The NHL's Pacific Division has become the most important division title race in the 2012 playoff race, as evidenced by last night's drop by the Dallas Stars, who with a 2-1 loss to Vancouver, fell from the third seed in the Western Conference to the eighth and final spot.
Dallas entered the night with a slim one point lead over Los Angeles and Phoenix, with San Jose close behind. The Stars' loss combined with the Kings' win (1-0 over St. Louis in a shootout) thrust L.A. into the Pacific lead - and the division's automatic Top-3 seed - with 86 points. The Kings are tied with Phoenix, who loses the tiebreaker and settles for seventh, while the Stars are now eighth with 85, tied with ninth place Colorado.
|St. Louis Blues||75||46-20-9||101|
|Los Angeles Kings||74||37-25-12||86|
|Detroit Red Wings||74||44-25-5||93|
|San Jose Sharks||74||37-27-10||84|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||73||23-43-7||53|
Why the drastic drop? Simply put - the Pacific Division is lacking a frontrunner. Dallas has been one of the hottest teams in hockey since the All-Star break, but no team has been able to build a commanding lead in division play, while clubs like St. Louis (101 points) and Vancouver (97) have all but wrapped up the Central and Northwest.
There's also a matter of lopsided parity in the division structure this season - at 85-86 points, Phoenix, L.A. or Dallas would all finish in last place in the murder's row of the Central Division, where four teams occupy the Top 6 seeds in the West.
What's this mean for the Stars? A lot of scoreboard watching. Dallas only has two division games left in their final eight (a home-and-away with San Jose), with four teams scrambling for two (possibly three) spots, a No. 3 seed being one of them.