Last year after fifteen games the Dallas Stars boasted the odd record of 6-3-6. They were losing more often than not, they were rather upset with the officiating as of late (a questionable call in OT against the Flames cost them the extra point) and although they didn't know it, they had embarked upon a streak that would see them score two or fewer goals in eight of ten games leading up to Thanksgiving.
Any of that sounding familiar, Stars fans?
The difference this season is that even though they're 8-7-0 (TWO points behind last years pace), the taste of that 5-1-0 start to the year still lingers on the back of our tongues and we're quite convinced that they're much better this season even when the numbers say they might not be.
We spent an inordinate amount of time last year bellyaching about the defensive talent on the roster and bemoaning the financial inability to do anything about it. Personnel was the excuse du jour last season, and this year I don't hear much talk about that. Either we've beaten it out of ourselves as a fan base, or we think this group can be competitive as is. Again, the 5-1-0 start seems to be hard to get out our heads. Look at this year versus last year...
|GP||Goal Against||Shots Against||Team Save %||Shutouts||# Games Allow 4+ Goals|
We don't talk about the defense much, but the numbers are strikingly similar to last year through fifteen contests, except they're actually allowing a lot more shots this season. The goaltending has been better. That's plain to see.
History seems to be repeating itself on the offensive side of things as well and only one thing can save it...
Last season the team started off on quite the goal scoring pace (50 through 15 games, 3.33 G/G), comparable to this seasons 44 (2.93). Both are fine numbers, but now the scoring has dried up, as it did in November last year and the 2.93 GA/G is becoming a problem.
The goal against is going to be what it is, if you ask me. In fact, if it continues at 2.93 a game it would be an improvement over last season. No, the spark that can bring things back together is the power play. (Not exactly an original revelation, I realize this.)
I mournfully tweeted this stat on Saturday morning, so apologies if you're already aware, but the Stars power play is 1 for 25 on the road this season. 1 for 25. That's 4%. That's not good enough. At 15.6% the power play, in general, is not where Coach Crawford would like it to be, but that 4% on the road is an absolute killer of a number. Just ask the New Jersey Devils who are even worse at 3.2%. Somehow.
Last season, to continue the eerily similar numbers, the Stars went 11 of 67 on the PP through fifteen games. (16.4%). This seasons 15.6% comes on a 10 of 64 number.
Interesting side note: The Stars finished 2nd in the league last season with 328 power play opportunities. (4 per game.) This year they are doing even better, earning 4.26 power play opportunities a game, and that ranks 18th in the league? Sounds like the whistles have been a little busier this season.
Not content to say "power play home good, power play road bad", I wanted to know when the Stars score on the power play. With only 10 PP goals in 15 games, the research won't be very useful in the long run, but what else do I have to do on a Sunday night?
Specifically I wanted to know: "Do the Stars ever score on the PP when they're losing? When they really need a goal?" The answer is...once: A Brad Richards power play goal at home in the first period on October 28th. Other than that, the Stars have had roughly 20-25 opportunities to score on the PP when trailing and have failed to do so. (I say 20-25 because I tallied it scrolling through play-by-plays and I'm not all that confident in it, but too lazy to double check. The number was 23.)
The vast majority of those opportunities were when they were only losing by one or two goals, when a power play is"just what we needed!", as we like to say. But it never connects. It's called timely goal scoring and the Stars simply don't have it right now.
Dallas is not playing as poorly as "losers of six of their last nine games" suggests. I would argue that a timely power play goal in the second period of five of those six losses could have changed their courses entirely. (That's the trick, isn't it?) In only one of them (the Colorado game) did they get completely shellacked throughout. The Nashville game, both games with the Ducks, and both games with the Kings were competitive through more than half of play. A power play goal here and there would have gone a long way to salvaging points.
Teams go through offensive slumps. Star players go through slumps. Ribeiro is still scoreless, James Neal has one goal in his last nine games, and when these things happen teams look to their power play to pick them up. If it doesn't soon, this year is going to continue looking just like the last.