The Dallas Stars concluded the month of February with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings and the month provided some mixed fortunes for the men who wear Victory Green.
The Stars gave up 51 goals in the shortest month of the year, just one behind Arizona for most in the NHL this month. Even with that grotesque number, they still managed a record of 7-5-2 which kept them firmly placed in the race for the Central division title.
Some statistics suggest they could have done even better despite giving up all of those goals.
Stars Controlling the Play
Once again, the Stars finished a month near the top of the league in terms of their possession numbers. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs (I think they’re serious about this rebuild, people) and the Los Angeles Kings had a better even-strength Corsi-for-% than the Dallas Stars in the month of February.
They finished the month with a Corsi-for-% of 54.4. Despite the goals against, they are still finding themselves with the puck more often than not.
Different statistic, similar story. The Stars were only bested by the Maple Leafs (seriously they aren’t messing around) in terms of scoring-chances-for-% with an incredible number of 56.7. They were actually in the top-half of the league in scoring-chances-against, something the leaky Stars have rarely been able to say.
Losing the Close Battles
One issue that plagued the Stars throughout the month of February was the inability to step up and score when the games were close.
When the game was within one goal in the first or second period, or tied in the third, the Stars gave up a league-high 23 even-strength goals in the month of February. They gave up 31 total goals when the game was considered “close”, second-highest in the NHL behind Arizona.
Only four teams in the NHL gave up more high-danger scoring chances during close games than Dallas did in February. The defensive play was suspect throughout the month.
Looking for Some Puck Luck
Hockey is a game that lends itself to being decided by a fair amount of luck. The Stars did not get much of it last month.
Their PDO (save-percentage+shooting-percentage) was at a 96.6 in the month of February, third-lowest in the NHL. Typically that number will even out to around 100.
The 96.6 was a product of a bottom-ten shooting-percentage and a bottom-three save-percentage at even strength. You aren’t going to win many games with those numbers.
Mentality Has to Change
Eventually the Stars need to get back to being the team we saw in the first couple of months of this season. They have to realize that they can’t get away with outscoring their mistakes defensively night-in and night-out. In the month of February, they were completely unable to do that.
The Stars were outscored 51-44 last month. That differential was in the bottom-ten of the league for the month. Team defense has to be on the forefront of every Dallas player’s mind.
Could the goaltending be better? Absolutely, and it is a problem that troubled them all of last season. But these last two months are different. It isn’t just the goaltending. The Stars are giving up an absurd amount of chances to the opposition and they simply can’t except Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen to stop every quality chance that comes their way.
The Stars have the talent to lock it down. They just have to look at February as a turning point. They will be better than that month showed.