What terminally plagues the Dallas Stars lost them a very winnable game on home ice Monday night against a struggling Edmonton Oilers squad. A lot has rightfully been made of the Stars now, off a 18-5-3 run following their franchise-worst 1-7-1 start to the season. A run that has seen the Stars rise up in the face of almost certain franchise-altering disaster.
However, a strong run that has seen the Stars vault back into the playoff picture doesn’t exactly explain away some of the key illnesses that have affected the team.
Monday night against an Edmonton club that was 3-6-1 in their last 10 perfectly encapsulates what is wrong with the Stars. An extremely poor power play, deficient top-end scoring, and little to no secondhand chances will eventually doom the Stars as the season rolls on.
Let’s dig into the details to try to at least find a cure to what ails this hockey team.
1. Tyler Seguin Has Gone Dry
Tyler Seguin did finally score a goal Monday night to pull the Stars within one late in the third period. It was an encouraging sign for a player who hadn’t scored in 11 games, and hadn’t placed a puck behind a netminder since the last time the Stars faced the Oilers. Seguin should feel good about netting his seventh goal of the season in his 35th game.
However, Stars fans have a right to be worried about the fact that Seguin only has seven goals at the near halfway point.
It is known and widely acknowledged that Jamie Benn is still a lot of important things to the Stars, but his days as a top-end point producer and goalscorer are undoubtably over at an elite level. The captain still has it and can still dominate, but he needs help more than ever. This isn’t to say that Alexander Radulov (nine goals), Joe Pavelski (seven goals), are lighting the world on fire either.
They certainly are not.
However, Tyler Seguin is this team’s offensive motor without question. As Seguin goes, so go the Stars’ overall offensive capabilities. This includes the power play.
Seguin has yet to register a power play goal for a man-advantage that ranks 24th in league at 16.5 percent. This simply needs to change if the Stars’ power play is going to resemble anything with a pulse down the stretch of this season. If the Stars have designs on a run into May and June, it will be nothing short of a requirement.
There are still numbers to back up the fact that Seguin could break out of this slump and round into his dangerous self in the second half. The All-Star center has been saddled with a 5.0 shooting percentage that comes in a near six full points below his career average. For a 27-year-old squarely in his prime, it is safe to say that the trend should swing more to the norm.
Let’s hope for the sake of the Stars’ offensive hopes.
2. Lets Talk About The Power Play for a Second
Tyler Seguin not scoring a power play goal is hardly the only negative aspect of the overall health and vitality of the Stars’ power play. In fact, there is a lot to pick on over the last handful of games, but a couple of things really stood out on Monday night.
The Stars seemed to have abandoned the idea of loading up Seguin for his patented half-wall one-timer. The shot that has been so lethal since 2013 has disappeared from the power play set for the most part. The Stars seem to use Seguin as a decoy, rotating the puck back up to John Klingberg, who then funnels the puck on net for a rebound.
It’s not that it’s exactly a bad play either, but the Stars seem hellbent on running their power play through this set. The only problem is that the Stars are rarely finding the second chance opportunities to really capitalize on this type of play. Either the shot is blocked and cleared, the rebound isn’t there, or the Stars are unable to force their way to the front and funnel the puck to scoring areas.
Another interesting nugget is the fact that the Stars’ power play hasn’t really found the soft areas of the ice. This could be due to the overall lack of movement in the sets, as the Stars are rarely slicing through a penalty kill. The high slot isn’t exploited nearly enough and the forwards seem too deep in the corners for any real outlet to a dangerous position.
It looks as if the power play has become predictable. Methodically mundane, if you will.
The Stars appear out of answers at the moment and are staring down the fact that their power play has gone 0-for-12 since Rick Bowness took over as interim head coach a week ago.
3. Don’t Let the Last Three Minutes Fool You
For the first 57 minutes of the hockey game, the Stars were nowhere near the best team in this game. In fact, the Stars looked horrid for most of the night.
Sure there were chances to score goals, but chances don’t change the scoreline and drag a team back into a hockey game — a hockey game that, in all honesty, the Stars had no business being in.
The penalty kill and goaltending by Ben Bishop really led the Stars into having a chance to even try to tie the game. The Oilers went 1-for-6 on the power play for the night and had chances to score on nearly every set. This game had no business being as close as it was when the final horn sounded.
The Stars for all that they did well in the hockey game outdid the good with very bad at times. All but one penalty on Dallas looked legit, with the Jamie Oleksiask tripping call being the notable outlier. Each penalty seemed to knock Dallas off of their track and set them back a few paces before they could finally regather themselves after a kill.
It also didn’t help that the Stars squandered a 4-on-1 chance to tie the hockey game at 1-1 when Radulov tried to feed Benn for a shot before it was ultimately broken up.
How the Stars didn’t convert on this chance is beyond me considering that Radulov had a wide-open Seguin waiting. A simple saucer pass would have exposed a cheating Mikko Koskinen. It certainly would not have been a tap-in for Seguin, but at least the chance would have landed on frame. Either way, the Stars spoiled it and wound up down 2-0 a few moments later.
At the end of the night, Dallas dropped a 2-1 game to a pesky Edmonton squad that is better than their recent record suggests. The Oilers utterly locked down the second period after gaining the lead in the first, and refused to break in third period.
While the Stars have played good hockey in the last month and a half en route to their 18-5-3 record, let’s not forget that this is far from a finished product here. The Stars have very real flaws, and very real holes in their game that good teams will — and do — expose.
In order to prove that their recent run isn’t little more than a mirage, the Stars need to find answers in a hurry.