High-Danger but Low-Concern Goalie Stats: A Dallas Stars Team Statistical Breakdown and Reflection (Part 5 of 6)

Welcome to the fifth 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.
Winnipeg Jets v Dallas Stars
Winnipeg Jets v Dallas Stars / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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The Dallas Stars are still legit. The team went 7-5-2 from February 19th through March 16th (14 games). The Stars have seen a dip in their offensive outputs and some ugly defensive showings, which have resulted in the average record, but it's important to remember the positives. 

First, Dallas makes their losses close, with only a 5-1 loss to Colorado and the 6-2 recent loss to New Jersey constituting more than a three-goal difference since February 19th. Second, Tyler Seguin is skating again with Matt Duchene and Mason Marchment in practice, signifying a possible return to the lineup. This article will focus on relevant defensive and goaltending statistics as we move closer to the playoffs while also demonstrating what Tyler Seguin’s absence led to for linemates Matt Duchene and Mason Marchment.

Conceding on defense

In the past 14 games, Dallas has conceded four or more goals in 6 games, meaning that 43% of all games from the past month where Dallas had to score 5 to win the game. As a result, they went 1-4-1 in those games, with a single win against San Jose in the 7-6 OT thriller. It’s a simple solution to tell the team, “Give up three or fewer, and we’ll have a chance to win,” everyone knows this is how to win in sports. I’m curious about how these goals are going in, which leads to a microscope being put on the goaltending statistics since Dallas’ top four has recently been solidified as Harley-Heiskanen and Lindell-Tanev.

The Dallas Stars Goaltending Predicament

The big story this season that seems to be the last piece to completing a polished Dallas Stars Cup contender is goaltending. To many fans’ surprise, Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood have boasted poor base stats and looked less-than-stellar in live game environments. Looking further into the advanced stats, among 71 goaltenders to play ten games this season, Oettinger is ranked 62nd with -6.7 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx), and Wedgewood is 60th with -6.3 GSAx according to Moneypuck.com’s model.

There is no sense in repeating the narratives that the hockey world is aware of when looking for solutions. We must now look to the future and be proactive in areas. Examples of that include goaltending deployment and personal development.

On the deployment front, Dallas rested Jake Oettinger against the LA Kings on Saturday, giving him a week to reset before Dallas plays Arizona tonight. With 13 games remaining, I expect the split to be even between goalies, with the preference given to Wedgewood to continue ‘load managing’ Oettinger to keep him healthy and fresh for the ‘meaningful’ games in the playoffs. I infer that last season’s 62 games + 19 playoff games took a lot out of him, and we are seeing the effects in another long season + assumed playoff run this year. Furthermore, Oettinger has played against teams like San Jose (x2), Anaheim, and Ottawa and conceded 2+ goals in each affair. The inability to shut the door against some of the worst teams in the NHL is frustrating for both fans and himself as well, I’m sure of it.

On the personal development front, we can look at statistics from this past month to analyze the current form of Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood. Specifically, NaturalStatTrick has Jake Oettinger ranked 61st out of 65 goalies to have played more than 100 minutes at 5v5 since February 19th with -6.10 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA, which compares league average SV% to the same shot totals Oettinger faced). Wedgewood, on the other hand, is 15th with 2.65 5v5 GSAA. Furthermore, Jake Oettinger is last in the NHL in High-Danger GSAA since February 19th with -7.11 HDGSAA compared to the 14th-ranked Wedgewood with 2.17. I was curious if the high-danger area goals against are the main reason behind Oettinger’s struggles, and I found some eye-opening insights on NaturalStatTrick and NHL Edge.

Expanding on the previous high-danger area stats between the two Dallas goalies, if we look into full-season data, Oettinger and Wedgewood are around league-average in HDGSAA ranks on the Penalty Kill and the PowerPlay. As a hockey fan, if you can picture a stationary penalty kill where a lot of shots come from mid-to-low-danger areas, or a PowerPlay, where the goalie of the advantaged team will either face counter-attack PK breakaways or situations where opposing PKers are out-numbered, then it’s fair to assume that as long as we get league-average goaltending in each of those situations from the high-danger areas, the team should be fine.

The issue with the goaltending is specifically at 5v5, where Jake Oettinger is second-last to only Vitek Vanacek in HDGSAA with -13.56 HDGSAA among 85 goalies to play more than 100 5v5 minutes this season. This means that Oettinger has given up 13 more goals than a league-average goaltender with the same shot totals, including seven goals worse than league average over the last month.

Furthermore, looking at NHL Edge data, we can compare Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood, and I found a key piece into their weaknesses: Zone-by-Zone Save Percentages.

When analyzing Save Percentages by zone, Scott Wedgewood struggles with point shots, which is practically the polar opposite of the struggle Jake Oettinger is facing: in-tight blocker-side shots. Since Wedgewood plays an athletic work-ethic-based goalie style and Jake Oettinger’s goaltending style is primarily structure and form-based, this could broadly explain these numbers. 

Wedgewood’s lack of structure may expose him to low-danger goals where he’s either recovering from a previous event or dealing with screens, and Oettinger’s structure-based approach may leave him vulnerable in moments that require improvisation (e.g New Jersey Devils forward Dawson Mercer’s goal last week).

Either way, there are definitive areas of weakness in both these goaltenders, which is normal for any athlete. It seems that Oettinger’s weakness of high-danger shots leads to high-danger goals, making an in-form Wedgewood look and play better as of late. If Dallas can remain aware of these weaknesses and tailor their defensive coverage to best help each goalie (which is arguably part of the issue), then we are likely in a much better position this time of year.

The Stars miss Tyler Seguin

One final tidbit to the Stars’ recent weird stretch of games is the Tyler Seguin absence. Here are some numbers since Tyler Seguin’s absence (Feb. 26):

  • Matt Duchene: 1G + 2A = 3P in 10 games
  • Mason Marchment: 1G + 2A = 3P in 10 games
  • Matt Duchene at 5v5: 53% Fenwick, 25% On-ice GF%, 49% xGF%
  • Mason Marchment at 5v5: 53% Fenwick, 50% On-ice GF%, 50% xGF%
  • Duchene + Marchment together: 53% Fenwick, 25% On-ice GF%, 49% xGF%, 49% HDCF%

For reference:

  • Marchment-Duchene-Seguin together before Seguin injury: 49% Fenwick, 69% On-ice GF%, 52% xGF%, 51% HDCF%

Overall, the line itself finishes its chances at a high level when Tyler Seguin plays, with an elite On-ice GF%, but stays league-average on most other key shot metrics. With Tyler Seguin injured, the line has lost its finish, conceded similar chances and goals, with a surprisingly improved shot share in the 10 games without Seguin, but is ultimately a significantly weaker offensive option for the Stars. Tyler Seguin will provide a much-needed finish and offensive threat to this line upon his return.

Conclusion

Based on the numbers gathered and inferences made on the Dallas Stars, their goaltending, and Tyler Seguin’s line, there are some small patches that need to be fixed to finalize this playoff-ready roster. Otherwise, this article did discuss the two main issues of a team that has so many things going for them and still hasn’t lost 3 games in a row under Pete DeBoer. Dallas is still in a fine spot, competing for a Central Division title, and without much concern in most areas of their lineup. If the team can effectively deploy their goaltenders in the final 13 games of the season and get a healthy Tyler Seguin back, there should be a much-improved final stretch as we move into the most meaningful games of the hockey season.

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