.
And that is the difference in the NHL right now. Phoenix is 11-5-5 with a plus-3 in goal differential. St. Louis (who the Stars play Friday and Saturday) is 12-5-3 with a plus-2 in goal differential. Games are close, standings are close, and the Stars need to get points if they want to be on the good side of the party.
I say all of this to remind everyone just how hard it is on the Stars (and Richards is the type of player who has all of this stuff running around his brain). But while it's OK for the Stars to know these things, they have to forget them at some point and just play hockey.
And that might be the lesson of tonight's win _ somehow find a way to walk the line of playing a very conscientious, detailed game, all the while not getting so tense that you can't score goals. It's a challenge for this team, and they handled it about as well as they could tonight.
But it won't get easier.
``Seven out of 10,'' Richards said.
It might not be that ridiculous after all.
_ Trevor Daley's run up the middle and wrister that opened the scoring was a thing of beauty and was much needed. The Stars not getting many points from their defensemen (and just four goals), so a play like that really can change a game.
_ Krys Barch left the game with a lower body injury and had a boot on after the game, so we'll have to get an update on his status on Friday. The Stars have players who can take his place and might not need a call-up.
_ Jeff Woywitka played in place of injured Mark Fistric (groin) and had 14:49 of ice time, one assist and was plus-2. Fistric will probably skate Friday morning to see how the groin is doing.
_Severin Blindenbacher's call-up was much ado about nothing. The free agent defenseman who was signed in the summer out of Switzerland, traveled all the way from Austin through Chicago to Ottawa and got in Wednesday morning, but then didn't play. He is expected to be sent back to the Texas Stars on Thursday or Friday. The recall seemed silly with Woywitka ready to play, but the Stars explained that Karlis Skrastins also was sore and could have missed the game. Skrastins ended up playing. For his part, Blindenbacher seemed excited just to be on the Stars' radar and said he was happy about the call-up.
_No practice on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving.