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Overthinking Overtime

The Dallas Stars finally lost three in a row for the first time this season. And it came in true Dallas Stars fashion: three overtime losses in five days. While the Stars did get three points and the losses did come against good teams, there is a bigger picture here – one that could raise concerns for multiple reasons. The Stars are currently 3-10 in games that have gone past regulation.

Of the 13 overtime appearances, only three have been shootouts. The Stars are 1-2 in those games with Jake Oettinger recording the sole shootout win. That leaves 10 games that were decided in the five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime hockey. In only two of those, the Stars came away victorious. Tyler Seguin had the game-winner against the Ottawa Senators and Nils Lundkvist had the game-winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

Overtime Results

Let’s start with the negatives first: there were only two games that went into overtime where the Stars blew a two-goal lead. The first one was a rare win against the Senators. They allowed three unanswered goals, letting Ottawa to take the lead before the Stars tied it back up. The other was the very recent game versus the New Jersey Devils. The Stars were up by two entering the second period to then surrender two goals within three minutes of each other, culminating in a scoreless third period to force overtime.

A slightly more positive statistic? The Stars blew a one-goal lead four times. Small wins are wins, okay? Two of those ended in a Stars win, the shootout win against the New York Islanders and the previously mentioned overtime win over the Red Wings. On a different, more unfortunate note, there was the heart-break loss to the New York Rangers where the Stars allowed the Rangers to tie it up in the last second of the game. Not only did that send the game into overtime, which subsequently ended in a loss, but it also robbed Oettinger of a much-deserved shutout.

Now for the real positives. On four different occasions, the Stars came back from a one-goal deficit to send the game to overtime. More impressively, three games were sent into overtime after scoring multiple goals in the third period to come back from a deficit and tie it up. Most notably was the game against the Minnesota Wild where the Stars scored four unanswered goals to force overtime. The other two games against the Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes were two-goal deficits snuffed in the third period.

Ironically enough, all seven of the games with the massive comebacks resulted in losses. But the Stars were able to steal points in games they most definitely should have lost. The other six were blown leads where, in a perfect world, the Stars don’t lose and walk away with 12 points. But this is sports and sports are not perfect. But for argument’s sake, let’s say they were and the Stars won all six blown-lead games. They would currently have 72 points and would be second in the league behind only the Boston Bruins.

Overtime Breakdowns

So the obvious question: why is this happening?

In theory, two-thirds of one of the best lines in hockey, Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz, paired with Miro Heiskanen should not lose against many teams. In fact, with a combined 152 points, they should be winning. So what is the issue?

An obvious one that this roster deals with is speed. 3-on-3 hockey leaves a lot of open ice, which leads to two issues. One, most Stars players (who are not named Hintz and Heiskanen) are not quick enough to move the puck around the defense. This creates a lack of setting up plays and scoring chances. Additionally, they are also getting beat by the other team while playing defense. Whether they are just not quick enough or not getting a read on what the opponents are doing, the Stars are seemingly always a step behind. Meanwhile, the puck is finding the back of the net.

Another issue that seems to be a theme during overtime is turnovers. Whether it be poor puck handling or not having patience and forcing passes, the Stars are losing possession of the puck and it usually ends up being costly. The Stars’ offensive style is to attack aggressively, which can lead to some mistakes made during hasty plays. Most of which are able to be recovered from during 5-on-5 play. However, it seems as though they are playing with the same style during 3-on-3 and aren’t able to recover in the open ice.

To further break down what (or who) could be the problem, here is a list of the players who have been on the ice when the over-time game-winning goal was scored and how many times:

Jamie Benn – 6
               Miro Heiskanen – 6
    Jason Roberston – 4
    Roope Hintz – 2
    Ryan Suter – 1

Here is a list of players who were on the ice for wins, as well as losses:

Tyler Seguin – 2 wins, 2 losses
    Wyatt Johnston – 1 win, 1 loss
    Mason Marchment – 1 win, 1 loss
    Esa Lindell – 1 win, 1 loss
    Nils Lundkvist – 1 win

Oddly enough, the only players with overtime wins under their belts this season are players that are second and third-line choices to hit the ice. Granted, those players probably aren’t facing the other team’s best players but the issue still stands: the Stars’ best players are getting beat.

So is this a concern? Is 10 overtime losses at the All-Star break a problem?

Yes and no. The obvious reason this isn’t an issue is that 3-on-3 isn’t played in the playoffs. Once the regular season is over, the 3-on-3 overtime woes will haunt Dallas no longer. So here comes the “every point matters” crowd. And yes, they do, to an extent. The Stars HAVE left 10 points on the table and that DOES add up. But for the first time in a good while, the Stars aren’t fighting for a playoff spot. And unless something drastic (knock on wood) happens, the Stars will make the playoffs.

In a post-game interview, Pete DeBoer stated “those aren’t real losses, those are overtime losses; there’s a difference,” when asked about losing three straight games in overtime. While Stars fans hope the team wins every game, that is just not realistic. One can choose to look at all the points left on the table or see it as points the team clawed back to get. More than half of the games that went past regulation, the Stars should have left point-less. But they didn’t, and that is important context to consider when evaluating the overtime performance to-date this season.