The Dallas Stars have struggled all season in close games. They have a poor 5-6-10 record in one-goal games and have lost more games past regulation than any other club. Don’t get me wrong, many of the issues have happened during the first three periods which puts them in these overtime positions, but their performance in the extra period and the skills competition has to improve and fast. If the Stars found a way to win just half of these losses, they would be in a playoff spot right now.
Of course, it is better to lose in overtime or the shootout than to lose in regulation but with no room for error and many games coming up against teams they are chasing, they need to figure out a way to get two points instead of one. Here is a look behind the curtain at the Stars struggles past 60 minutes this season.
Dallas Stars’ Injuries Play a Large Role in Overtime/Shootout Troubles
The Stars have been missing many key players throughout this season. Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop have missed the entire season, Alexander Radulov has only played in 12 games, Roope Hintz is in and out of the lineup on a nightly basis, Joel Kiviranta has missed the last few weeks, and they recently lost Radek Faska and Jason Dickinson. Not only are these huge players for the team but most are key contributors past regulation.
Missing Key Contributors
Tyler Seguin leads the Stars with eight overtime goals and 18 overtime points. He also has led the Stars in shots on goal in nearly every season and is their best faceoff man at 52% in his career. Faceoffs play a huge role in what has become a possession game 3 on 3 overtime in the NHL. Start with the puck more, you have a better chance to win.
He also leads the Stars with a 50% success rate (30/60) in the shootout which is good for 21st in NHL history. If we just stopped there, that would already be a huge reason why the Stars have had so much trouble in overtime, but we are not done yet.
Alexander Radulov is one of the best pure goal scorers on this Stars roster. He sits fourth on the Stars in career overtime goals and has still been a point-per-game player despite his injury with 12 points in 11 games this season. His biggest overtime goal came in Game 3 of the 2020 Western Conference Final vs Vegas.
Not having him in the lineup not only takes away the goal-scoring abilities but also his puck-hunting skills. If there is one player in the NHL that I would not want to go into a boards battle with, it would be Radulov. He has the non-stop energy and effort that frustrates opponents and leads to a ton of possession time for the Stars. Whether he is keeping the puck from the opponent or stealing it back from them, he is a huge asset in overtime. He also has been great in the shootout in his career sitting just below 50% and is the Stars’ best shooter this season.
Ben Bishop has an obvious impact on overtime. He is a Vezina-caliber goaltender who has put up monster numbers for the Stars since joining the team. Bishop also sits 34th in shootout wins with 21 in his career and holds a .688 save percentage.
I am not saying that Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger have played poorly in overtime or the shootout, aside from Oettinger’s first career shootout vs Nashville which was not pretty. However, adding Bishop to the mix most likely produces a few more key saves in both situations that allow his team to win.
Roope Hintz is the Stars’ best forward. His speed pushes back defenders and opens up space for himself and his teammates. When healthy, Roope seems to be a perfect fit for 3 on 3.
"“He’s our best forward and we’re going into overtime, we’re going out to win,” Bowness said. (Dallas Morning News)"
However, he has not been healthy very often this season. He has played in only 25 games all season and very rarely plays two games in a row. That has not allowed Bowness to have one of his most skilled players when he needs him most.
All Swedish, No Finish
The old saying in hockey could not be more true for the 2021 Stars. The team has produced plenty of high-quality scoring chances in overtime but they cannot seem to finish the play. Rick Bowness has talked about how he believes that the Stars are fairly even in terms of scoring chances with their opponent.
"“For the most part, the chances for and against in overtime have been even,” Bowness said. “We just haven’t capitalized on ours. [Tuesday] night [in Nashville], we were outplayed in overtime, clearly, but that one was the first one that we would say we didn’t get the job done.” (Dallas Morning News)"
Many times this season, Dallas has had a Grade-A scoring chance only to be stopped by the post, a great save, or by missing the net entirely. In many of these cases, the opponent has taken the puck the other way and ended the game immediately after.
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A perfect example of the Stars’ overtime success this season was on March 27th vs Florida. Sergei Bobrovsky stoned both Heiskanen and Klingberg and then Aaron Ekblad went the other way to score the game-winning goal. This all came after Ekblads’ first game-winner was overturned for offsides but the Stars could not take advantage of the gift.
In the shootout, the Stars are 1-5 with a dismal 15% shooting percentage. While this is a simple skills competition, it still rewards the winning team with the extra point and needs to be taken seriously.
Alexander Radulov is the only player above 50% and he has only taken three shots. Joe Pavelski has been excellent throughout his career but has just one goal on his five attempts this season. While the goalies have not been fantastic (both are 50%), they have given their team a chance to win. The shooters need to find a way to be more successful which is tough during a season where practices are few and far between.
“Bowness has started 10 different players in the team’s 12 overtimes this season: Miro Heiskanen (10), Jason Dickinson (6), Radek Faksa (6), Jason Robertson (4), Roope Hintz (4), Esa Lindell (2), Denis Gurianov (1), Ty Dellandrea (1), Blake Comeau (1) and Joel Kiviranta (1).” (Dallas Morning News).
Part of this is due to the injuries but another part is that players have been inconsistent. It is sort of a ‘Catch 22’ situation where the more you look for consistent players, the less chance players have to become consistent. If Dallas is going to have any chance in the overtime period and the shootout, some players need to step up. It seems that Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg have found the most success and are usually the first two defensemen to play in overtime. Heiskanen not only leads the Stars in overtime ice-time but he has also been called upon in the shootout as well.
Three players that the Stars could use more from are Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, and Denis Gurianov. Benn and Pavelski have been there and done that many times and should be producing more in both areas. Both have many overtime goals and have had success in the shootout.
Gurianov is a bit baffling to me. The 23-year old is arguably the fastest player on the Stars and one of the fastest in the entire league. He possesses plenty of skill with and without the puck and has the ability to finish as we saw last season when he led the Stars with 20 goals. However, he has not been a difference-maker in overtime or the shootout.
In fact, he has hurt the Stars more than he has helped them. In the most recent overtime game vs Nashville, he made a mistake dumping the puck into the Predators zone instead of regrouping to maintain possession. He followed that up by losing his man on the ensuing breakout and watched as he scored the game-winner on a breakaway against Khudobin. While he is still a very young player, he is built for situations like overtime and should also be fairly successful on shootouts. The Stars need him along with multiple other players to find a way to step up.
Last but not least is playing smarter hockey. There have been way too many cases where the Stars have been caught chasing back to their own net in overtime and many of them could have been avoided. Players have simply lost track of their man (Gurianov vs Nashville), gone off for a poorly-timed change (Faksa vs Chicago), or underestimated the opponent who then beats them to the front of the net (multiple instances).
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With all of the injuries to skilled players, the Stars need to outsmart the opponents to have any chance to win these games. This comes from preparation, awareness, and trust in your teammates. To put it simply, the Stars are already missing too many components of their team to make these costly mistakes and survive.
Stars Need to Find a Way
So while the biggest key to success moving forward is the return of many injured players, there are plenty of names on the active roster that can make a difference right now. There are also plenty of ways that those players can have more success.
Although it is exciting that Ben Bishop, Alexander Radulov, and Tyler Seguin are getting close to returning in the coming weeks, with how tight the playoff race currently is, the Stars may be out of it by then if they do not find a way to win past 60 minutes.
Their goal is to stay alive enough until their superstars and other injured players return so that there is still a race to battle for when they do. If they can win a couple more games past regulation here and there, it will go very far for a team that is looking to avenge a Stanley Cup Final loss a season ago.
- Published on 04/07/2021 at 11:50 AM
- Last updated at 04/07/2021 at 11:50 AM