NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Look, every sports team craves home-field (or in this case, ice) advantage. Even with that in mind, the Stars have plenty of incentive to wrestle away the Central Division’s second seed from the Colorado Avalanche.
The Kings don’t serve as much of a threat on paper, but let’s consider larger trends to see why the Stars should do what they can to take care of business on Wednesday.
Stars fighting through challenges while Avs hit a snag
Looking at the Stars’ and Avs’ recent records alone makes you realize that things could get tight.
Despite all of the turmoil that came from the surprise coaching change of Jim Montgomery being replaced by Rick Browess, the Stars settled down and are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. They’ve won four games in a row, with a nice chance to make that five tonight.
You’d think that the Avalanche would climb, not stumble, with several key players returning from injuries. Instead, the Avalanche lost their last game and are a mediocre 4-5-1 in their past 10.
Colorado is still ahead of Dallas for the second seed, but not by much.
Avalanche: 25-14-4 for 54 points in 43 games played
Stars: 24-14-4 for 52 points in 42 GP
Indeed, if the Stars beat the Kings on Wednesday, then it would merely come down to tiebreakers. Kind of hard to believe, right?
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Stars rely on home games
Again, the Stars have serious incentive to try to hop over at least the Avalanche. (The Stars have some chance of leaping the Blues [59 points, 43 GP], but it’s unlikely.)
So far in 2019-20, the Stars boast a 15-6-2 home record, while they’re only 9-8-2 on the road. A stark home/road disparity extends beyond this season, too.
- The Stars own an 87-45-14 record in 146 home games since 2016-17, the seventh-best mark in the NHL.
- The Stars rank seventh-worst on the road during that same span (56-70-16 in 142 road games since 2016-17).
- Overall, they landed very much middle-of-the-pack since 2016-17 began (143-115-30 in 288 GP).
- This home/road split carries over noticeably from year to year. Things were most extreme in 2016-17; the Stars went 22-13-6 at home and just 12-24-5 on the road.
Those stats provide reasonably compelling evidence that the Stars really are a far more dangerous team in Dallas.
Now, I can’t tell you exactly why the Stars have been that much better at home. Maybe opponents feel sluggish after eating all of that brisket and delicious Tex-Mex food? Perhaps a physical player like Jamie Benn takes it up a notch in front of a partisan crowd? The Stars morphed into a team that sometimes survives on a fairly slim margin of error lately, so maybe the sometimes-subtle home-ice advantages tip the scales?
Either way, with the door open a bit, the Stars should burst through it. Playing key home playoff games could end up making an, erp, Texas-sized difference.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.