Stars Need to Solve Special Teams Issues

We all know the Dallas Stars’ season has been sub-par, to say the least. While the team has done well during five-on-five play, the same can’t be said when it comes to their special teams.

Weak Penalty Kill Proving Costly

The team’s penalty kill has had a greater impact on the Stars game thus far, and not in a good way. Having a strong penalty kill is vital for any team who wants to make a run at a playoff spot and eventually go further. That being said, it’s clear to see the Stars don’t have that, as they sit seventh in the Discover Central Division.

Although the penalty kill isn’t the only reason the team is struggling, it has played a large role in their poor play. Their penalty kill ranks 17th in the league, and with the number of penalties they’ve been taking per game, it’s really hurting the team.

John Klingberg Dallas Stars
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

A perfect example of this was the game on March 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars had been playing great during five-on-five on play, then, seven minutes into the game, John Klingberg made a great zone entry, and the play looked promising. He ended up dropping the puck back for a teammate who wasn’t where he initially thought he was.

The play was broken up, and in the scuffle of the play, Blake Comeau was assessed a two-minute minor for interference, so the Stars went on the penalty kill. Ten seconds into the Lightning power play, Ondrej Palat scored.

Related: Lightning Have Flourished While Stars Have Floundered This Season

This completely broke up all momentum the Stars had going through the first seven minutes of the game. While Dallas was able to hold Tampa to two goals that game (with the second coming off an empty net), they were unable to recover from the initial Lightning goal and lost.

In games where the Stars are disciplined and aren’t taking many penalties, they look like a great team who could be in the top three in the division. For example, Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas didn’t take a single penalty and played a good back and forth game that they eventually lost in overtime.

The penalty kill has games where it looks like it’s getting better, but by the next game, it’s back to the way it had been before. The Stars are running out of time to solve their issues on the penalty kill. With quite a few spots to move up in the division and not very many games to do so, without a functioning penalty kill, it’s not a realistic goal for the team.

Poor Power Play Production

It’s not just the penalty kill that is giving the Stars trouble – it’s also their power play. At the start of the season, the team’s power play was their main source of offense but has since fallen flat. In their past five games, the Stars have had 22 power-play opportunities but have scored just three times.

The team has been missing Alexander Radulov (ranked second amongst Stars players in power-play goals) since early February, which could be impacting the team’s power-play production. Regardless, they still have Jamie Benn, who led the team in power-play goals last season, as well as Joe Pavelski, who currently leads the team in PPG. Along with that, they have a great range of players who are capable of stepping up on the power play, but haven’t.

Alexander Radulov
DALLAS, TEXAS – APRIL 17: Alexander Radulov #47 of the Dallas Stars celebrates a goal with Miro Heiskanen #4 in the first period against the Nashville Predators of Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 17, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

This is obviously not ideal, especially when Dallas’ penalty kill is also struggling. With the number of opportunities the Stars have been getting to score on the power play, their conversion rate is incredibly disappointing. The Stars have lost a handful of games by one or two goals. If they could have converted on some of those power-play chances during those games, they could have strung together a few wins and could be in better position.

Teams can skate by with a poor power play – some teams are even able to win Stanley Cups without a strong power play. However, combine that with a bad penalty kill, and that’s a whole different story.

We’re seeing exactly that with this Stars team. They’re an all-around talented group that has a lot of potential, but they’re lacking in parts of their games like special teams. The season isn’t a complete lost cause as they still have time to turn their season around. However, if they’re not able to turn it around soon, it’ll be too late for them to take hitch a ride on the playoff bus.