As frustrating as the start to the season has been, the Stars are actually in a slightly better position than they were at the same time last year. The 2011-12 Stars committed 41 penalties in their first seven games as compared to 37 this year.
And this year's Stars, while still having trouble keeping themselves out of the box for stick fouls, are doing a decent job of drawing their own power play opportunities.
Let's start off with a recap of the overall penalty numbers.
The explanation for those categories is in yesterday's post, if you're new to my penalty charting system.
The thing that jumps out is the number of interference calls the Stars are drawing. Unlike last season, when they committed more fouls than their opponents in every category imaginable, this season's Stars are relatively disciplined when it comes to the obstruction rules and are even forcing their opponents into a little bit of trouble in that area.
To be fair, this did get a bump from the most recent game against the Wings, who were called for six obstruction-type fouls in the game. But the Stars have only taken more obstruction penalties than their opponents in two of their seven games this season - the first game against Detroit and the home game against the Blackhawks. That's a marked improvement, especially for a group that has a tendency to chase the game.
Here's exactly what the Stars have drawn so far this season.
|Delay of game||1|
That chart does not include the three calls involved in matching/coincidental minors this season.
First, take a moment to snark on the fact that teams can apparently go seven consecutive games without committing a high sticking penalty. That might startle Stars fans with Dallas' trends so far.
Now, onto the numbers. There's one obvious notable here - tripping. When the Stars do gain possession of the puck, they have been very good about moving their feet and trying to carry possession into the zone. The speed and elusiveness of a few forwards has also been a real asset in this area.
The strangest part of the pattern is that the majority of these tripping calls - nine to be exact - have occurred in Stars losses. You'd expect a team to take more trippings when they have the better of play and possession, but that hasn't necessarily been the case for Dallas so far this season.
Not surprisingly, tripping stands out when you look at the players who have drawn the most calls as well.
|Loui Eriksson||4||Slashing, Holding, Hooking, Tripping|
|Ray Whitney||3||Tripping (3)|
|Trevor Daley||2||Tripping (2)|
|Brenden Morrow||2||Interference, Tripping|
|Jamie Benn||2||Cross Checking, Holding|
|Reilly Smith||2||Elbowing, Holding|
|Tom Wandell||2||Charging, Holding|
|Jaromir Jagr||2||Holding, Tripping|
|Kari Lehtonen||1||Goalie Interference|
This list does not include the three matching minors (from Daley, Jamie Benn and Cristopher Nilstorp) or the penalty shot drawn by Ryan Garbutt after he was hooked from behind against Chicago. It also does not include one delay of game - puck over glass call which was, obviously, not drawn by anyone.
Loui Eriksson is always near the top of this list, and as you can see, opponent's rely on any number of ways to knock him off the puck. The two right below him are an interesting contrast - Ray Whitney and Trevor Daley have drawn nearly all their calls in transition or otherwise trying to move the play by moving their feet.
It's also notable that Jamie Benn has drawn two calls (along with one matching roughing) in two games. Skilled players create mismatches that force opponents to foul, and the more the Stars can get their top lines rolling, the more they'll benefit with trips to the power play.