Dallas Stars Need Power Play To Be More Than Pedestrian This Year

The Dallas Stars' power play was not good last year. If they want to make the playoffs in the competitive Central division where almost everyone seemed to improve, it has to be better. But how can they improve it?

One of the Dallas Stars' major areas of improvement this season is on special teams. Both the power play and the penalty kill were pedestrian last year, ranking 23rd and 21st, respectively. In order to make the playoffs in an uber-competitive western conference, Dallas will need to make some strides in improving these areas.

Today, we're going to look at the power play. With so much offensive power on display at even strength, it's puzzling as to why the man advantage wasn't a feast of goals.

To figure out what the biggest problem of the Stars' power play was last season, I looked at a few metrics: average shot distance (in feet), total shot attempts, total power play attempts, and shot percentages by team. Here is the top ten power plays in the league, with Dallas' numbers added for reference at the bottom.

*All stats throughout were aggregated together from Behind The Net and NHL.com and basic math done by me.

PP Rank Team Avg Distance (Team) Total Shot Attempts Total PP Attempts SH% Avg (Team)
1 Pittsburgh 31.6 467 278 12.7%
2 Washington 29.2 457 291 16.3%
3 Boston 33.7 348 230 13.1%
4 Phoenix 30.4 391 282 17.4%
5 Colorado 32.0 322 252 11.6%
6 Toronto 32.0 365 252 15.3%
7 St Louis 33.3 356 283 14.7%
8 Philadelphia 35.6 452 294 9.1%
9 New Jersey 33.6 310 241 11.5%
10 Chicago 33.4 351 257 9.1%
23 Dallas 32.6 341 290 9.1%

What can we conclude by looking at these numbers?

The answer jumped out at me almost immediately -- the Stars need to shoot more. The Flyers were nearly identical to the Stars last year, with the same shot percentage as a team....except they put up over 100 more shots on goal than the Stars managed. The addition of Jason Spezza should immediately help in this regard; he attempted 55 shots on the power play with Ottawa last year, which would have been the second most on the Stars behind only Tyler Seguin.

Another thing that jumps out is how low the Stars shooting percentage is than the more successful power plays in the league. That actually makes sense, seeing as how the Stars are more deadly when they are using their speed in transition. Getting into the offensive zone and 'setting up' takes some of that away from the Stars, and allows the other team to more easily predict where they are going to move the puck. Trying to find a way to capitalize off of the transition into the offensive zone should help to increase their shot percentage.

When the Stars do get setup on the power play, they need to make quicker decisions with the puck to get faster puck movement. This should help to draw the penalty killers off their defensive coverages and create more second chances off of rebounds amid the chaos in front of the goaltender.

Combine those few tweaks with just shooting more in general, and that should help make the power play better than last year.

Another thing I noticed was that the Stars don't have an awful lot of guys driving the net. That is, the ones capitalizing on shots in close to the goaltender. Here are the Stars numbers from last season. I didn't include any players that aren't here for this season, since obviously we can't expect them to contribute to solving this puzzle.

Player GP Goals Saves Shot Attempts Avg Distance SH%
Shawn Horcoff 77 4 7 11 13.9 36.4%
Colton Sceviour 26 2 10 12 17.5 16.7%
Valeri Nichushkin 79 2 10 12 15.1 16.7%
Jordie Benn 78 1 7 8 49.6 12.5%
Tyler Seguin 80 10 70 80 32.5 12.5%
Erik Cole 75 3 24 27 20.8 11.1%
Trevor Daley 67 1 9 10 39.6 10.0%
Jamie Benn 81 5 45 50 27.5 10.0%
Cody Eakin 81 3 32 35 32.6 8.6%
Alex Goligoski 81 3 42 45 46 6.7%
Sergei Gonchar 76 1 22 23 52 4.3%
Antoine Roussel 81 0 2 2 11 0.0%
Kevin Connauton 36 0 4 4 54 0.0%
Vernon Fiddler 76 0 1 1 54 0.0%
Ryan Garbutt 75 0 1 1 22 0.0%
Rich Peverley 62 0 20 20 32.8 0.0%

Looking at this, Horcoff, Roussel, Sceviour and Nichushkin should be the forward personnel considered for the slot area on the ice. These are the guys that are making it happen in front of the goaltender.

Another fun thing to consider that I stumbled across in my digging around in numbers is that Goligoski ended last season with one of his worst shooting percentages of his career -- and was still better than the rest of the defensemen on the team in offensive production. It's unlikely that his shooting percentage will be that low again this season, so you can reasonably expect an uptick in power play production by extension from Goligoski on the back end as well.