We now know that the Stars will match up against the offensively dynamic Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Flames looked strong in their playoff series against Winnipeg, which was not without its controversies, not least Matthew Tkatchuk’s clumsy hit on Mark Schiefele and Paul Maurice’s subsequent stoking of the fire:
“He could have cut his achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”
Paul Maurice did not hold back when talking about the Matthew Tkachuk-Mark Scheifele incident: pic.twitter.com/vRbmiv9u57
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 2, 2020
The Stars’ play in the round-robin was anything but dynamic. The Dallas team lost a 3-1 lead in the final period of their first game against the Golden Knights were shut out against the Colorado Avalanche before creaking to a shoot-out win over the St. Louis Blues. The Stars went six full periods of hockey without scoring a goal. Just as concerning as their inability to score is the tendency to concede a goal virtually as soon as they step on the ice.
The first goal by Vegas came 1.04 into the first period. Against the Avalanche the Stars held out for just 3.19 and against St. Louis 3.43 – the Blues first shot of the game. We know that teams that are losing tend to have a greater share of possession, shots, and goals – a phenomenon known as score effects – but it’s much harder to come from behind.
Recent work on score effects in the NHL also suggests that scoring effects are driven primarily by the leading team, that is the team that is ahead sitting back and protecting a lead has more of an effect than the trailing team fighting to score (for much more detailed analysis, see this paper).
For a team like the Dallas Stars who often are content to sit on a one or two-goal lead this would seem obvious, however, when the Stars are behind it makes it much harder for them to gain ground as the other team is controlling play at.
We’ve all accepted at this point that the Stars are unlikely to be a high scoring team in the playoffs. That might be OK if they can keep the puck out of the back of the net.
Repeatedly losing the lead early in the first period, for a team as offensively anemic as the Stars, is not, however, a way to win a Stanley Cup.
Featured Image: Jeffrey T. Barnes/AP