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Looking for Clues Behind the Post Olympic Break Collapse of the Stars Defense

You don't need to be a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to see that the Stars' defense has crumbled since the Olympic Break. And that it's a big reason behind the playoff hope killing 4-7-2 stretch that they're mired in.

It certainly played a big role in last night's 3-0 loss to the Sharks as Marty Turco was under siege, again, to the tune of 41 shots. And like Art said last night, once the Sharks figured out that it wasn't in their best interests to turn the puck over repeatedly to the Stars, they got their game rolling, pinned the Stars deep, and turned the Stars' half of the rink into a shooting gallery.

As I was watching this contest unfold, I couldn't help but think back to the game earlier this month in Pittsburgh, where the Pens fell behind 3-1, then made it a point to physically target Stephane Robidas and the other Stars' defensemen. Shortly thereafter, they took over the game.

Well, the same thing happened last night after Jed Ortmeyer rammed Robi into the boards at the Stars bench with the door open. Robi being Robi, he stayed in the game. But he was obviously hurt. And from that point on, the Sharks made it a point to take every opportunity to hit the Stars.

Consequently, they took the game over. Which led me to research the last 13 games to see if the stats bore out the theory that once opposing teams physically target the Stars, they take the game over. And for fun, I decided to throw in faceoff stats, in part, because Mike Modano's been on the shelf in the last six games after an emergency appendectomy on March 15th.

Stats and pretty analysis after the jump.

And if I may say so, the stats are...interesting.

Giveaways Shots
Shots to Hits
Hits to Goals
LA 24 8 22 6 28 26 0.519 0.917 4
STL 25 11 27 5 29 31 0.483 1.08 5
at PIT 30 4 34 6 35 38 0.479 1.133 5
at WAS 21 6 52 3 31 38 0.449 2.476 7
at BUF 17 7 43 5 26 26 0.500 2.529 3.4
LA 33 15 28 1 23 30 0.434 0.848 33
COL 20 13 22 5 37 31 0.544 1.1 4
SJ 26 17 47 2 32 40 0.444 1.808 13
PHI 32 7 31 3 26 28 0.481 0.969 10.667
OTT 33 16 29 4 31 28 0.525 0.879 8.25
PHX 24 14 35 2 33 29 0.532 1.458 12
at NSH 12 8 35 1 22 29 0.431 2.917 12
at SJ 21 6 41 3 27 35 0.435 1.953 7
Total 318 132 446 46 380 409      
Avg 24.46 10.154 34.31 3.54 29.23 31.46 0.482 1.403 6.913


The averages per game are posted on the bottom line. Any cell highlighted in red represents a stat above the average.

What can we discern?

  • I think there's a direct correlation between the consistent losses in the faceoff dot to the high shot totals. 5 times this month, the Stars have lost more than 55% of the draws they've taken in a game. In 4 of those 5, they've surrendered at least 35 shots on goal.
  • To be fair, one of those four was in an 8-2 win over San Jose. A game in which the Stars could afford to sit back, a bit, because they had a big lead and were just waiting to counter attack against a turnover prone club that night.
  • Now there is some silver lining. While the goaltending wasn't necessarily up to par in the first two games out of the gate against Los Angeles and St. Louis, it hasn't been the reason behind any of their other 5 regulation losses and two shootout losses. The lack of success in the shootouts in those games, as well as this year, can be pinned directly on the offense as far as I'm concerned. And on March 8th, the goaltending was the only reason the Stars were able to pull any points out of Washington.
  • And finally, the correlation between hits and shots. Or lack thereof. 6 times, the Stars have taken more than 25 hits in a game. But only once, has is led to an abnormally large shot total. That occurred on March 16th in the 8-2 laugher over San Jose. If anything, the increased hitting leads to, predictably, higher turnovers.

In conclusion, this proves one of Razor's axioms correct in that they're like bikinis. They reveal a lot, but not everything. The futility in the faceoff dot is probably the biggest statistical factor as the Stars inability to win crucial draws leads to something that statistics can't reaveal.

Determination and positioning. And as Art mentioned during the recap last night, Karlis Skrastins has become the Post Olympic Break poster child for positioning breakdowns. Too often in these 13 games, opposing offenses have been able to get interior on the Stars with relative ease. Last night was a perfect example as Mark Fistric appeared to be the only Stars defenseman willing to push back, like he did on Rob Blake during one of the Sharks second period power plays.

Everybody else offered token resistance.

And at the end of the season, I think we'll blame a lot of this team's defensive failures on the lack of a true top defense pairing.