Through 12 games, the Dallas Stars sit 4-4-4, which is not the sort of strong start second-year head coach Lindy Ruff spoke of prior to the puck dropping on the season on Oct. 9 at American Airlines Center against the Chicago Blackhawks.
And after a 3-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at the AAC, not only are the Stars now on a five-game winless streak, but they also saw their home record fall to 1-1-4.
But, why have they started so slow? Well, here’s a look at some pertinent numbers:
SPECIAL TEAMS-NOT BAD BUT COULD BE BETTER
First, let’s look at the power play. Against the Kings, Dallas was 0-for-4, which puts them at 5-for-29 for the season at the AAC. Here’s how that all breaks down:
Overall 12-for-46 17.4 percent 19th
Home 5-for-29 17.2 percent 17th
Road 6-for-17 17.6 13th
The Stars have eight power-play goals, which ranks 18th in the league.
After Tuesday’s loss, one where the Stars generated just four shot son the power play, Ruff acknowledged his PP is a big issue right now.
"Our mentality on the power play is a big problem," Ruff said. "We gave up a shorthanded goal, which really hurt us."
Ruff added: "Things have got to change. It’s not working. We’re going to change it. It’s my responsibility to change the mentality. It’s got to change."
One positive number for the Stars’ power play is that they have already logged 76:50 of power play time through 12 games. That ranks 10th in the league and is definitely something to build on.
The PK was solid on Tuesday against the Kings, but that wasn’t the case in Saturday’s 4-1 loss at the Minnesota Wild.
"It’s been good at times," Ruff said. "Minnesota wasn’t where we needed it. Today (Tuesday) it was good. Special teams is a big part of the game. We’ve got to win that battle. We lost it tonight. The penalty kill did its part, but we let down on the other end."
One thing Dallas hasn’t been doing is taking a ton of costly penalties thus far. Dallas is averaging 10.2 penalty minutes per game, which ties them for 10th in the NHL.
But that number might be a bit deceiving because the Stars have been shorthanded for 45:14, which is more than all but three teams (the Rangers, Penguins and Avalanche) in the NHL.
TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS, TURNOVERS
In the loss to the Kings, the Stars were quite careless with the puck, committing 19 giveaways, two of which ended up in the back of their own net in the form of LA’s final two goals of the night, both of which came in the third period of a game that was 1-1 after 40 minutes.
"Some of it is just puck management," Ruff said after the LA loss. "When I look at the sheet and I see 19 giveaways, we’re not going to win hockey games. That’s where I have to change the mentality. That’s my job. Enough of the pond hockey. Enough of open plays."
For the season, the Stars have committed 112 giveaways, a total which currently ranks as seventh-most in the NHL.
On the flipside, Dallas has 74 takeaways, which ranks 19th.
Giveaways were an issue for much of last season also but since the Stars had such a high-powered offense, scoring so many goals was more than enough to offset costly turnovers. But when Dallas isn’t finding the back of the net like right now, those miscues become even more glaring.
SCORING BY PERIOD
But if there is one set of numbers that might sum up the Stars’ start best, it is the period-by-period breakdown of scoring goals:
GOALS BY PERIOD
First Period 10 goals Tie for 12th
Second Period 16 goals Tie for 2nd
Third Period 8 goals Tie for 27th
Dallas has also allowed 16 goals in the final period, making their third-period goal differential a brutal minus-8.
The Stars are also 1-3-1 when tied after two periods.
In short, Dallas is having trouble putting together a full 60-minute effort and thus far, it has cost them. Such inconsistency is to be expected with such a young team, but it’s a trend definitely worth keeping an eye on going forward.
Young center Cody Eakin might have summed it up best after the LA game.
"We don’t like the way we finished," Eakin said. "That’s something that’s going to need to come from within. We’ve got to start being more comfortable in those tight games, and when we’re tied going to the third we have to play the right way. Guys are trying hard. We have to play smart."