Inconsistent Starts Continue to Plague Dallas Stars

If a lot of Dallas Stars fans are like us, they open their eyes in the morning, roll over, put their feet on the floor and immediately think to themselves "Oh yeah, crap, the Stars lost last night." Obsessive? Maybe, but it's March and this is serious business.

That should not have happened this morning, however. The more we reflect back on the night of hockey that was the more we must conclude that the Stars were great last night for the last 45 of that game and could have put six or seven on the board easily if not for some hops here and some Calgary saves there.

Commentary after the game focused on the start, and rightfully so, but it seemed to encompass the entire season. "When is this team ever going to come out ready to play a hockey game in the first period?" was the general sentiment. I sought this morning to quantify the thought using what few metrics the NHL provides starting with last nights game: 

Team Goals Shots Misses Blocked Shots Total Pucks Toward Net Faceoff Wins
Dallas 1 8 5 5 18 12
Calgary 3 10 5 5 20 11

Without a "time of possession" clock or a "try-hard-o-meter" we're left with this "data" that tells us Calgary attempted 20 shots on goal and Dallas attempted 18, winning (#winning) more faceoffs to boot.

These kinds of comparables usually lead to a discussion about goaltending, but as I said last night, the first two goals were team failures in my view. Compete failures. Mental errors. Kari Lehtonen was great last night, even if Kipprusoff was a little better.

What about all year long? The Stars have been dominated in first periods, right? Or have they?...

Continued after the jump...

This season, first periods:

Team Goals Shots Misses Blocked Shots Total Pucks Toward Net Average Per 1st Period
Opponents 57 704 268 360 1332 19.9
Dallas 52 553 283 267 1103 16.4

Ok, there's a little more to go on there but not much. They've only allowed 5 more goals than they've scored in first periods this year.

Does the perception stem perhaps only from who scores first, regardless of the other metrics and puck possession? Maybe. The Stars have scored first 32 times, meaning they've capitulated first 35 times. That's not a huge gap but if you look at "good teams" like the Canucks their split is a favorable 43 - 25 (scoring first/getting scored on first), so there's room for improvement here.

If we look at Dallas' record in first periods (winning the first period) its 23-24-20. So if they were playing 20 minutes games their points percentage would be quite poor. It's interesting to see how close the three outcomes are though.

There's a better than 64% chance that the Stars will be winning or tied at the end of the first period. That doesn't sound like season-long poor starts to me.

Still the eye ball test tells a different story and this time of year the only stats that matter are wins or losses. The Stars have already proven, having collected 21 points when trailing after two periods, that they will not be limited to the conventions offered by traditional NHL trends this year. It's not sustainable but this season that's the way it is.

For now let's agree that the Stars need more consistent opening periods, because that 21-1-1 record when leading after one is just too good. That circumstance needs to get a little more run this month.

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