By Matthew DeFranks
The Dallas Morning News
We know the Stars are in. After that, the details are less clear.
Following NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s return-to-play announcement Tuesday afternoon, the Stars became one of eight teams to clinch a playoff berth should hockey return after a suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As the No. 4 team in the Western Conference, the Stars do not have to play in the qualifying round in order to participate in the postseason.
While 24 teams are planning to resume play if the NHL returns, the playoffs are still technically 16 teams. That is why the league has referred to the best-of-5 series for the bottom 16 teams as the “qualifying round.”
Even though the Stars finished the regular season with fewer points than the Oilers, the NHL used points percentage to rank the teams. Dallas finished the season with 82 points in 69 games, a points percentage of .594. Edmonton finished the season with 83 points in 71 games, a points percentage of .585.
Instead of playing in the qualifying round, the Stars will play in a round robin against the other playoff teams in the West — St. Louis, Colorado and Vegas — to determine seeding.
Since regular-season results will only be used in the case of a tiebreaker in the round robin, the Stars can finish anywhere from first to fourth in the West. The league has also not announced whether the matchups would be bracketed or re-seeded after each round.
So, Dallas can be No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 because of the round robin. And it can face any team seeded No. 5 to No. 12 in the West thanks to uncertainty around the format. It’s safe to say there are a lot of possibilities around the Stars. Instead of delving into the multitude of scenarios, we’ll take a look at the one certainty.
How do the Stars match up against their opponents in the round-robin tournament?
The Stars will benefit from a rested Jamie Benn, Corey Perry, Joe Pavelski, Andrej Sekera and Roman Polak. They’ll boast arguably the league’s best goaltending duo in Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, a potential game-changer should the schedule be tightened to expedite the postseason. Dallas, like most teams, will be fully healthy.