Dallas Stars' Scorching Start: By the Numbers
Sans one Rocky Mountain Meltdown, this year's Stars squad has been everything fans wished for over the long offseason. The optimists are basking, the pessimists are asking why. Me, I'm digging through a bunch of random numbers to see if any of it makes sense.
This is a weird spot in the season. There have been enough games to start drawing conclusions, but not so many as to really know anything definitively. Yes, things have gone well. Everything is working, but does it feel real? Dallas Stars fans have been burned before. The other thing to consider is, as good as the Stars have been, they've still got basically zero separation from their Central Division brethren.
There's a lot to make sense of, so why not take a look at a collection of random numbers? Seven games in, are any of these The Reason the Stars are experiencing early-season success? Probably not, but they're part of the pretty, Victory Green-tinted picture.
63% - Last season's dreams of offensive depth turned into the Tree Amigos (Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza). The trio was tons of fun to watch, but Spezza's inability to get going outside of the top line limited Dallas' offensive options. With greater depth and health around him, he's been much more dangerous as his own player so far. That will be important as divisional games start to stack up and teams try to do more to stop Seguin and Benn.
5 / 0 - Points for Ales Hemsky through the first four and next three games this season, respectively. I actually don't care about the streakiness. That's who Hemsky is. The key will be to maximize damage when he's on while minimizing the windows of listless, unproductive hockey. This is a player that's going to bounce around a bit in terms of icetime, lineup spot, and powerplay time.
21 / 15 - Goals against through the first seven games last season versus goals against through the first seven games this season. Just about a goal a game. No, it isn't enough to vault the Stars into the league's elite puck-stopping teams, but with this offense, above average is fine. Pick a factor: goaltending, backchecking forwards, defense. The Stars have been categorically better in all phases early this season. So far this team has come together in exactly the way fans hoped.
120.4% - I don't know if Razor came up with it originally, but I've always loved his thinking about special teams. Add a team's powerplay and penalty kill together; any number above 100% typically indicates excellence. That's where the Stars are. Right now they're backing teams off with a scorching powerplay and limiting the damage done by their own mistakes.
0 - Combined goals: Sharp, Nichushkin. This duo has, at least, shown serious signs of life lately. Last night's tilt in Pittsburgh has to encourage anyone banking on Nichushkin's offensive potential. The Big Russian was back to protecting the puck and flashing his superlative playmaking instincts. Sharp, meanwhile, has been finding ways to contribute for much of the season. Still, both are expected to provide more than just intangibles / underlying metrics. A goal for either is just about the last item to check off the Stars' pre-season wishlist.
12:22, 9:25, 14:55 / 11:37, 9:19, 11:52 - Time On the Ice for Antoine Roussel and Radek Faksa over the past three games. Is it time to worry about Roussel? Maybe. Is this a sign that improvements elsewhere on the roster have slotted Rooster into a more comfortable spot? Possibly. Lots of variance so far. Lots of penalties, too. Here's hoping frustration doesn't seem into the edges of his already-on-edge game. Meanwhile, the former first rounder Faksa is steadily gaining his foothold at the NHL level. In a non-Janmark year fans would likely be a lot more excited, but credit where credit is due.
214 Goals / 143 Assists / 357 Points - At current pace, that's what Mattias Janmark's career is going to look like at the 500 games-played mark. Not bad, right? Last night Janmark's line (okay, fine, it was Spezza's line) potted a pair against the Pens. This isn't about sticking on the roster any longer, it's about staking a legitimate claim to a spot in the top six. That would be the top six of the league's best offense, by the way.
49.3% - One of the few blemishes right now for Dallas is the faceoff dot. So far, other aspects of the Stars' game have been good enough to keep this from becoming a serious issue. Still, a few more faceoffs won equals a little more offensive possession, or an extra zone exit. That's the sort of stuff that adds up over the course of 82 games.
7th / 23rd - The Stars' ranks in shots for and shots against, respectively. At 31.9 shots per game, the first number is fine. Dallas' offense generates a boatload of chances, and given the talent at-hand, is destined to convert their fair share of those chances. This is good. The second number is the one that keeps fans on edge. 31.6 shots against each night doesn't sound terrible, but is this a team that really wants to be riding goaltending in any way?
4 GP / 3 GP - The goalie rotation is working so far. Both Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen have played and played well, but it's been more than just consistent goodness. There have been tremendous, game-altering saves as well. The Stars' duo has endured long stretches of offensive dominance followed by egregious defensive lapses a.k.a. "Stars Hockey."