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Where the Stars Are Trending as January Wraps Up

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Are the underlying trends of the Dallas Stars’ game good enough to inspire hope for the remainder of the season?

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With the current campaign continuing to be a difficult one, it is time once again to take a look at some of the underlying trends for the Dallas Stars. This will hopefully give us a better idea about the true identity of this team and if they can realistically expect to go on a winning streak any time soon.

We will start with some of the more basic team-level statistics and eventually take a few looks at how certain individuals are trending as well. Let’s get started.

All data is via unless otherwise stated.

5v5 Team Trends

Let’s start with shot attempts. Here is a running total of the Stars’ shot attempt differential since the season began.

The Stars were hanging out in the positive end of shot attempt differentials for about the first month of the season, at which point they went on a steep decline. They’ve been up and down ever since while hovering just a bit below the break-even point.

While there is an obvious trend downward in the previous chart, that is in large part due to the excellent start they had in that statistical category and doesn’t really tell us what we’d like to know. We’d rather see what has been going on lately and if the results are promising for the future.

Here is a look at a 5-game rolling average of the same statistic. For well over a month, the Stars have been fighting around the zero mark. While playing 5v5, they are playing a break-even game in terms of shot attempt differentials. Although that isn’t the worst thing in the world, the recent trend of those differentials doesn’t really scream “winning streak” either. Will adding in a shot quality factor tell a different tale?

Expected goals is a shot-based metric that factors in shot quality to try and indicate how a team is performing. Similar to the shot attempt differentials, the Stars have been fighting around the break-even point lately. Once again, not exactly a promising view at a team hoping to go on a big run.

5v5 Skater Trends

Now that we’ve had a glimpse at the team as a whole, let’s look at how some of the individuals are handling their business.

Two stand-outs for me are Antoine Roussel and Devin Shore. Roussel has been fantastic this season, especially when on a line with Radek Faksa. While they are more noted for their defensive abilities rather than their production, both are enjoying successful seasons in the offensive end. It looks like they’ve decided the best way to play defense is by being in the opponents’ zone.

Shore stands out by being consistently buried in his own zone. This was rather surprising to me as I feel his statistics conflict with the “eye test” more than anyone else on this team. He does a fair amount of scoring and his speed through the neutral zone has been quite apparent throughout the season. He’s definitely someone to watch more closely to investigate why he’s getting stuck in the defensive zone so often.

5v5 Goalie Trends

In terms of their even strength performances, Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have been going in vastly different directions over the past month or so.

While at 5v5, Kari has been as good of a goaltender as the Stars could possibly ask for. So why aren’t the Stars winning games? Well, his excellent 5v5 play has not translated to the penalty kill where Lehtonen is getting decimated. It certainly isn’t all on him, the team as a whole has been awful on the PK.

Niemi has been trending in the opposite direction and outside of a small stretch in mid-December, he’s clearly been the lesser of the two Finnish netminders this season.

The Outlook

These recent trends while playing 5v5 hockey don’t exactly inspire confidence that a playoff run is about to take place. The only hope in the numbers we’ve viewed today is Lehtonen, who desperately needs the overall shorthanded game to take a big step up if the Stars are going to capitalize on his excellent even strength play.