Any other time of year, the end of the Dallas Stars' 6-0-2 point streak would be viewed as an inevitable concession in a long and winding season. So you didn't collect points in nine straight games. So what? 6-0-2 shows what you're capable of. Move on. Get the next one. Right?
Sure, except it's not any other time of year. It's this time of year. It's mid March, and if the Stars should end up just shy of their goal of making the playoffs this season then that one point (or more?) that evaporated in just over 20 seconds yesterday will be one of many keeping players and fans alike awake at night.
When the Kings took a 2-0 lead on a sloppy defensive sequence by the Stars yesterday, two thoughts entered my hockey brain as I sulked in my section.
The first was "A 6-0-2 run this late in the season got them what? Just barely surviving? That's just cruel."
The second was "Lose the special teams battle, lose the game."
We explored that premise last month in the middle of the Stars slide with the post "Ups and Downs of Dallas Stars' Special Team Have Shaped Their Season." In it I let the research speak for itself and found that this year the Stars do not necessarily need to win the special teams battle to collect points, rather just not lose it. The 2-10-1 stretch was littered with lost special teams battles.
The 6-0-2 streak saw the Stars win or draw the special teams battle in every game but one: the OT loss in Anaheim. Dallas scored a power play or short handed goal in every one of those games, save the win over the Wild on Friday. Against the Kings on Sunday they generated nothing while allowing a PP goal early in the first after Loui Eriksson tripped Dustin Brown with his mind.
Dallas' power play is one for it's last fifteen attempts (6.7%) and that includes three games worth of Brad Richards return.
If this seven game home stand, off to a 1-1-1 start, is to be salvaged, the power play will have to lead the way and the Brad Richards/Alex Goligoski experiment will need to find some way to succeed.
Continued after the jump...
Power plays can be crutches. That's what they needed it be yesterday. Just look at their even strength shots on goal.
Take away the seven SOG on the PP and Jamie Langenbrunner's 6 SOG and you're left with the paltry total of 10. 10 SOG at even strength. That's Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Brenden Morrow, Tom Wandell, Steve Ott, etc. They had no chances. Los Angeles was playing like a team that didn't want to lose and magnificently clogged up the neutral zone accordingly.
That's going to happen. That's something that must be dealt with, and often times you deal with it by earning yourself a power play and making the other team pay.
At 6% in their last five games the Stars aren't making anyone pay, and the power play was one of their best weapons on home ice this season. At one point in mid-season they had the #2 home PP in the NHL. They're still high on the list at #6 (22.2%) but that number is not indicative of current performance.
**Fanboy observation: Jamie Benn leads forwards in ice time but plays less than 50% of what the heavy hitters do (Richards, Goligoski, Ribeiro, etc) on the PP. While there are probably a hundred coaching reasons we don't know about that explain this, it should be at least mentioned that the Stars best player right now is not on the first PP unit.
This all being said, the Kings entered the game having killed 17 straight penalties and are one of the best units in the league. They've now killed 20 straight and are the best unit the Stars will face the rest of the season.
Coming down the stretch run is stiff competition, but can the Stars find a way to get the PP going?
I've included last 10 games stats here rather than season long. The Stars, for instance, have killed 27 of their last 32 power plays (84.3%). Their #24 ranking in the league doesn't tell that story.
PK's coming up...
|Team||Last 10 games killed...||Percentage|
|San Jose||21 of 28||.750|
|Chicago||20 of 25||.800|
|Philadelphia||26 of 33||.788|
|Anaheim||29 of 36||.810|
|Nashville||23 of 30||.766|
|Phoenix||28 of 41||.683|
|Los Angeles||30 of 34||.882|
The week ahead sees teams in San Jose and Chicago that have not surrendered many PP chances at all recently, so the Stars would have to do more with less. Phoenix and Anaheim have just been giving it away lately so there's some opportunity there.
If all else fails, they could just take the Dustin Brown route and try to strengthen the odds, right? right? Hello?