One of the areas of the Stars' game that Glen Gulutzan and his coaching staff wanted to improve upon coming into this season was how they started games. And for good reason when you consider that during the five game losing streak to end the season, the Stars allowed the first goal in each contest.
This season, the Stars have certainly improved in that regard by scoring first in 21 out of the 33 games they've played. Contrast that with last season when they were able to score first in roughly half their games (42 out of 82).
In fact, the scoreboard has read 1-0 Stars at some point in each of their last 6 contests.
Furthermore, they've been in the lead for 715:03 and only trailed for 525:37. And yet, they find themselves in essentially the same dog fight for one of the remaining playoff spots down the stretch this season that they found themselves in last season.
So how is it that a team that's led for almost 190 more minutes than it's trailed find themselves in this position?
Well, there's three primary reasons.
They STILL don't come back very often
Last season, the Stars were dead last in the NHL in winning percentage in the 27 games they trailed after the first period with a scant .074 winning percentage.
This year, they've been almost as bad at not being able to overcome deficits after the first period with just one win in 9 games. That accounts for a .111 winning percentage, or 142 points below the league average of .253.
And in case you're wondering, the rate the Stars have found themselves trailing after one is almost identical (0.2727) to what it was last year (0.3292).
3 shutouts against
Dallas wasted no time this season in getting shut out as the Minnesota Wild handed them a 1-0 loss in just their second game of the season. Somewhat to be expected given the opponent and the chemistry issues that come along with integrated some new faces in a lockout shortened season without any preseason action whatsoever.
And on the 2nd end of a back-to-back to boot.
The 2nd shutout loss also came on the 2nd end of not just a back-to-back, but a home and home with the Coyotes. For whatever reason, Dallas hasn't really played well against the Coyotes out in the desert. And on this particular night, what had been a shaky Mike Smith coming into the contest found his game and stymied the Stars offense throughout.
The 3rd shutout also came at the hands of a goaltender who you wouldn't be surprised to see shut the Stars out when Pekka Rinne turned away all 32 shots against him. What is surprising is that Rinne's been terrible ever since, having been pulled in his next two starts after that shutout.
Blown a lead of two goals in a game 7 times this season
And that includes Friday night's win against Minnesota.
Dallas' record in games they've blown two goal leads stands at a modest 3-2-2.
Their first blown two goal lead came against the Blackhawks early in the season in a game that Chicago dominated throughout on CORSI-related events. Dallas was very fortunate that night to even get the game to OT where they lost on an OT power play goal from Marian Hossa.
And they were able to salvage a full slate of points in a home shootout win against Phoenix, a road win in Denver against Colorado, and Friday's game against Minnesota.
But the dropped points from those other three games are killing the Stars right now.
First, they blew a 3-1 third period lead to the Calgary Flames and wound up losing in regulation. Eight nights later, they had a 4-2 lead on the offensively-challenged Nashville Predators before blowing that lead and losing in OT when Chrisopher Nilstorp let in a very stoppable shot from Roman Josi.
And of course, there's the loss in Denver a week and a half ago when the Stars dominated throughout, but just couldn't get the luck dragons to go their way in the end. Which, if we're going to talk about luck dragons, I'd be remiss for pointing out that they made it up to the Stars the next night in Los Angeles.
Still, those losses are the primary reason the Stars find themselves in the familiar predicament they're in. Scoring first more often is nice, as is playing with the lead more often.
Allow me to circle back to the stat about the Stars scoring first. Doing so has allowed them to play with the lead so much that they've played 13 games this year where they haven't trailed at any point. Granted, one of those games was the OT loss to the Blackhawks that I referenced earlier.
But when you consider that they've only won 16 games all year, that's a pretty telling statistic.The blown leads tell you the Stars have to do a better job of protecting leads.
But they're also going to have to do a better job of coming from behind because their propensity to score first in games is not sustainable.