One of the Dallas Stars' major areas of improvement this season is on special teams. Both the power play and the penalty kill were pedestrian last year, ranking 23rd and 21st, respectively. In order to make the playoffs in an uber-competitive western conference, Dallas will need to make some strides in improving these areas.
Today, we're going to look at the power play. With so much offensive power on display at even strength, it's puzzling as to why the man advantage wasn't a feast of goals.
To figure out what the biggest problem of the Stars' power play was last season, I looked at a few metrics: average shot distance (in feet), total shot attempts, total power play attempts, and shot percentages by team. Here is the top ten power plays in the league, with Dallas' numbers added for reference at the bottom.
*All stats throughout were aggregated together from Behind The Net and NHL.com and basic math done by me.
|PP Rank||Team||Avg Distance (Team)||Total Shot Attempts||Total PP Attempts||SH% Avg (Team)|
What can we conclude by looking at these numbers?
The answer jumped out at me almost immediately -- the Stars need to shoot more. The Flyers were nearly identical to the Stars last year, with the same shot percentage as a team....except they put up over 100 more shots on goal than the Stars managed. The addition of Jason Spezza should immediately help in this regard; he attempted 55 shots on the power play with Ottawa last year, which would have been the second most on the Stars behind only Tyler Seguin.
Another thing that jumps out is how low the Stars shooting percentage is than the more successful power plays in the league. That actually makes sense, seeing as how the Stars are more deadly when they are using their speed in transition. Getting into the offensive zone and 'setting up' takes some of that away from the Stars, and allows the other team to more easily predict where they are going to move the puck. Trying to find a way to capitalize off of the transition into the offensive zone should help to increase their shot percentage.
When the Stars do get setup on the power play, they need to make quicker decisions with the puck to get faster puck movement. This should help to draw the penalty killers off their defensive coverages and create more second chances off of rebounds amid the chaos in front of the goaltender.
Combine those few tweaks with just shooting more in general, and that should help make the power play better than last year.
Another thing I noticed was that the Stars don't have an awful lot of guys driving the net. That is, the ones capitalizing on shots in close to the goaltender. Here are the Stars numbers from last season. I didn't include any players that aren't here for this season, since obviously we can't expect them to contribute to solving this puzzle.
|Player||GP||Goals||Saves||Shot Attempts||Avg Distance||SH%|
Looking at this, Horcoff, Roussel, Sceviour and Nichushkin should be the forward personnel considered for the slot area on the ice. These are the guys that are making it happen in front of the goaltender.
Another fun thing to consider that I stumbled across in my digging around in numbers is that Goligoski ended last season with one of his worst shooting percentages of his career -- and was still better than the rest of the defensemen on the team in offensive production. It's unlikely that his shooting percentage will be that low again this season, so you can reasonably expect an uptick in power play production by extension from Goligoski on the back end as well.