Dallas Stars: Goals Against (Below) Average

It is no secret that the Dallas Stars missed the playoffs because of the sheer amount of goals they gave up this season. After all, they scored the most goals in the Western Conference and were just one goal behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the league lead. The defense struggled at times, but a lot of the blame was placed on the goaltending. According to war-on-ice.com, the Stars posted the second worst save percentage in the entire NHL. Kari Lehtonen had his worst season in Dallas as he saw his save percentage plummet from previous seasons. It wasn’t just the goals against, it was the kind of goals that he was giving up that was really troubling. I wanted to find out how big of a problem it was over the course of the season, so I watched every single goal that was scored against the Dallas Stars this year.

Before I go into all of the numbers, I want to explain some things. Essentially what I did was watch the goals against and find out the root of why the goal was scored. Was a player out of position? Should the goalie have made the save? Was the goal just an excellent play by the goal-scorer? All of these are including in the data that I gathered.  Sometimes, I viewed that multiple players were potentially at-fault, so I split the blame between the two. Could more than two players be at fault for a goal? Absolutely, but some mistakes are just more egregious than others.  As a disclaimer, the following statistics are not 100% flawless as this can be a rather subjective task. However, if somebody else were to do this, they would most likely come to similar conclusions. Now let’s get to the data.

Some Goals You Just Can’t Stop

According to NHL.com, the Dallas Stars gave up 260 goals this season. The actual number is 257, as they accounted for the three shootout losses that the Stars suffered.  I concluded that 70 goals were scored by strong plays by the offense, so no fault was assigned to these goals.  That includes a lot of deflected goals, some unlucky bounces and breakaways, and some ridiculous snipes courtesy of Thomas Vanek and Vladimir Tarasenko. Sometimes you just get beat, and that will happen throughout a season. Also goals I assigned no fault to were empty net goals and the Stars gave up 12 of those.

The Goaltenders

The Dallas Stars had the second worst save percentage in the entire NHL and much of that had to do with poor goaltending play. You heard Lindy Ruff talk about “soft goals” and not getting “that save” several times throughout the season.  After watching every goal scored against the Stars this season, I couldn’t agree more with Ruff.

Kari Lehtonen gave up a total of 181 goals this season.  18 of those goals were uncontested, uninhibited shots from the top of the circles and beyond. That is almost 10% of Lehtonen’s goals against coming from shots from a considerable distance.  Several goals were scored from shots at severe angles that rarely find the back of the net.  Many more were caused by Lehtonen misplaying the puck or the play, such as the one below.

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Others were scored due to bad rebounds given up and poor positioning. All in all, I found that 58 of the 181 goals scored against Kari Lehtonen this season were, by most standards, “stoppable” shots.  That equates to 32.04%, almost one-third of the total amount of goals Lehtonen gave up. It is also 22.57% of the goals given up by the entire Dallas team. That simply cannot happen if a team is going to succeed.

Anders Lindback, Jhonas Enroth and Jussi Rynnas saw similar results. 32.8% of the goals scored against Lindback I deemed preventable. 32% of Enroth’s goals against could have also been considered stoppable. Jussi Rynnas had a small sample size of just two games and 7 goals against, but 28.57% of the goals against him were stoppable pucks.

The Skaters

Not all goals fall on the goaltender not being able to come up with a save. Many odd-man rushes and quality scoring chances are born out of a player being out of position or choosing to press at the wrong time. Trevor Daley was the most victimized outside of the goalies. His mistakes led to a total of 11.5 goals (the .5 comes in when two players could share equal fault on a goal against), which is the most I calculated among defensemen. Closely following him are Jordie Benn (10.5), John Klingberg (10), and Alex Goligoski (9). Klingberg was in his rookie season and mistakes are certainly going to happen. Many of his mistakes came with him pressing too much up ice or off puck-turnovers. The most shocking discovery when it came to defensemen, however, was Jamie Oleksiak. Oleksiak played in just 36 games and didn’t play many minutes in those games. Oleksiak, by my count, was at fault for a total of 9 goals against. Costly puck turnovers were his demise, as well as not using his size to his advantage at times. The defense as a whole got better as the season went on, while the goaltending continued to struggle.

The most victimized forward on the Stars was Jamie Benn with 4.5 goals against due to his play. Most of the forward numbers were relatively low compared to the rest of the team. That isn’t to say they didn’t make defensive mistakes, but the goaltenders and the defensemen were generally at fault.

What Could Have Been

The Stars entered the season with sky-high expectations and fell flat early. Their strong play in March and April kept them alive, but the goaltending mistakes were too many and too often. In total, there were 79 goals given up that would be considered “soft” goals for the goalies.  That is over 30% of the total goals given up by the Stars, including empty-netters. Of those 79 “stoppable” goals, 25 of them were either game-tying goals or game-winning goals. Of those 25, 18 were given up in the third period or overtime. Those numbers are the reason the Stars are not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. The Stars finished 7 points out of a playoff spot. If the goalies, mainly Kari Lehtonen, had stopped half of those 25 game-tying/game-winning goals, they would still be playing hockey this week.

Kari Lehtonen

Ultimately, the many goaltending mistakes cost the Stars a chance at the playoffs. But who is to blame? Kari Lehtonen has been fantastic in Dallas up until this season. We’ve seen Anders Lindback, Jhonas Enroth, Dan Ellis and even Richard Bachman have some sort of success outside of Dallas. Jim Nill and the rest of the Stars management will certainly be taking a close look at goaltending coach Mike Valley and see if a change is needed. They may possibly add a goaltender in the offseason or they may hold still and hope that Lehtonen’s rough season was just a fluke. No matter what happens, one thing is for certain. The Stars cannot afford to waste another incredible offense with poor goaltending.