Despite the horrid month of January, the Dallas Stars find themselves second in the West before Tuesday night’s games. They are in that position because of one of the best starts to a season in franchise history and are looking for ways to get back to the game they were playing when they were running away with the league’s best division. Let’s take a look, 50 games in, and what the Stars have done right and what they have done wrong this season so far.
If you aren’t familiar with what “high-danger scoring chances are”, I’ve dropped a quick link here so you can familiarize yourself with them. They really have been a telling point in the overall game of the Dallas Stars this season.
Those who have watched the Stars at least once this season know they are a high-energy, high-octane, offensive powerhouse that plays one of the more entertaining styles of hockey you will see in the league. Their games are high-entertainment value because they get a ton of high-quality scoring chances but they also give up a ton of high-quality scoring chances. It cost them last season, as the defense and goaltending let the offense down and they were unable to make the playoffs.
This season they are getting better goaltending but the rate at which they give up high-quality chances are still worrisome. Let’s get into the numbers.
- The Dallas Stars have 532 high-danger scoring chances at even strength this season, best in the league. The second place team (San Jose Sharks) has 491.
- The Stars have given up 491 high-danger scoring chances, also most in the NHL.
- Their overall high-danger-scoring-chance-% is 52.0, 9th in the NHL at even strength.
- For NHL goalies who have played at least 700 minutes this season, Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi rank 13 and 16 respectively in high-danger save percentage.
The goaltending has taken a big step forward this season and was a big part of the strong start. The Stars are 17th in goals against per game and while that isn’t where they want to be, it is still a big improvement from last season.
Corsi Isn’t Everything, But..
The Stars have been an outstanding possession team this season. Ultimately it boils down to scoring goals and winning games but the strong underlying metrics allow fans to say “Yeah I know they are struggling, but—-!”.
- At 53.2%, the Stars have the fifth-highest corsi-for-% at even strength in the entire NHL. Only the Kings, Predators, Ducks and Canadiens boast better corsi numbers.
- When the game is close (within one goal in the first two periods or tied in the third), the Stars have a CF% of 54.8, a number that only the Kings can best.
- Having good possession numbers when ahead is important as well, it helps to show when a team isn’t letting off the gas. The Stars have the fifth-highest CF% when leading in the entire NHL.
- The Stars have been the strongest (possession-wise) in first periods this season with a 54.4 CF%. They have a 51.8 CF% in the second frame and a 53.4 CF% in the third. All three of those numbers rank in the top-7 in the league.
If You Aren’t Scoring, You Aren’t Winning
The Stars don’t win a lot of games by the score of 2-1 (of course they did in the last game they played before this was written). They win a good chunk of their games by scoring four, five or even six goals. Going back to the start of last season up until now, the Stars have scored at least 27 goals more than anyone else in the NHL (not including playoffs). Even if you include playoffs, which the Stars did not qualify for last season, they have still scored enough goals to rank them fifth in the NHL in that time span. Now let’s focus on just this season.
- The Stars have scored 160 goals this season, most in the NHL. Washington is close behind with 153 and have played four fewer games than Dallas.
- Dallas has given up 90 even-strength markers, only five teams in the NHL have given up more.
- No team in the NHL has scored more third-period goals than Dallas and their +21 goal differential in the third is tied with Washington for tops in the league.
- When the game is tied in the third, the Stars have scored 12 goals while giving up only four, the best differential in the NHL.
Never Out of It
We’ve seen it a few times this season but you can never say the Stars are out of a game until that final horn sounds. They have spent just over 836 minutes of game time trailing this season (11th-lowest in the NHL) and they’ve still managed to score the 6th-highest amount of goals while trailing. They do not give up on games.
- Only the Kings and Capitals have a better winning-% when the opponent scores first than the Stars this season.
- The Stars have the second-highest goal total while trailing by more than three goals this year.
So what do you take away from all of this? They have excellent underlying numbers and are one of the top offensive teams in the NHL. The main thing to be concerned about is the sheer amount of quality chances they give up. If Niemi or Lehtonen are not up to the task one night, chances are it is going to be a rough game. Same can be said if the opposing goalie is having the game of his life. One thing is for sure, they are an entertaining bunch to watch.
Jordan has been covering the Stars for The Hockey Writers since February 2015. He is originally from Iowa City, Iowa. You can follow Jordan on twitter @jordan_dix