The beautiful chaos begins: A Dallas Stars statistical breakdown (Part 2 of 6)

Welcome to the second 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.
Dec 11, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson (21) and defenseman Jani
Dec 11, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson (21) and defenseman Jani / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit

The Dallas Stars have had an inconsistent few weeks from both team and individual perspectives. This article will outline the Dallas Stars' statistical results from all games from Monday, November 14th vs. Arizona through Monday, December 11th vs. Detroit (13 GP).

Overall Stats

The Dallas Stars are currently 3rd in the Central Division with a 16-8-3 record (35 points), trailing Colorado (38 points) and Winnipeg (36 points) in the Central. Dallas also ranks 6th in the Western Conference and 10th in the entire NHL. This is good, but the first installment in this series had Dallas at 10-3-1 and first in the Central, where I was hesitant to applaud the start because of the statistical findings laid out in that article at the time.

One month later, the Stars find themselves slowly falling through the cracks and losing ground that they worked hard to gain at the start of the year. This article will help articulate how the Stars achieved the following stats (13 GP):

  • 6-5-2, 14 points (T-16th NHL)
  • .538 Points Percentage (T-17th NHL)
  • 46 Goals For (T-4th NHL)
  • 48 Goals Against (T-29th NHL)
  • 31.4% PowerPlay (2nd NHL)
  • 80.5% Penalty Kill (19th NHL)

The Stars also have more questions than answers regarding key roster players and projects as we get closer to the holidays. Let's take a look at the underlying numbers that may explain these issues.

Dallas Stars Statistical Breakdown: NaturalStatTrick

The Benn-Johnston-Dadonov line is struggling. There was evident visual chemistry during Dadonov's "honeymoon period" when he came to Dallas at last year's trade deadline and played well into the playoffs, but the line has since underperformed, Dadonov has been 'healthy scratched', and Wyatt Johnston has unfortunately cooled off. Specifically, NaturalStatTrick shows that this line is operating at the following levels:

Stat (5v5)

Benn-Johnston-Dadonov

Corsi For %

47.2%

Fenwick For %

47.3%

Goals For %

42.9%

Expected Goals For % (xGF%)

41.0%

Corsi For % Relative

-5.5%

Fenwick For % Relative

-5.4%

xGF% Relative

-14.1%

To summarize this table, the Benn-Johnston-Dadonov line has been below average at the most important strength in each of the major offensive metrics (5v5). This line is conceding more shots, goals, and expected goals than they produce themselves, and playing much worse than their teammates, with Dallas producing 14% more Expected Goals with that line on the bench than when they take the ice.

That is concerning, as Dadonov was given 2 x $2.25 million to solidify the Stars' top-9, Jamie Benn is secure in his usual long-term business, and Johnston is supposed to be the life that revives the veterans who play on his wings. This line needs help. However, the Marchment-Duchene-Seguin has been the best line for the team in its short time together, and the top line is the three best offensive weapons for the Stars. Is the top line performing well? Let's take a look:

Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski (241 minutes): The top line has been good. Robertson has found more rhythm in his shooting, Pavelski has done wonders in high-danger areas, and Roope Hintz continues to fly around the ice. However, this line has suffered defensively. At one point in time, Roope Hintz seemed like a perennial Selke candidate as a defensive 1C. I'm not sure if it's entirely on him since the D core has been shaky, but it must be looked into further because of the poor outputs that his line produces.

This line is operating around 50-52% in the major offensive categories which is nowhere close to the elite form of past years. The top line has also given up 8 High-Danger Goals out of the 15 they've conceded at 5v5 this year, which pushes blame to both the team's D core, but also onto forwards like Pavelski and Robertson who have trouble with acceleration, making them unable to keep up with the in-zone pace of play in the D-zone at times.

Players without the acceleration and stamina to keep up with in-zone defensive coverages may fail to cover cycling opponents in Dallas' hybrid defensive system, since Dallas mixes 'man-on-man' with 'zone defense', ultimately leaving pockets of space for the other team and opportunities for opponents to sneak away with speed for dangerous offensive chances. If defensive trends like these continue, I'd like to see the following lineups:

Robertson-Hintz-Johnston

Marchment-Duchene-Seguin

Benn-Pavelski-Dadonov/Dellandrea

Steel-Faksa-Smith

Dallas Stars Statistical Breakdown: Moneypuck.com

Here are some quickfire notes from Moneypuck.com:

  • Heiskanen-Harley leads the way for defensive pairs on the Stars with a 72.3% xGoals % at 5v5, and also leads the league in that regard (minimum 60 minutes played together)
  • Nils Lundkvist has not been successful with either Thomas Harley or Esa Lindell, where the youngster pairing was conceding 2.8 xGoals Against per 60 minutes while only producing 2.48 xGF/60. Lindell-Lundkvist was conceding 3.25 xGA/60 and producing only 2.48 xGF/60.
  • at 5v5, Lindell-Hakanpaa get by with a 51% xGoals % and Heiskanen-Suter perform well with a 55.6% xGoals % but still conceded 2.25 xGoals per 60, tied for 56th in the league for D pairings (min. 60 minutes together)
  • Similar to the NaturalStatTrick info on forwards, Moneypuck.com has the Robo-Pavs-Hintz line at 46.9% of xGoals, ranked 103rd among all NHL forward lines (min. 60 minutes), below both Marchment-Seguin-Duchene (56.9%, 47th) and Steel-Faksa-Smith (49.4%, 88th)
  • Johnston-Benn-Dadonov controlled 46% of xG, ranked 109th in this list

Jake Oettinger is also ranked in the following metrics among 51 NHL goalies to have played 10 or more games (5v5 only):

Stat

Oettinger rank (of 51 eligible goalies)

Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx)

49th

GSAx per 60

47th

Save % on unblocked shots

43rd

Medium-Danger Save % (unblocked)

43rd

High-Danger Save % (unblocked)

41st

Here are two lessons that I took from learning about the forwards, D pairings, and goaltending from the last 13 games in this periodic statistical breakdown:

1. Clear the high-danger DZ area

Focus on where high-danger chances are coming from, where holes in the defensive coverage are, and look for ways to keep the forwards involved in D zone coverage to prevent quality chances from dangerous areas. The Stars give up a lot of high-danger chances, even when their best forwards are on the ice. This should be priority one, especially if no trades are made before the new year, to improve the chances of more pucks being saved and improved defensive numbers overall.

2. Avoid glueing problems together

If your forwards aren't performing like last year, try new lines. If defenders are struggling with speed, analyze forward DZ and transitional support and re-orient D pairings to put agile players with less-agile players. If the team is giving up weak goals, study the situation and dissect the problems before these negative DZ trends become part of the Dallas Stars' identity.

Conclusion


Overall, from statistical and viewing perspectives, the Dallas Stars have played inconsistent and average hockey for the past month, which is below the expectations for what is supposed to be a cup-contending team. The great part of this analysis is that most of these problems are solvable, specifically regarding defensive coverage issues and plateaued forwards, so I hope to see improvements into the holiday break, and a fresher and hungrier team post-holidays.