The 2014-15 season was one of the most frustrating in recent memory for the Dallas Stars, and that’s saying something considering the franchise has missed the playoffs every year but one since 2008.
The Stars finished the season 8th in terms of even-strength CorsiFor% (according to the website War-On-Ice), 2nd overall in goals, 7th overall in shots, 12th overall in shots against, and 8th on the powerplay. They also had the NHL’s highest scorer that year in Jamie Benn, who picked up 87 points.
And yet, the Stars still missed the playoffs. Their 92 points had them seven points behind the Winnipeg Jets, who claimed the last Wildcard spot in the Western Conference.
The biggest reason why? Dallas finished 29th in the league in terms of team save percentage, at an abysmal .895.
Stars general manager Jim Nill made a bold move over the summer to address the issue, trading for and then signing veteran goalie Antti Niemi to help bolster his club at the crucial goaltending position. And, for the first chunk of the season, the tandem of Niemi and fellow veteran Kari Lehtonen seemed to be doing the trick.
However, the tides have turned for the worse since the calendar flipped over to 2016.
Both goalies have been struggling heavily for Dallas over the past two months, and their respective statistics have been falling in accordance. Niemi is down to a .904 save percentage through 40 games, while Lehtonen is just a .906 in 29 appearances. Combined, the club’s save percentage is currently tied for 23rd in the NHL, alongside teams like the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Things reached their lowest point thus far in Dallas’ 6-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, with both goalies looking incredibly out of sorts and allowing three goals apiece in the defeat.
The good news for Dallas in all of this is that the team still currently sits in 1st place in the Western Conference with 82 points, thanks primarily to their 3.23 goals-per-game, which is tied with the Washington Capitals for most in the league. But unless the team’s goaltending is rectified, and fast, the Stars could be finding themselves on precarious, unstable footing in the final stretch of the regular season and possibly even into the playoffs.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL