Dallas Stars Experimenting With Unique Strategy In Recent Wins

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 1: Dallas Stars celebrate their win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Scotiabank Arena on November 1, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 1: Dallas Stars celebrate their win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Scotiabank Arena on November 1, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images) /

After a mediocre start to the year, the Dallas Stars have won four of their past five games and could finally be churning in the right direction. That all might be thanks to a unique strategy and scheme.

As they opened up November play on Thursday night, the Dallas Stars were looking to break a few different skids.

On the one hand, it had been nearly a decade since the Stars had defeated the Maple Leafs in Toronto. December 23, 2008 was the last time Dallas had escaped Scotiabank Arena (it was called the Air Canada Centre back then) with two points, and they had posted an 0-4-2 record in the ten years since.

In addition, the Stars were trying to win two road games in a row for the first time since February 8, 2018. They had played in 18 road games since last accomplishing that feat.

And finally, Dallas was trying to avoid being swept by Toronto. The Leafs defeated the Stars at the American Airlines Center back on Oct. 9 in a 7-4 finish and did so using their offensive firepower and special teams dominance.

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So, there was a lot on the line as the Stars squared up with a Stanley Cup favorite. But, perhaps for the first time this season, they answered the call under pressure.

The Dallas Stars worked their way into the game after a slow start and found a way to capitalize in a 2-1 victory. Just like that, they avoided the sweep. Just like that, they won a second straight road game. Just like that, they broke their Toronto losing skid.

And just like that, the Stars have now won four of their past five games. And while that may not seem like a significant factor when considering their 7-5-0 record, it does carry a certain weight of positivity with it.

After slumping to 3-4-0 just two weeks ago as a result of a three-game losing skid, the Dallas Stars have a new element about them. They defeated the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, and Toronto Maple Leafs in this current stretch. They are averaging 3.75 goals per game and 1.50 goals against per game in their wins. And had it not been for a third period meltdown and a few bad bounces against Detroit, the Stars could very well be enjoying a five-game win streak.

The point is: the Stars are doing good things right now. Their special teams are clicking, their offense is rolling with all four lines showing production, and the defense and goaltending are cutting down opportunities and handling opposing attacks.

But, there’s a certain thread weaving through their recent wins that must be pointed out.

In their four most recent wins, the Stars have been outshot 53-22 in the third period. Yes, you read that right. A -31 shot differential in the most critical period of a hockey game.

In their 4-2 win against LA, the Kings outshot the Stars 12-2. The Canadiens outdid them 16-6. Last night, the Leafs took a 16-4 advantage in the final frame. And while Dallas actually outshot the Ducks in a 5-2 routing, it was only by a 10-9 advantage.

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  • And yet, the Stars have outscored their opponents 4-2 in the final period of the past four games. This should throw up a red flag in the minds of Stars fans for a few reasons.

    First off, this isn’t necessarily a new strategy for the Dallas Stars. All throughout the Lindy Ruff era  and especially in the short Ken Hitchcock era, the Stars constantly embraced a “park the bus” mentality in the final period whenever they had a lead. And, more often than not, it didn’t work out well for Dallas.

    Secondly, this doesn’t seem to line up well with the strategy that new Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery preaches. Montgomery is known for a relentless style that wears down opponents with speed and consistent attacking. It’s a systematic approach that pushes the opponent to their limits before they eventually crumble.

    But having the opposition bear down on you in the final period when it matters most doesn’t preach relentless. It doesn’t look like they’re necessarily controlling the game and wearing down the enemy.

    And yet, they are still winning. That’s largely due to the way they are going about it.

    The thing about this current Stars scheme is that they are playing with structure. They look controlled and are carrying each other. When the offense starts slow, the defense and goaltending are holding them in the game. When the defense sacrifices early goals, the offense is there to put goals on the board.

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    Overall, the Dallas Stars are doing what it takes to hang around in games. They get their foot in the door early and, eventually, pry it open. Things begin clicking and, after a certain point, they begin capitalizing. They find the holes, score on their chances, and build a lead.

    Following that, they get back into their structure and dig their heels in. The Dallas blue line goes into lock down mode and both Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin come up big when needed.

    As a result, the Stars are succeeding. This “less is more” strategy is working for the current coaching staff. Now, it may not possess a great longevity. After all, it’s a dangerous style to use.

    But for now, the Dallas Stars are winning against some of the better teams in the NHL and are finding ways to outdo each one of them. It may not be the cleanest way, but it certainly boasts grit and determination. They are applying less pressure and are instead focusing on their opportunities and making them count. The Stars are cashing in when they can and are holding the line when needed.

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    Now that they are halfway home in their six-game road trip, the Dallas Stars are starting to gain momentum. Their road play is picking up steam, they are beating good teams, and they have a bit of a streak going. Their current style is a big part of that.

    Let’s see if it continues against Washington, Boston, Columbus, and maybe even beyond.