The Dallas Stars widened their lead in the Central Division to a full game (three points but one more game played) over the St. Louis Blues with a win over the Winnipeg Jets Thursday, Nov. 12. Over a fifth of the 2015-16 NHL season is over and they are one game behind the Montreal Canadiens in the race for the President’s Trophy.
The Canadiens have been the bigger topic of conversation thanks to having a near-record start to the 2015-16 NHL season, but the Stars have been the better team of late. Both have played eight home games and nine on the road and both have earned all their wins before the shootout, but there is no comparing which team has been more impressive. One look at the competition can tell that.
Montreal is the only team in the Atlantic Division among the top-10 teams in the overall 2015-16 NHL season standings and has 15 of a possible 16 points in head-to-head games. It has not lost a game in regulation to the entire Eastern Conference while earning 22 of 24 potential points but is a modest 3-2-0 against the Western Conference.
By contrast, the Central Division has four of the seven teams atop the same standings. Thursday was just the second interdivisional game and first win for Dallas, but it is a balanced 5-1-0 against the Western Conference and 8-3-0 against the Eastern Conference.
The Stars have also undergone more change to start the 2015-16 NHL season, leading one to wonder how good they can be once they get used to their new teammates and everyone settles in for their long-term roles. The Canadiens are largely the same team that went to the Eastern Conference finals and are not likely to get better.
The Central Division has been decisively the best in the NHL in each of the previous two seasons with the current alignment, snatching both available wild cards both times. It produced the Stanley Cup champion last April and the Chicago Blackhawks were one win away from the Western Conference title the year before.
Finally, the two teams have played nine games each against the same opposition. Counting the extra home game Montreal played against the Atlantic Division-rival Boston Bruins rather than the road game (both being 4-2 wins) to even out the number each team played on its own ice, Dallas has one more win (7-2-0 vs. 6-2-1) and is five better in goal differential.
It is obviously way too early to declare one team better just 17 games into the 2015-16 NHL season. However, the Stars look better right now and it is time for the talking heads of hockey to talk more about teams outside of the Eastern Time Zone.