Even with this season’s growing pains, the Dallas Stars are providing fans reasons to be excited about them.
After sweeping a road trip against the Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, the Dallas Stars hoped to continue their momentum Saturday night against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately for the Stars, they could not continue their overtime winning ways, and lost 5-2 to the Blackhawks.
Yes, the score reads 5-2, but the final score does not accurately reflect how the Stars played in that game. Aside from the costly breakdowns that ultimately doomed the Stars, the Stars outplayed the Blackhawks.
During 5-on-5 play, the Stars attempted 52 shots and allowed the Blackhawks to attempt 44. This is an impressive feat, since the Blackhawks average 60.8 shot attempts per game during 5-on-5 play, and allow opponents to attempt an average of 47.2 shots per game. The Blackhawks are the second-best 5-on-5 puck possession team behind the Los Angeles Kings, and the Stars out-possessed them on Saturday.
It must be noted that while the Stars attempted 52 shots during 5-on-5 play, the Blackhawks blocked 16 shots. Eliminating the blocked shots during 5-on-5 play for both teams, the Stars attempted 36 unblocked shots and allowed the Blackhawks to attempt 32. The Stars need to find better shooting lanes in the future, but controlling the puck more than the opponent is a good place to start.
Why are these possession metrics significant? Quite simply, a team that holds onto the puck more is more likely to win games. This season, the Stars have played well during 5-on-5 play, which is important because 5-on-5 is when most of the game is played and therefore the most reliable representation of how a team plays.
The rest of this discussion will use Fenwick instead of Corsi, because Fenwick eliminates blocked shots and is therefore a better metric to use in a large sample size because it does not factor in teams that are skilled at blocking shots.
During 5-on-5 play overall, the Stars average 50.8 percent of a game’s unblocked shot attempts, the 11th-best 5-on-5 Fenwick-For percentage (FF%) in the NHL. During 5-on-5 play while tied, the Stars’ FF% is 51.3 percent, 13th-best in the NHL. During 5-on-5 play with the score “close,” the Stars sports a FF% of 51.8 percent, 10th-best in the NHL. (Statistics courtesy of ExtraSkater.com).
Teams who sport a 5-on-5 “Close” FF% higher than 50 percent are more likely to make the playoffs. Last season, eleven teams sporting a 5-on-5 “Close” FF% higher than 50 percent made the playoffs, with the exceptions being the New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and Phoenix Coyotes.
Five teams made the playoffs last season sporting a 5-on-5 “Close” FF% less than 50 percent, most notably the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the second-lowest “Close” FF% at 44.01 percent. The Stars sported the eighth-lowest “Close” FF% at 47.25 percent last season. If the Stars maintain a “Close” FF% greater than 50 percent, we can project they will be competitive against the NHL’s cream of the crop and perhaps finally get over the playoff hump.
The Stars are still a work in progress, and people should watch this team with that in mind. If the Stars want to end their five-year playoff drought, they will have to eliminate the costly mistakes and continue to out-possess their opponents. That will allow them to earn points against opponents like the Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, teams widely considered to be among the class of the Western Conference.
If last week is an indication of how the rest of the season will play out, Stars fans should be encouraged.