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Razor With an Edge: Special Teams and Goaltending

Saturday, 04.05.2014 / 10:10 AM / Razor With An Edge
By Daryl "Razor" Reaugh
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Razor With an Edge: Special Teams and Goaltending
In hockey, especially post 2005 NHL hockey, the tipping areas are power play efficiency, penalty killing culls, and clutch goaltending, the last two of which usually go hand in hand.

Every sport has its touchstones on the path to victory.

In hockey, especially post 2005 NHL hockey, the tipping areas are power play efficiency, penalty killing culls, and clutch goaltending, the last two of which usually go hand in hand.

The 2013-14 Stars sit on the border of the bottom third of this 30-team league in all three areas: 23rd in PP percentage, 21st in PK ability, and 20th in goals against average.

Truth be told, the power play had been trending drastically better since mid-January but now has scored in only 3 of the last 11 games. The goaltending has been very good at times - but has it consistently been enough of a mistake mop? Which brings us to the penalty kill that has remained frustratingly inconsistent. Two PP goals allowed in St. Louis followed by a dominant performance vs the Caps #1 ranked PP in Washington (and a Short Handed Goal to boot!), but then, followed-up with a 'fall to the occasion' second period in Raleigh. WTF, right?!

On special teams the Stars have now been outscored 11-6 (11 PP goals against, 6 PP goals for) in the 14 games played in Eastern Conference rinks. They have two regulation wins and a 5-8-1 record overall in those 14 games with two more to play.

Two areas of the PK seem to be most culpable: 1) Screen shots from the point. 2) Out-battled in front of net on rebounds and scrambles. Those areas of concern certainly aren't exclusive to the Stars.

Fixes? (It's always easy from 200 feet above in the press box) 1) Bigger commitment from forwards to block shots. 2) Better battle from Kari to fight for space and track the puck. 3) D-men become bigger pricks vs opposing forwards in front of the net (Believe me, most refs don't want to call a second minor).

Now don't get me wrong, the PK hasn't been a disaster, it's just that it hasn't been able to gain any traction this season. The longest stretch of games without allowing a PPG has been five back in mid-to-late January. Lately, they can't stuff opposing power play units in back-to-back games. The last time they did so was out of the Olympics Break in early March when they killed eight straight over a three-game span. Since then, the PK has been like a toilet seat in a household of four men and five women.

Goaltending?

I'll admit I'm an apologist for the position and especially when talking about Kari - who I think is insanely talented. But they are going to need 'game stealing' not 'good' netminding now. The team is looking at four games in the next five days and six in nine to close out the season. They need the position to win games for a group of players that is surely gonna feel the effects of the taxing workload.

By my recollection, opposing goalies have been 'the difference' in six of the last 10 regulation losses the Stars have suffered. Time to turn those tables.

And if this Wild Card race does in fact end up reducing to a one game showdown with the Coyotes in Glendale on April 13th, the Stars ability to triumph and a return to the post season might come down to whether they can silence the Yotes 5th ranked Power Play.

Special Teams and Goaltending, baby. It's kind of a big deal.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 NSH 65 41 17 7 193 158 89
2 ANA 65 41 17 7 193 178 89
3 STL 63 40 18 5 197 159 85
4 CHI 64 38 21 5 188 152 81
5 WPG 64 32 20 12 179 172 76
6 VAN 63 36 24 3 182 173 75
7 MIN 63 34 22 7 179 163 75
8 CGY 63 34 25 4 178 162 72
9 LAK 63 30 21 12 171 164 72
10 SJS 65 32 25 8 185 183 72
11 DAL 64 28 26 10 199 212 66
12 COL 63 27 25 11 167 182 65
13 ARI 64 20 37 7 139 218 47
14 EDM 64 18 36 10 145 213 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 64 23 38 -4 61
T. Seguin 55 29 30 0 59
J. Spezza 64 15 37 -5 52
J. Klingberg 50 10 24 2 34
E. Cole 57 18 15 4 33
T. Daley 61 16 17 -10 33
C. Eakin 61 15 15 0 30
A. Hemsky 58 9 17 -9 26
A. Goligoski 64 2 24 2 26
A. Roussel 62 12 12 -10 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
K. Lehtonen 26 13 10 .906 2.95
J. Enroth 13 25 2 .900 3.30
 
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