For the better part of a month the Dallas Stars have been in a funk, and not just any run of the mill funk. You know it. You've seen it. I wouldn't spend a bunch more of my free time reading more about the tailspin they've been in. We all know it.
With that being said, I haven't seen many attempts to actually show what it looks like. In January virtually every aspect of the Stars game looks different statistically. Some of the slump is bad luck. Prior to the win against Edmonton the Stars were sporting a .96 PDO which is low because of both a lower shooting percentage and worse save percentage at even strength.
It explains some of the slump, but you don't often get into as big of a rut as the Stars have been in simply from bad luck and nothing else. There are several other indicators at even strength that suggest that the Stars game changed dramatically.
Bad luck has definitely been a factor, but the sizable swing in shot attempts is a bigger red flag to me. PDO shows how often shots should be going in, but if there are less shots being attempted and more being given up the impact of PDO will seem even larger.
And that is exactly what is happening here. The Stars attempted less shots and gave up more shot attempts in January AND scored on a lower percentage AND gave up a higher percentage of goals on the shots attempted against them. The swing is a total of seven Corsi attempts on average per game.
Another way to visualize this is that the Stars went from being about a 54% Corsi team to slightly below 50% in January. They had been humming along among the top two or three in the league then somehow turned into the Toronto Maple Leafs.
2. Scoring Chances
This is the one that makes you think about the nature of PDO. The Stars are down a net 7.3 scoring chances per game and a net 5.53 high danger scoring chances per game at only even strength. PDO is generally explained as luck, and the assumption underscoring that definition is that shots are shots and shot quality is a boogeyman.
At an individual level that may be the case, but on the team level in January there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the quality of shots the Stars are generating has been worse and the quality of shots they've been allowing are better.
This month only 35% of the scoring chances they've generated have been of the high danger variety, those with the highest chance of going in. They had been around 42% throughout the 2015 portion of the schedule, Defensively the same issue is present. A whopping 48% of the scoring chances allowed by the Stars right now are high danger chances compared to the previously established 44% standard.
A drop of seven net Corsi attempts per game coupled with a drop of seven net scoring chances per game leads you to the conclusion that the Stars aren't doing enough in the scoring areas at both ends of the rink.
As you might expect, when the defense gets sloppy the goaltending isn't going to look good. Yet, the goaltending really hasn't been any worse than it was in the first half of the season. The Stars were never getting Vezina caliber play from their netminders, but when they're winning it doesn't matter as much. When they're losing they look like part of the problem.
Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi are allowing virtually the same percentage of goals on low, medium, and high danger shots as they did in the first half. There is a noticeable drop in the high danger save percentage, but we're talking 65 shots here.
If anything, we should probably be praising Lehtonen and Niemi for their resolve rather than criticizing them.
The Stars are hitting more often. The Stars are getting hit more often. The Stars are taking less penalties. The Stars are drawing less penalties. Everything you can look at is less except for the amount of hits the Stars are handing out. Everything we know about the Stars has just sort of collapsed in January at even strength.
The Stars seem like a team that got spooked by the amount of goals they were allowing to start the year. The New York Islanders then Rangers dropped a combined 12 goals on the Stars in back to back games to start 2016. The Stars have been in a funk since. Everything has been more conservative in an attempt to minimize goals against, but in the process the offense has taken several steps back.
This is a team that at its core generates a lot of chances and gives up an uncomfortable amount. The balance of power then is going to be swung in their favor by the powerplay and the sheer amount of offensive talent they have compared to other clubs. When they go against their nature, no matter how logical it may seem, they aren't a particularly good team. We would all love for them to allow less chances, but not when it cripples the offense.
Many things have been written about the slump and none of them are happy because slumps by nature aren't happy occurrences, but the Stars 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche saw them bust out in a big way. The powerplay is still a hot mess. The defense is still questionable, with eight of the 14 chances they allowed at even strength (57%) being of the high danger variety. But the Stars poured shots in on the Avs.
They won the Corsi battle 73-28. They looked like the team we all know and love. They could have generated more high quality chances, but it's hard to shrug at 16. Semyon Varlamov did what he does to the Stars and they lost, but that was the first time this year where the Stars looked like themselves.
If they fix the powerplay and roll that effort out against the Calgary Flames tonight they'll win by six. As unfortunate as the loss to the Avalanche was, it was a pretty clear turning of the tide. The Stars found their game. Here's hoping they pull it out again consistently throughout the rest of the season.
Until then, have a Zoolander gif and laugh.
The season isn't even remotely over and the Stars still sit pretty well in the Central. Everything should be fine.