At the 4:35 mark of the second period, Jamie Benn stepped off the ice at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC with a shoulder injury and he hasn't returned to the ice in an NHL game since.
The Stars were already on their way to their second loss to the Canucks trailing at that time by a 4-1 score. But this would represent just their second loss in the month. Not to mention, they still had a three point lead over Anaheim, six point lead over Phoenix, and San Jose was out of the Pacific lead by eight, and the Los Angeles Kings were an afterthought 10 points back.
Healthwise, Tom Wandell was the only regular out of the lineup aside from Benn.
Since that night, the Stars have gone 2-4-1 in the seven full games that Benn has missed. Tonight will mark his eighth game out of the lineup. And the Stars' Pacific Division lead is no more as Phoenix has overcome that six point deficit to take the lead by one. Anaheim, off a 4-0 roadtrip, has tied the Stars in the standings, San Jose's just two points back of the Stars, and the Kings are only three back.
Just looking at the standings, you can understand if some of us here at DBD think the only way the Stars will be able to get in is to win the division. Obviously odds are that at least one other team will get in. But the margin between the haves and have nots in the Pacific in terms of who makes the playoffs and who doesn't will be razor thin.
And oh yeah, there's one other area of the Stars' game that's taken a noticeable hit.
The Power Play.
And in today's edition of Hockeymetrics, we'll look at what impact not having Jamie Benn in the lineup has had after the jump.
When Benn went out of the game back on January 24th, the Stars had yet to enjoy the man advantage. In this game, they went on the job three times for an even six minutes and failed to convert once.
And in the following seven games, the Stars have been on the job for a total of 50:07, scoring just three goals and giving up two short handed goals. Including the six minutes of power play time from that game in Vancouver, the Stars GF/60 stands at a figure of 3.207603.
To put this number in perspective, the Stars had scored 38 goals on 302:08 of power play this year, giving them a GF/60 of 7.546337 on the man advantage.
And if not for Brad Richards' two power play goals in the last two games, that figure would be a pathetic 1.06921.
But that's just part of the story.
Before Benn went out of the lineup, Dallas was getting an average of 6:18 of power play time per game. With Benn out, that figure has jumped up to 7:01. Conventional wisdom says getting more power play time per game is a good thing.
Except that being less successful on the power play means opposing players are exiting the penalty box to rejoin the play with more frequency than participating in the 85 foot skate of shame back to their bench after their team gives up a power play goal.
Now I'll grant you that when Benn gets back into the lineup, the Stars will force more opposing players into the skate of shame just by his mere presence. But at last check, his return date is not known.
And I forget to mention at the beginning that Dallas held a playoff spot by 8 points 22 days ago. Today, that cushion is just 3 points over Minnesota.
The Stars don't have that luxury of waiting for Benn to get back into the lineup. And I'd submit to you that for them to turn around their fortunes in the standings, it starts with forcing more opposing players into the skate of shame from the penalty box...tonight.