A Dallas Stars team statistical breakdown and reflection (part 6 of 6)

Welcome to the final post in a six-part series that evaluates the Dallas Stars' periodic statistical performances (every 13-15 games) in search of themes, strengths, weaknesses, and more. Here's the final regular season installment of Stars statistics.
Dallas Stars v Toronto Maple Leafs
Dallas Stars v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

Dallas Stars fans should be content with how the 2023-2024 regular season ended. The Stars added scoring pieces in the offseason, contributing to one of Dallas’ best offensive years in recent memory. They also tidied up their defensive game through a crucial Chris Tanev acquisition and consistent strategic planning against division rivals where they have out-played some of the best teams in the NHL. Today, we will look at the best forward line, D pairing, and a potential playoff X-Factor for the Dallas Stars to learn more about what has been working and evaluate what is possible for the playoffs.

Who was the best forward line this season?

According to Moneypuck.com, the best line in the entire NHL was Robertson-Hintz-Johnston (min. 100 minutes). This line played 111 minutes together and produced 8.5 Expected Goals For (xGF) and only conceded 2.1 Expected Goals Against (xGA), leading to an 80.2% Expected Goals Percentage. However, finding a spot for Joe Pavelski to house the Robertson-Hintz-Johnston line. Pavelski’s on-ice and off-ice team impact has earned him a top-six forward spot and a prominent leadership role. Pavelski needs Robertson and Hintz more than Johnston does, as shown through Johnston’s excellent work with Jamie Benn and Logan Stankoven, so the Robertson-Hintz-Johnston line may not see the ice during the playoffs, but this is likely best for ‘line balancing’ ‘chemistry’ and supporting veterans like Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn.

Honourable mentions: Benn-Johnston-Stankoven (61.2% xGoals), Steel-Faksa-Smith (56.6% shot attempts)

Who was the best D Pairing?

According to Moneypuck.com, the best D pairing for the Stars is Lindell-Tanev, with an outstanding 65.5% Expected Goals Percentage in ~200 minutes together. This has been a shutdown pairing and DZ exit machine where Esa Lindell and Chris Tanev give Dallas a defensive competitive edge that the team lacked earlier this season. Furthermore, Esa Lindell has become more confident with the puck, where he may feel that he can make a few more strides with possession rather than throw the puck to a soft spot on the ice under pressure. This is likely because of the trust built between Lindell and Tanev, where they will cover for each other. Since Tanev’s playstyle is so passive, Lindell seems to have more puck touches and the freedom to skate when he sees fit. This should help Dallas in the playoffs, where the team can have multiple threats from the ‘back end’ instead of only the Heiskanen-Harley pairing.

The key here is fluidity, where the Heiskanen-Harley and Lindell-Tanev pairings have each demonstrated fluidity and calmness despite playing against the best hockey players in the world. Heiskanen-Harley’s puck skills allow them to see the ice better than most defensemen in the NHL and work together for the ultimate offensive pairing. In contrast, Lindell-Tanev’s simplicity allows for a peaceful and clean transition game where more creativity is given to the forwards on the ice. They know that there are two steady defensemen behind them. For reference, Lindell-Tanev’s 65.5% xGF% is 4th in the entire NHL (min. 100 minutes), trailing only New York’s Gustafsson-Fox, Ottawa’s Sanderson-Chychrun, and Florida’s Forsling-Montour.

Going into this season, after seeing players like Matt Duchene and Sam Steel join the team, the defensive metrics for the Stars have been stellar and Chris Tanev has been a big piece to the trustworthy Dallas Stars D core. 

Who will be the playoff X-Factor?

Mason Marchment. As much as Stars fans nitpick and put Mason Marchment under the microscope, the playoffs can be his time to thrive. There were multiple times in the regular season when Marchment was ‘in the mix’ for contact-related penalties, sometimes even resulting in embellishment calls his way. In the playoffs, there might be a different standard of game management that may allow Marchment to play like himself and succeed. 

This may be Mason Marchment’s best month of hockey in his entire career, where he can show his true hockey identity in the playoffs and give Dallas an intimidating edge during their playoff push. When opposing fans think of Dallas’ physicality and the playoffs, they think of Jamie Benn and incidents like the Mark Stone crosscheck, where they don’t talk about positive power-forward impacts or mention Mason Marchment’s name. This year, this narrative should change.

Last playoffs, Marchment had 6 points in 18 games, with 52 hits. I won’t necessarily be worried if Mason Marchment goes the entire playoffs without scoring, but I would be concerned if he hits at that same rate or less. Marchment had three hits per game last playoffs, ranked 45th among all playoff skaters in hits per 60 to play 5+ games (2nd on Dallas behind Jani Hakanpaa). Whether Marchment plays 12 or 15 minutes per game, he needs to be F1 on the forecheck, hit every shift, and set the tone so the less-physical forwards can have more space to create on the ice. Marchment needs to be part of a committed group of forecheckers on the Dallas Stars that can push the opposition back, take away the time and space of opponents in their DZ, and free pucks up for puck-oriented players like Matt Duchene, Roope Hintz, and others to do their magic.

To be clear, I think Mason Marchment can contribute ‘secondary scoring’ for the Stars, but if he can focus on his natural ‘confident + aggressive’ playstyle and play like he wants to play, without being held back by distractions like regular season penalty standards, Mason Marchment will be an essential element to the Dallas Stars’ playoff success.


Regardless of Dallas’ first-round playoff opponent, the team should be proud of their work until this point, having been able to avoid Colorado/Winnipeg in the first round, having tidied up their defensive game, and having grown into a confident and high-skilled team that can suffocate opponents. There might be some ‘coin-flip’ games in the playoffs, but Dallas’ attention to detail so far, metrics on both forward and defense, and players that could rise to the occasion like Mason Marchment, there is a lot to be excited about if you’re a Dallas Stars fan.