The Dallas Stars have reached the final nine games of the 2021-22 regular season. They sit three points up on the Vegas Golden Knights for the final playoff spot and just a single point behind the Nashville Predators for the top wild card. Of the final nine games, seven of them come at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. While they have been a strong home team throughout most of the season (23-10-2), they have lost a bit of their dominance as of late (4-4-1 since March 2).
With the intensity of this tight playoff race in the Western Conference, they will need to regain what was once a dominant home-ice advantage in order to secure their spot in the final 16.
Dallas Has Put Themselves in a Good Spot
When the Stars entered a road-heavy March schedule, they knew that if they could keep their head above water, they would put themselves in an excellent spot in April with 10 home games awaiting them. Not only did they stay afloat, they carried a 9-5-0, recording 18 points in the process.
“When we met with the team at the start of March, we said, ‘Our best hockey is ahead of us,'” Bowness said. “To come out of March 9-5 with 11 of those games without Miro, we knew going into the month that we had to stay in the fight for that playoff spot, and we have done that.”
Now, the Stars are seven games into April and hold a decent 4-2-1 record. Still, they remain in a good spot in the playoff race and know that six of the final nine games will be played against teams currently on the outside of the playoff picture.
At home, a large portion of the Dallas roster simply performs at a higher level. Jake Oettinger is 17-6-0 at home and 9-7-0 on the road, Jamie Benn has 28 points at home and only 17 on the road, and the list goes on. Aside from the top line, most of the Stars lineup sees improvement in front of their home crowd.
“You should have an advantage,” said Stars coach Rick Bowness about playing at home. “We definitely enjoy playing here, and we get the match-ups we want, and we feel good with the crowd there and just being home, so we need to take advantage.”
Stars Have the Chance to Clinch in Front of Their Fans
Ever since the Stars made their incredible run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in the Edmonton bubble, they have craved playoff series in front of their fans. They just missed out last year so this season is their first chance to make that happen.
“I wish we could experience the Stanley Cup Final again, that would be nice if we could have the home fans, that would be an even greater experience and hopefully a better ending too,” said forward Radek Faksa. “It motivates me to get back into the Stanley Cup Final because it was the best feeling in my career so far.”
Not to take anything away from the excitement and meaning behind that 2020 run, but pursuing the greatest trophy in sports is a heck of a lot more fun in front of 18,000 than it is in empty buildings thousands of miles from your home city. If they can take care of business over the final few weeks, they will get the chance to enjoy that environment and reward their fans for all of their support throughout the difficult times of COVID-19.
“That’s a building we really enjoy playing at and it always gives you that little extra boost,” said forward Joe Pavelski, on the raucous atmosphere inside American Airlines Center all season long.
In the final stretch, there will be a balance of big-time matchups against the Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Vegas Golden Knights, along with games against lesser teams in the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Seattle Kraken, Arizona Coyotes, and Anaheim Ducks. Dallas has not exactly dominated the teams they should beat this season but they have performed fairly well against the top teams in the league.
What does that mean? I have no clue. As I have stated throughout the season, we really do not know what version of this team we will see. But, in the last few weeks, we do know one thing, it is going to make for some fun hockey.
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!