The Dallas Stars can be justifiably proud of their performance on the recent road trip through western Canada, taking 7 out of 8 points from 4 games.
It’s an impressive turnaround from the less than stellar start to the season.
To recap, the Stars went 1-7-1 to start the season and just when fans were ready to write off the season less than 10 games in they managed to find their groove and have been 10-1-1 in the subsequent 12 games.
In the first 9 games while 5v5 play wasn’t great it seemed to be improving steadily and the goalkeeping was stalwart if not the Vezina finalist quality of last season. As far as special teams go, even when the Stars were losing the penalty kill was a highlight of their game and in the recent stretch, it has returned to the stellar numbers seen last season.
Since the start of the season, the Stars have killed close to 83% of penalties, good enough for 14th in the NHL rankings. However, since the game against Minnesota on 29 October, arguably the turning point of the season thus far, the Stars have been on the power play for 70 minutes, and have conceded just 4 goals.
The power play started off the season in a truly dismal form with a near bottom of the league 8.3% conversion. Through the first 9 games, only the Ottawa Senators had a worse conversion rate on the power-play than the Stars. It seems like this is still an area where the Stars have room for improvement, in recent games, they have managed to climb to an overall conversion rate of 13.1%, good enough for an unspectacular 28th in the league. There are signs of life here though, they have scored power-play goals in 4 of the last 5 games and 5 of the last 7, by contrast, the scored only 2 power-play goals in the first 14 games.
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For me, the power play starts with possession and this is an area the Stars appear to be struggling with. In many games, they are still winning 50% or less of face-offs on the power play. One of the keys to a successful power play is possession if you don’t have control of the puck and can’t keep it in the offensive zone then you simply can’t score goals. Tyler Seguin takes the vast majority of the Stars face-offs, as would be expected of the franchise center playing on the first power-play unit and this certainly seems to have been an area of focus for him.
Looking at analytical models the Stars are trending significantly under the expected power-play goals for (xGF) predicted. The good news is that they seem to be trending back to where models suggest they should be.
If they continue their solid 5v5 and penalty killing and continue to improve on the power play, it might be the case that the disappointing start to the season begins to seem like a bad dream for Stars fans.
Featured Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images