The NHL has released the schedules for the 2012-2013 season. Assuming there are no work stoppages, the Stars, as usual, will be the most travelled team in the league. Last year saw the Dallas Stars end their season in a brutal stretch of back-to-backs against divisional rivals San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings along with the last two games which were against the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues, both of whom were jockeying for playoff positions.
One of the most glaring failures from the Stars’ season last year was their record in the second game of “back-to-backs.” At an abysmal 1-11-2, the Stars squandered a minimum of eleven points (the eleven regular season losses if ties would have given the Stars eleven points) which would have given them 100 points and thus making the playoffs for the first time in three years.
No doubt, the first thing Stars fans did (yes, I did the same thing) was to count the back-to-backs for the upcoming season. Thankfully, the league reduced the number from last year’s 14 to 12; however half of the back-to-backs are road-road. These will be broken down as we examine the season month-by-month.
The Stars need to find the remedy to their back-to-back woes because 2012-2013 starts off with a back-to-back, but that’s not the worst of it. Of the six back-to-backs where both games are on the road, this is the first. But wait, that’s not all. The first two games are against division rival Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks. The month finds Dallas with four home games and five games on the road, including the first two which is the only back-to-back of the month. This is going to be a rough start to the season, as seven of the nine games in October are against teams that made the playoffs last year, which includes trips to Boston, Ottawa and Philadelphia.
Thirty days. Fifteen games. As Stars fans, we will be giving thanks for a lot of hockey in November. Dallas will face ten playoff teams in the fifteen games, including a trip to Madison Square Garden to visit the Rangers, the first trip of the season to The Joe to face the Red Wings and two games against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Only three games will be played against other Pacific division teams and again, only one back-to-back. The Stars will have an opportunity to establish a strong position as they face Edmonton twice, Columbus and offensively-inept Carolina Hurricanes once.
Nothing says December like cold weather and longer nights. This is apparently a perfect time for the Stars to venture on their first Western Canadian road trip of the year to face the President Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton. The Stars will get a chance to thaw out from their longest road trip of the season as they play the last three games of the six-game trip in California to face the Cup-champion Kings, Ducks and San Jose Sharks. To go along with the brutal road trip, there are two back-to-backs, one of which occurs after a FIVE day layoff after the western road swing. The positive to take from December is of the thirteen games, only seven are against playoff foes. Dallas will host the Nashville Predators on New Year’s Eve, which is the fifteenth time in a row the Stars have celebrated the New Year in front of their home crowd.
The new year starts off with a light schedule, as Dallas only plays eleven games in the 31 days, in large part to the All-Star break from Jan. 24-28. Just as the first two months of the season, the games in January will present a majority of the games against playoff teams from the previous year, this time hosting the New York Rangers and traveling to the Windy City twice to face the Blackhawks. Dallas will face former Western Conference Finals foe, Colorado three times, the first time kicking off one of the two back-to-backs.
Talk about the “month of love.” Even though both of the back-to-backs are road-road, the first will be a bus trip from Miami after facing the Panthers to Tampa to take on Steven Stamkos and the Lightning. The other back-to-back will be the start of the second Western Canada road trip of the season, as the Stars will jump from Calgary to face the Oilers the following evening. Of the twelve total games, only four are against teams to make the tournament and only one game will be played against the Pacific (Anaheim). Only two of the six road games are against playoff teams (Panthers and Canucks) and Dallas will play host to Winnipeg for the first time since their return to the league last year.
Irish eyes will be smiling on Dallas as the Stars will get plenty of home cooking, as nine of the fifteen games will be played in the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center. Of course, the one bump they will face is nine games against top-eight teams, including twice against the Kings, the Sharks and Detroit along with hosting the Eastern Conference champion, New Jersey Devils. This will present the Stars a perfect opportunity to not only solidify a position in the top eight of the west, but make a statement against nine successful teams that Dallas is to be taken seriously.
Stars will spring to the end with seven games, five of which will be against divisional rivals which will no doubt be the most important games of the season as Dallas lost the divisional lead and got knocked out of the playoffs in the last two weeks of the season. The final back-to-back will be played along the PCH when they Stars face off against LA then travels up the Pacific Coast Highway and take on the Ducks for the final time during the 2012-2013 regular season. Dallas will play San Jose at the Shark Tank, host the Cup Champs then face conference rivals Minnesota and Nashville to end the season.
Every sports fan is excited for a new season. Every team has a shot at the ultimate goal and everyone is even. Looking at the schedule, the Stars and their fans have an amazing year ahead of them. There is a crop of prospects that are poised to make their names as they look to move up the ranks to start living out their dreams. Next year all begins today in Pittsburgh when all the teams gather to pick the next superstar and/or savior. Next year is now. The future is shining as bright as the Stars.