What’s wrong with the Stars? They “have to be better” as coach and players have emphasized, but what specifically do they need to fix, and is it even fixable? These are the questions that we must ask. We ask because we care, even though caring this year has hurt so very, very much.
The Stars are hemorrhaging goals like pennies from a bad magic trick. They are 30th in Goals Against as you can see here. We all knew that Jim Nill set the team for this year as an outscore-the-opposition group rather than a trap or defense-first squad, but what we maybe didn’t realize was that five other teams in the Central would be winning games by preventing goals altogether. Check out that chart again, and you’ll see that Central teams are absurdly (or not) holding down five of the top seven spots in GA/GP rankings league-wide. Given the Stars’ winless record against their division so far, it would seem that defense trumps offense in this group, even when you have the league’s leading goal scorer in Tyler Seguin on your team.
Josh Bogorad has come to similar conclusions using some interesting comparative stats from last season:
Last season the Stars held their opponents to less than two goals in 23 of 82 games. That’s 28% of the time. In those first 24 games we just mentioned, the Stars did it seven times. If you need reminding, that’s twice more than the number of games where they gave up five-or-more.
This year, however, the Stars have only held their opponent to fewer than two goals twice in 24 games. That’s just 8.3% of their games. Last season the Stars were able to balance the big numbers-against by posting just as many – and eventually more – of the minimal-against variety. That’s why the Stars were three-games over .500 at the end of November. This season the Stars haven’t been able to find those great defensive counters. That’s why Dallas is one-game under .500 heading into December.
You can draw your own conclusions as to why they have had so much trouble in the goals-against department. Their 78.6% penalty kill (10th worst in the NHL) isn’t helping. Neither is their 32.5 shots-against average (6th most). Their .893 team save-percentage (3rd lowest) certainly has been a contributing factor. But as Lindy Ruff has pointed out multiple times this season, every night seems to be a different issue for the Stars. So you can’t really point a finger at one, single element to blame. Whatever it is, it needs to be improved. Quickly. [Stars]
The Stars are scoring, which at least puts them in a better position than woebegone clubs like Edmonton and Philadelphia or injury-shellacked Columbus. But their scoring will only result in wins if they can cure that grotesque malady going on in their defensive end. As Bogorad mentions elsewhere in his piece, the Stars can win a fair amount of games this year even while giving up three(!) goals per game. There has to be a way to patch together this team’s skill, psyche and qi well enough to get them back into reasonable hockey territory. Because this team and this goalie giving up this many goals this often just doesn’t make sense.
* * * * *
Thursday comes with mildly good news. Gordie Howe did not in fact have a second stroke this week. He is still having a tough time in his recovery, however. All the best to Mr. Hockey.
I’ve been waiting for the hoard of “What’s going on in Dallas?!” stories for a while now, and it’s possible that the Tuesday Toronto travesty might have been the catalyst. Here’s the first of what might be many stories about how the Stars need to “find more dirt” to fill in the hole they’ve dug. Well, they can always dig their way out! [TSN]
Mike Heika reminds us that being a fan is like kissing a rose. It can be beautiful to lose yourself in its beauty, but it also hurts sometimes when those stupid thorns poke you all stupid. He does not use that simile, don’t worry. [DMN]
Ovechkin’s parents are ruining the wonderful anonymity of his charity work for Russian orphanages. His mom, specifically. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
This is one of many touching stories about the inimitable Jean Béliveau, who passed away earlier this week. [SportsNet]
Seriously, how cool is it what Shannon Szabados is doing? Player of the week honors, and well-deserved they most certainly are. [THN]
Robert Bortuzzo has been suspended two games for his hit on Jagr as well as for, we can only assume, the inconsistent Robert/Roberto spellings of his name yesterday. Patrick Burke gives good evidence for why this hit deserves supplemental discipline. Also, please come back Jagr: