Today we will look at Part II of the Dallas Stars Midseason Report Card. In case you missed it we covered the Stars’ management, coaching and forwards here in Part I. Now we will cover the Stars defense and goaltending. Overall, it’s safe to say both groups have performed below expectations. Defense is the bigger problem, but the goalies aren’t blameless.
The defense and goaltending have had a first half that would have made Delta Tau Chi proud. The only member of the D-corps who hasn’t sat out a game as a healthy scratch is Johnny Oduya, but he’s missed time due to an ankle injury. The goalies have been as inconsistent as a wannabe craps player shaking up the dice before his next roll.
The Number One D-Man, The Free Agent, and Veterans
John Klingberg: D-
He began the season as the Stars’ number one defenseman. His first half has been unacceptable. He’s been a liability defensively, and his offense has been below par. He’s been paired with just about every other Stars defenseman and hasn’t found the chemistry he had with Alex Goligoski last season. Although, recently playing alongside rookie Esa Lindell, he has shown some positive results. Surprising stat: Klingberg had one power-play goal in 39 games.
I recognize THAT John Klingberg..no hesitation, sees the opening and blisters the puck home. Want to see more of that guy.
— Bruce LeVine (@BruceLeVinePuck) January 5, 2017
Dan Hamhuis: C
He was the Stars’ biggest offseason signing and was expected to partner with Klingberg on the top defense pairing. However, the duo struggled to find the right chemistry and have faired better, though still not great apart. He led Stars defensemen with a 52.39% SAT (5×5), but that was 69th best among NHL defensemen. His plus/minus rating was a respectable plus-two. Surprising stat: Hamuis lead all Stars defensemen in shorthanded points wth two assists.
Jordie Benn: C+
Benn will never be confused with a Norris Trophy contender, but he’s been the Stars most consistent defensemen. He lead their defensemen in blocked shots with 70, and is second to Klingberg in scoring with 11 points. He also led the Stars’ defense in penalty killing time on ice, but the their penalty killing unit ranked last in the NHL at 74.3 percent. Surprising stat: He had the same amount of power play shots on goal (nine) as Klingberg despite having less than half as many power play minutes played (56:50; 139:37).
Johnny Oduya: C-
Oduya missed time due to injuries but still appeared in 31 games. He had the second-most blocked shots (67) among the team’s defensemen. Not known for his offense, Oduya had just six points in that span and his plus/minus rating of plus-one was much lower than usual. Father Time may be catching up with the 35-year-old who has played a lot of hockey (95-plus games in each of the past three seasons). Surprising stat: His average time-on-ice (18:38) was fifth among Stars defenseman.
The Rookies and Incompletes
Esa Lindell: B-
After a slow start, he ended the first half on the top pair with Klingberg. He led the Stars defense in plus/minus (plus-nine). The rookie was second among all Stars defensemen in hits with 49, and third in blocked shots with 54. He was second in time-on-ice with 20:26 per game.
Surprising stat: He was second among NHL rookie defensemen in goals with four.
Stephen Johns: C-
Technically another rookie blueliner, Johns NHL career got off to an impressive start when he debuted last season. He was paired almost exclusively with Oduya, and they seemed like a combo that could be together for years. However, inconsistent play, including a demotion to the minors, and Oduya missing time with injuries, caused them to split up. Despite that, Johns still led the Stars defense in hits with 78. Surprising stat: He was tied for first with Klingberg and Lindell for most goals at home with three.
Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, and Julius Honka all received incomplete grades due to appearing in fewer than 25 games.
The Stars Goaltending Duo
Kari Lehtonen: C
Lehtonen had a 9-10-4 record in the first half. His wins included a 23-save shutout on the road against the Colorado Avalanche, a 40-save victory at Edmonton and a 35-save performance at Arizona. He ranked 58th among NHL goaltenders with a .897 save percentage. He was tied for the league lead in short-handed goals allowed with four. He also allowed the third most power-play goals allowed with 20. The Stars penalty killing has been last or near the bottom all first half, however as all hockey fans know, your goalie is the most important penalty killer.
Antti Niemi: C-
Niemi had an 8-6-4 record in the first half. He ranked 45th among NHL goalies with a .908 save percentage. Niemi had a .932 save percentage on home ice. He was excellent in the season-opening win against the Anaheim Ducks, stopping 33 of 35 shots. He stopped 30 of 31 shots against the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 25 and stopped 65 out of 68 shots in mid-December wins over Anaheim again, and the Philadelphia Flyers. As good as he’s been at home, he’s been as bad on the road with just one win, and a .858 save percentage. Again, some of the blame goes to the penalty killing, defense and inconsistent forward play, but his performance also factored into the results.