The Dallas stars have been in something of a slump recently going 2-5-3 in their last 10 games*, which gives them the 24th best record in the NHL over that period.
The message from the coaching staff over this period has been that the Stars have been doing many things right and if they stick to their identity then the goals will come.
For much of the season and indeed probably the last two seasons Stars fans have been able to articulate that identity as that of low scoring, defensively solid team who don’t score much but also don’t concede many goals.
The brand of hockey played, while often not exciting or flashy took the team to within a hairsbreadth of the western conference final last year.
The question is: have the Stars really been sticking to that identity for the last month?
The Stars, until recently had one of the best penalty kills in the NHL and an indifferent power play. However, since mid-February, their penalty kill has dropped to 28th in the league, even more concerning is the fact that their closest competitors in the race for the top of the central division, the Avs and the Blues are 1st and 13th respectively.
One of the messages from the Stars on their defensive structure has been that while the Stars may allow a relatively high number of shots on net the number of high danger shots generated by opposition teams is limited by their defense, however alongside the struggles on the penalty kill the Stars have also allowed the 7th most high danger shots at 5v5 in the league, over the season as a whole, on the other hand, the Stars have been in the top 10 for limiting high danger chances against.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, given their offensive struggles this season the Stars powerplay was 11th over the same period with a 21.7% success rate. That being said, the Stars were still the worst team in the league when it came to goals scored per game over the last 10 games with 2.00 goals per game. The Stars haven’t conceded many either, averaging 2.5 goals against, however, conceding more goals than you score on average is a problem. Over the same period, by contrast, the St. Louis Blues have scored 3.00 goals per game on average, while only conceding 1.73 (the best in the NHL) and the Colorado Avalanche have scored 2.64 goals per game while only conceding 2.36.
So we come back to the question that we asked at the start of the post. Stars fans have expressed frustration at the team playing a stifling, defensive brand of hockey as opposed to the exciting run and gun style of say, the Toronto Maple Leafs, that being said, defensive hockey often finds success in the playoffs.
The concern is that the Stars seem to be struggling to stick to that identity at a key time in the season while failing to find anything significant in the way of offense to offset the defensive struggles.
They need to find it again in a hurry if they are going to be successful against either of the teams above them in the race.
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