The Dallas Stars have reached the quarter pole (quite a bit faster than many others in this condensed season) and though that sample size isn't quite what hockey fans would like to see from a "quarter" of a season, we do have enough of one to start looking at some trends in their game.
One of the simplest ideas in hockey (or indeed many sports not named baseball) boils down to this: Shoot the puck more than your opposition (possess it more) and you'll have a better chance of winning the game. Readers of this blog over the last several seasons know that the Stars generally haven't done that, and it's caught up to them more often than not.
Early returns on puck possession and scoring chances have not been good, as Kari Lehtonen has once again been a very busy man, but there are some signs that they're starting to push back in the right direction.
So taking a look at CORSI related events (shots, goals, missed shots, attempted shots that are blocked by the opposition...) we get a picture of puck possession through twelve games...
Friday night was the first time Dallas actually out-shot an opponent all season, but they've out-attempted the opposition in each of the last three games - Something they hadn't done since the game in Minnesota in the opening weekend of the year.
The disparity of the game against the Blackhawks really stands out, showing they were lucky to steal a point out of that one, but they've generally been out possessed and out-chanced throughout the year until just recently.
The Stars have Edmonton twice, Calgary twice, Nashville and Columbus this month as games where they have a good shot at out-possessing the opponent. Vancouver, San Jose, and Vancouver again are also upcoming, and could represent potential spikes like that red line above the Chicago game. Otherwise Dallas has a good shot at continuing a positive trend and winning some games.
Here are the total shot attempts (shots, goals, missed shots, shots attempted that are blocked...) at even strength this year...
Focusing only on even strength play (this is four-on-four and five-on-five) we see what we'd expect: That the Stars have been much better than the overall numbers might suggest. At even strength Dallas has out-attempted their opposition or been even (there are a couple of -1's in here I'm calling basically even) 9 out of the 12 games.
This is all just a nice graphical representation and statistical way of telling us what everyone already knows: If they stay out of the penalty box they're able to play a competitive game. Indeed, you can see that during the Stars four-game losing streak they generally out-possessed the opposition at even-strength, but lost the games, thanks in no small part to being short-handed an average of six times per night during that stretch.
This says nothing of actual "chances" or quality, of course. The Stars have defensive zone coverage issues and breakout problem when pressured by forechecks that have a mind to (see the Ducks in the second period the other night, the Blackhawks game, the Oilers last week and tomorrow night), and the actual quality of chances is probably not yet trending in the Stars' favor.
Those are things they can work on if they continue to possess the puck more, however, as they've done in the three-game win streak.