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Dallas Stars Special Teams Key During 7-0-1 Run

Your best penalty killer has to be one of these guys.
Your best penalty killer has to be one of these guys.

Special teams and goaltending, Razor likes to say. That's what you need. The Stars have been delivering on both fronts during this 7-0-1 streak, and the penalty kill has been front and center, stopping 23 of 24 chances against (96%) along the way. It's jumped from 24th to 10th in the league.

There are three or four different ways we could paint the special teams picture of this eight game streak. We could talk strictly goals for versus goals against. In the simplest of analyses, the Stars are winning the special teams goal contest 4-1 over these eight contests. More than anything, that just strikes us as a very small number of specialty team goals.

We could look at it from a different angle and note that the Stars are still more often than not putting themselves in a bad spot where power play differential is concerned. They've been shorthanded 24 times and earned only 18 power plays. Not surprisingly, that -6 works out to about a 13 minute difference over the eight games (Approx two min per).

PPG PP-OPP PPGA TS PP Time SH Time Differential
MTL 0 1 0 4 2:00 8:00 -6:00
CHI 0 0 0 1 0:00 2:00 -2:00
MIN 0 2 1 6 3:19 10:23 -7:04
VAN 1 2 0 2 3:27 4:00 -0:33
PIT 0 4 0 5 7:05 9:05 -2:00
EDM 0 2 0 0 4:00 0:00 +4:00
CGY 1 3 0 3 4:39 6:00 -1:21
VAN 1 4 0 3 5:31 4:08 +1:23
TOT: 3 18 1 24 30:01 43:36 -13:35

I observed last year (read it here) that when the Stars won the special teams battle ((PPG+SHG)-(PPGA+SHGA)) or at least tied it, they won approximately 80% of their games. When they were out-scored on special teams their record was abysmal. It's not the end-all be-all of contributing factors to winning hockey games, but it's a big one.

During this stretch they're 3-1-4 on the special teams battle, losing just once, despite getting out-chanced. Or have they?

More after the jump...

Is the penalty kill success sustainable? 96% says no, probably not. Josh and Brandon have mused that the penalty kill percentage could be a fluctuation due to an abnormally high save percentage, so lets take a look at shot differentials and save percentages during the streak real quick.

The Stars have allowed their opponents 39 shots on goal during their 43:46 of power play time, and the single power play goal. That's a stellar .974 short-handed save percentage. The average for the entire season is (314 saves on 356 pp shots against) .882, so there's definitely a huge difference there that will regress, but it's fun while it lasts.

It's far from a fluke, however, despite the loss of Nick Grossmann, who was a huge part of this team's penalty kill unit. They might be getting "out-chanced" where PP opportunities are concerned, but our Scoring Chance Project tells us that they're earning the better shots during this run and limiting their opponents.

Special Teams Scoring Chances During 8 Game Run:

MTL 3 5
CHI 1 1
MIN 2 9
PIT 5 4
VAN 8 6
EDM 0 0
CGY 5 2
VAN 6 3
TOT: 24 15

This includes all specialty teams scoring chances - short handed, 5on3 and regular power play numbers. Since the debacle at home against the Wild in which Minnesota was given over 10 minutes of power play time, the Stars have been consistently out-chancing the opposition, even if it doesn't feel like it when you're nervously watching these games.

The shorthanded goal by Loui Eriksson helps these numbers, along with a smattering of other shorthanded chances here or there, but mostly the penalty kill has been doing a good job of limiting the real grade-A chances against. Though Dallas netminders face more rubber per power play than the opposition, it's point shots and shots from the perimeter that can be dealt with, and they've done a nice job of cleaning things up in front to prevent second chance opportunities.

Dallas is 3/18 on the power play (16.6%) in this stretch, which is about where they've been the whole season. Opponents are generating 1.79 shots per two minutes of PP time, compared the Stars generating 1.53 shots per two minutes of power play time. One place the Stars power play has shown improvement is on the road, where it is 6 of it's last 29 now (21%). With five of their final seven games of the year in Caglary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose and Nashville, continuing that trend will be necessary to get them into the playoffs.

In the mean time, if they continue to keep themselves at least even on specialty teams, they'll keep themselves close in these games and earn a shot at a victory every time out.