It’s been three weeks since the start of the NHL season. In those three weeks, the Dallas Stars have played nine games, but have only scored nine goals 5-on-5. That’s the fewest of any team in the league, and these struggles at even strength have led many fans wondering what’s going on. Jason Robertson’s return to the ice was supposed to quell these issues, but they’ve persisted. The team’s leading point-getters at even strength this year are Radek Faksa (3 points), Michael Raffl (3), and Luke Glendening (2). That’s not what you want to see.
While these numbers would send most fans into a frenzy, Stars’ stans have no reason to be worried.
For one, while Dallas has struggled to score at even strength, they’ve also refrained their opponents from scoring. They have allowed only 14 5-on-5 goals all season, tied for the eleventh-fewest in the league. Their corsi for percentage at 5-on-5 (a measure of a team’s shot differential at 5-on-5) also ranks 21st in the league (48.55 percent), far ahead of their total goals for ranking at even strength, and should improve during the course of the season as Jason Robertson continues his return for the Stars.
While having a corsi for percentage under 50 is never desirable, it should be noted that the Dallas Stars are still getting more “high chance” opportunities than their opponents. The puck just isn’t finding twine. The Stars rank 12th in scoring chance percentage and thirteenth in total scoring chances (203) at even strength. The Stars are having some difficulty converting their scoring chances. They have the ninth-lowest scoring chance goal percentage in the league, but other teams like the Kraken, Senators, Golden Knights, and Avalanche all have lower conversion rates, while still being able to record at least 14 even strength goals thus far.
So, where are the Stars lacking that could explain their lack of offensive production?
As much of a cop-out answer as it may sound, it’s probably just a result of unfortunate PDO, or as regular people call it…luck. PDO doesn’t actually stand for anything (yes, it’s weird), rather PDO is merely the addition of shooting percentage and save percentage, two almost entirely luck-driven statistics.
Roope Hintz has been one of the unluckiest players in the NHL this season. Per MoneyPuck, Hintz has recorded -2.8 Goals above Expected — the second-lowest rate in the league ahead of only the Lightning’s Corey Perry (-2.9). It’s not just Hintz who fell off the unlucky tree and hit every branch on the way down though. The Stars’ top line as a whole has actually been one of the most productive in the league when fully healthy. I know they’ve only been together a limited time this season, but when the line of Hintz-Robertson-Pavelski is on the ice at even strength, among lines with at least 20 minutes played together, they rank third in the NHL in expected goals per 60 minutes (4.48) and sixth in expected goal share (79.4 percent).
This is undoubtedly a bad stretch of hockey for the Dallas Stars, but their basic numbers are not indicative of how well the team has been playing. What’s even better for Stars fans is that despite all the bad luck they’ve encountered early in the season, the Stars are just four points out of first-place in their division. Yes, I know the Blues have two games in hand, but at worst that’s eight points out, and it’s still early.
Dallas had a disappointing season last year after reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, but 2021, despite what the standings might say, has actually gone surprisingly well for the Stars given the BS they’ve gone through. With just a few more bounces going the Stars way and a few more shots finding open air instead of defenders’ shin pads, the Stars should be able to turn things around very soon.