Two games makes for a lousy sample size. Especially two games at the start of the season. Particularly after an offseason so full of change. Players still need to settle, systems need to gel, and can somebody get Ben Bishop an aspirin? To paraphrase Crash Davis, we’re dealing with a lot of stuff. So here’s to coping and relaxation despite the dismal opening weekend.
While we’re probably a month or so away from really understanding much of anything, knowledge can be a balm for worried fans. Believe it or not, there are reasons to be hopeful, to think the Stars will shake off their stuttering start and become something closer to the team fans expected.
The Dallas Stars – the same Stars that boast a former NHL Scoring Champion and this offseason’s prize offensive acquisition – languish at 28th in the entire NHL in scoring. Three goals through their first two games has put the team in an 0-2 hole, and put fans on edge. Offense was supposed to be the constant, the thing we talked about while watching the defense and goaltending flail. How could things have possibly gone so wrong so quickly?
Honest answer? They haven’t, things are probably fine.
A quick look at the revamped NHL stats page (credit where credit is due) shows the Stars lead the NHL in shots per game, with 43. They also generate 59.3% of all shot attempts during close games, which is supposed to mean they’re playing better while both teams are trying their hardest to score.
If we dig into TI-83 territory, their PDO at even strength (aka Shooting % + Save %, aka the luck metric) is 92.7, which is slap-your-mother lousy. Remember, anything under 100 indicates a team is getting unlucky. NHL teams simply do not stick in the low 90s for very long.
On an individual level, Tyler Seguin is 2nd in the league with 19 shots, but is shooting only 5.3%. To either side of him sit Evander Kane (1st – 15.4% - 4 goals) and Alex Ovechkin (3rd – 38.9% - 7 goals). Seguin is a career 11.1% shooter, by the by. What happens when he starts inching his way back to normal?
A quick view of the rest of the roster is more glass half full than half empty. Jamie Benn (9 shots), Alexander Radulov (8 shots), and Jason Spezza (6 shots) are all putting rubber towards the net in quantities that suggest goals will follow. Suggest is the key word. Nothing is certain, but when the regression monster comes, there’s a very good chance he’ll look like Victor E. Green doing a crazy goal dance.
To go full-on Pollyanna, the fact the Stars’ offense has been the culprit thus far is a sign of serious encouragement. Even after the loss in St. Louis, Dallas is a 8th in the league with 6 goals against. This is despite losing their starting goaltender two periods into the season. Their penalty kill has dealt with 88.9% of opposing power plays, a mark good for 11th. Furthermore, they’ve only been shorthanded nine times (23rd in the NHL). Improvement plus restraint, live the dream!
The distribution of minutes across the penalty kill is particularly interesting. New signings Marc Methot (2nd – 7:17) and Martin Hanzal (3rd – 6:41) appear to be having a positive impact, as is the return to health of Mattias Janmark (5th – 5:51). That trio is joined by a pair of eye-raisers: Jamie Oleksiak (1st – 7:27) and Stephen Johns (4th – 5:52). Big Rig and Johns appear to have escaped the doghouse, and are contributing in a meaningful role at the NHL level.
All of this will, without question, look better once the Stars put something in the win column. Perhaps Detroit will be the unfortunate recipient of a get-healthy beating. If not the Wings, then maybe the Coyotes (2x), Canucks, or Avalanche (2x) will have the honor before October comes to a close. As bad as last weekend was, the Stars still have plenty of hockey remaining, and appear to be a very good team. Here’s hoping things come together soon.