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On the Radar: The Consolation Point

by Josh Bogorad / Dallas Stars

Losing stinks. Any way you slice it. When you are in a competition, and your opponent beats you, it leaves an unsettling feeling. However, not all losses are created equally. Never is that more true than in hockey.

The NHL is the only major sports league where you can lose a game, while also advancing your position in the standings. The "consolation point," "loser's point," "one-and-done point" or whatever you want to call the result of an overtime/shootout loss, makes for one of the more perplexing events in sports.

You lost. So you're supposed to experience all of the negative emotions that go along with that. Yet, at the same time, you received a standings point that you didn't have before the game. That's a confusing dichotomy. And since overtime losers receive only one fewer point than the winners, mathematically speaking, two overtime/shootout losses are exactly equal to a victory in the standings. But it doesn't feel that way, does it?

Take, for instance, the Dallas Stars home record. The Stars have played five games at American Airlines Center, and remarkably, four have gone to overtime. Perhaps just as remarkable, Dallas has lost all of them, leaving the team with an almost surreal 1-0-4 record on home ice. With the post-regulation losses stacking up one on top of the other, the feeling surrounding the Stars home record has been mostly negative. It's understandable. They've lost four out of five games at home. It's even more frustrating when you factor in that Dallas squandered third period leads in three of those four losses.

Now, imagine a team that finishes the season with a home record of 23-14-4. Perhaps you're thinking that's more along the lines of what you want to see from the Stars. Well, what if it already was?

The Stars strange record of 1-0-4 translates to a points percentage of .600. Stretched over a 41-game home campaign, it basically comes out to the equivalent of a 23-14-4 mark. In case you're wondering, that's the identical home record that the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings posted last season.

But unless you can emotionally detach from the seemingly never-ending string of overtime losses, it just doesn't seem that way. Walking out of the AAC as losers of an overtime game four times in three weeks breeds a sour way of thinking. Plus, as mentioned before, when you're minutes from the finish line with a lead in regulation, a consolation point feels like a hollow achievement.

However, the context perspective doesn't work both ways. On Friday the Stars played a pretty uninspired game against the Anaheim Ducks. Still, a third period push and game-tying goal late in regulation forced overtime before the Ducks won it in extra time. The Stars didn't play well, against a top-notch opponent, but still found a way to get a point in a game where they probably didn't deserve one. So, was there rejoicing? Of course not. Who wants to rejoice after a subpar performance and a loss? Nobody does. Nor should they.

The reality is that you can never celebrate the single point finish. It's always our first tendency to think about the point that got away, rather than the one that was collected. Plus, once you get to overtime you already have your point. Essentially a new game begins for another one. When you lose, it feels like any other loss.

People will always looks at teams with a lot of OT losses that don't make the playoffs and discuss the points they left on the table. Last year the New Jersey Devils played 27 overtime games. They went 9-18 and missed the playoffs by five points. That's a pretty compelling indictment, and seems to tell you exactly why they missed the playoffs.

That is, until you look at the team that beat them out for the final playoff spot in the East. The Detroit Red Wings played 24 overtime games, and went a lousy 9-15 in them. They made the playoffs by three points over Washington. Had they not squeezed out those extra points from overtime losses, they would have been watching the opening round from home.

The reality is that all teams are going to suffer overtime losses. It's the nature of the game. Last season 307 of 1,230 NHL regular season games went to overtime. That means there were 307 consolation points handed out, an average of about 10 per team. It all comes down to what those overtime losses are replacing. Should those games have been wins or losses?

The troubling part in the case of the Stars is that in the majority of their overtime losses this year, they led late and felt like they were the better team. Those are rough consolation points to swallow, and Dallas has to improve their finishing ability to be successful this season. But then, there was the game against Anaheim, where they clearly were not the better team, but managed to salvage something from the night. Every team will have their bad nights. If you can get points out of them, that's a positive. No matter how lousy it feels as its happening.

The fact is that an overtime loss in hockey is a bit like a M.C. Escher drawing. It doesn't make a lot of sense until you step back and really dissect it... And then it still doesn't make much sense.

Just keep in mind as the Stars try to figure out how to finally win at home, that no matter how dejecting it feels to lose, these home losses have not been pointless.

Literally.

The Stars return to AAC for a three-game homestand this week against three tough opponents. Here are a few things to keep 'On the Radar' as the Stars try to break out of their winless skid.

Breaking Up the Band?

When Lindy Ruff first put Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Jason Spezza on the same line, it was an experiment that he had planned to use only on occasion. However, the trio exploded right from the first period together, and Ruff admitted that even though his initial intention may not have been to play them together, they were performing too well to break up. In their first 16 periods together, that line combined for 30 points, and each player registered at least a point in all six games. However, in the last two games all three players have been held off the score sheet, and have a combined -3 rating. If Ruff truly was thinking about breaking that trio up and balancing his forward lines, for the first time they have given him a window to make that change. It will be interesting to see what the combinations look like on Tuesday night in the opener of the homestand.

Possible Help on the Way

Speaking of the lineup, the Stars could see the return of two players this week, as both forward Valeri Nichushkin and defenseman Sergei Gonchar could be available for action. Nichushkin played in the first two games of the season, before being sidelined with an injury. He played in two AHL games over the weekend on a conditioning assignment, and Ruff said he would be evaluated based on those games, and the staff would determine if he could potentially play this week. Gonchar has yet to make his season debut. He suffered an injury in a preseason game on September 30 and has missed the entire season to date. He was practicing regularly with the team last week and trying to get up to game speed. In other news, Stars forward Ales Hemsky left Saturday's game in Minnesota and did not return. His status entering this week is up in the air. The possible returns (or losses) could not only change who is in the lineup, but also who plays where this week.

Two Many Against

The Stars have talked about a few different issues this season that they would like to clean up going forward. However, the most pressing and noticeable one is limiting the opposition's offense. The Stars have allowed 3.46 goals against per game, tied for the third most in the NHL. High goals-against have seemed to be a nightly issue for the Stars this year. Through the first four weeks of the season, Dallas is one of just three NHL teams that has yet to play a single game in which they have held their opponent to fewer than two goals. The other two teams are the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers. The Islanders give up the second most goals in the league, and the Flyers allow the eighth most. It's no surprise that when the Stars played both teams the final scores were 7-5 and 6-5(OT), respectively. Despite having good records, the Stars' next two opponents - Los Angeles and Nashville - both are in the bottom half of team scoring this season. Dallas needs to do a better job of keeping opponents off the board, and they can look to do that against a couple those teams immediately.

Josh Bogorad is the Pre-Game, Post-Game, and Intermission host for Stars television broadcasts. He can be seen 30 minutes before face-off on ‘Stars Live’ and immediately after games all season long on Fox Sports Southwest. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshBogorad.

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