Defense wins championships, and shooting accuracy wins teddy bears at carnivals. These are not helpful aphorisms for the Modern Hockey Player, but the correlation of a team's defensive aptitude and points accumulation is hard to ignore. It's even harder to ignore when four of the top five teams in GA/GP are in the Stars' division.
The problem this year, of course, is that the Stars have not figured out how to not give up tons of goals. We thought the Montreal game might have been a glimmer of hope, but it's looking more and more like the only light the Stars will be seeing this year will be that final green flash as the sun sets on their hopes for a great season. While we can have "fun" going over the many, many things that haven't gone right this season, figuring out what happened to the Stars' goal prevention is the mystery most likely to induce a phone call to Benedict Cumberbatch. The goalies aren't stopping pucks, and the players aren't (again, except against Montreal) preventing the pucks from being shot. What gives?
On that note, here is a Hot Take from Travis Yost of TSN, who used one of the many great resources available at War-On-Ice to show one of the Stars' biggest reasons for handing out goals like paper cuts at a cocaine-riddled Origami factory:
Are the goaltenders just plain brutal, or is it possible they're being kneecapped by the team's inability to keep shooters out of the danger areas? Let's look at a hexagonal bin plot, specifically shot rates against relative to the league average. Blue bubbles indicate an area where the team concedes less shots than the league average. Red bubbles indicate an area where the team concedes more shots than the league average. Ideally, you want all blue. At the very least, you want 'blue' in front of the team's net, where shot distance is extremely small.
There are two things worth noting here. First, the team has a very real problem with conceding shots. At each level, they are allowing more shots than the league average.
Second, check out the population of red bubbles in front of the Dallas net. It's stunning. So, Dallas' defensive problem is at least two-fold: they allow a ton of shots against, and they allow a good portion of those shots against from well inside of the home plate or scoring chance area. Add those two up, combined with maybe a goaltending talent issue as well, and you have a situation where the team has already given up 65 even-strength goals. [TSN]
Oh. So, it turns out the Stars are giving up a lot of goals because they are giving up a lot of shots from everywhere, especially right in front of the net. Do you feel, like Dr. Watson, as though you probably could have guessed the problem all along? Congratulations, faithful reader. Here are some brief thoughts on this data:
1. They should stop doing that. Seriously, stop giving up all those shots all the time, Stars.
2. What can Jim Nill realistically do to fix the goaltending situation? If Kari has been hurt, perhaps his performance is partially explained, but it's still worrisome how ineffective he's been this year. Can the Stars really pick up another goalie with three one-way contracts already on the books?
3. If you believe in needing a defenseman who can clear the front of the net, then, well, the Stars probably could use one. I hear San Jose has a pretty physical defenseman heading for RFA status.
4. How much of the shot allowance is a result of the Stars' emphasizing a quick transition game? Are the forwards flying the zone too quickly in an effort to rush up the ice? It seems like it, sometimes, but I guess that's not the most definitively documented assertion.
5. I'm wondering more and more lately if the Stars' ineptitude in third periods is a result of skating so hard (a "speed game") for the first two. Are the forwards simply incapable of keeping up their pace for an entire game? Professional athletes and all, but there's a reason shifts only go 45 seconds. Ruff expressed some worries about the team's conditioning; it's hard not to wonder if a team is really capable of being conditioned enough to skate as hard as they're supposed to for a full 60 minutes. Their winless overtime record could certainly be used as evidence for the team's being gassed, but what do I know?
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Mike Heika gives you the Ryan Garbutt Chronicles, with video links. Very good stuff here, including the total dollars Garbutt has lost from suspensions in his career. Jim Nill is confident Garbutt can fix his game, for the record. [DMN]
Sean Shapiro wonders if Lindy Ruff will reunite the most dominant forward line in Texas Stars history after Travis Morin's call up: [Wrong Side of the Red Line]
The Stars get a quick shoutout as being in pretty good salary cap shape going forward, in case you didn't know. Other teams are mentioned as well, but who cares, right? [Grantland]
Is the power play starting to get going for good? [DMN]
Corey Crawford is coming back to the Blackhaws' lineup sooner than expected. This could really hurt Dallas's chances to take the Central Division this year. [CSN Chicago]
Cam Ward got one of the worst bounces you'll ever see last night as the 'Canes lost 2-1 to Tampa Bay. [NHL Video]
Finally, Erin mentioned this video on Twitter. It depicts Patrick Eaves from a few years ago filming a "dog gone funny" commercial (was that not trite even in 2010?) with his Newfoundland, which is a dog that is larger than most European cars. I mean, he's no Marmaduke, but still: