Things are trending up again for the Dallas Stars. 6-3-1 in their last ten games and the 7th best points percentage in the West has them square in the middle of the playoff picture. Health is returning slowly but surely and they've started 2-1-0 on a five game road trip with two winniable games coming up before enjoying six of seven at home surrounding the Christmas holiday.
The Stars are finding ways to win games, rather than lose them lately. Two sensational starts each from Andrew Raycroft (OTT, COL) and Richard Bachman (LAK, NYR) in the absence of Kari Lehtonen have elevated a team not playing to it's offensive potential. Trevor Daley is proving his considerable value to this team not just in the defensive zone, but on the scoresheet as well with back to back game winners, but when he is the one propping the team up and a rookie netminder is being leaned on as heavily as he is, it's time for the team's star players to shoulder some of the burden to keep the good times rolling.
As getting to the free throw line is a good way for a struggling shooter to get going a little bit in basketball, so too is the power play in hockey to bust slumps and fertilize confidence. At least, it should be. As with most good things (the 6-3-1 record, the incredible penalty killing, the sensational goaltendering) there is a catch: The team isn't scoring at even strength and the power play isn't supplementing it enough to sustain success in the long term.
Dallas had scored power play goals in three of their last four games entering play last night but an 0-for-4 night puts them at 3 for their last 37 overall (8.1%).
Let's take a closer look at what's happening (or what isn't) on the job for the Stars...
In their last 10 games on the power play...
|Opponent||# PP's||Shots||Goals||PP Time|
16 of the Stars' 26 power play shots over the last 10 games have come from their defensemen. Of the ten shots the Stars fired at the Kings goal last Saturday night, for instance, six of them came from Sheldon Souray. Those would be from distances of 64, 48, 62, 45, 99 and 61 feet, according to the National Hockey League. Every shot from a defenseman came from a similar distance, meaning that the implied strategy is a simply one... Get the puck on net, and get to the rebound.
The trouble is the rebounds. The numbers seem to indicate that the Stars aren't winning the battles for them. 10 shots from your forwards in 57 minutes of power play time spanning 10 games is a pretty shockingly low number.
I mused last year, with copious research and nearly an entire season's worth of data to back it up... that teams the Stars played and the Stars themselves averaged about 1.8 shots on goal per two minutes spent on the power play. (See that post here).
The good news is that the Stars are allowing opponents only 1.51 shots per two minutes of power play time, down from 1.813 last year, though it's still early. The bad news is that the Stars themselves have gone from about 1.8 shots per two minutes of power play time to 1.19 so far this year, and that number is ~.915 in the last two games.
That means that the Stars are currently averaging less than one shot on goal per two minutes of power play time. I realize I just stated that in consecutive sentences but I wanted to really underline the point.
We could talk about scoring chances, blocked shots and missed shots, and if the drought continues perhaps we will, but this is one of those times where trying to calculate possession and opportunity doesn't have as much bearing on the situation. It's the power play. They have possession. They have ample opportunity. They're spending power plays in the opponents zone. If there were ever a time to simply dumb it down to "Are pucks getting on net?" then this might be it. Pucks are not getting on net. The numbers don't lie.
The old saying "Your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer" is not holding true when teams face the Stars. The numbers indicate that the saying should be "Your goaltender will only have to make between two and three saves on average while on the PK" when the Stars come to town.
The Stars are 3 of their last 37 on the power play. At what point does it stop being called a "funk" and start getting described with a little stronger language? Smarter hockey minds than ours will have to concoct a fix, because the status quo and the return of Alex Goligoski isn't working right now.