Friday, April 13, 2012
Improving power play a focus for Stars
By Mark Stepneski
FRISCO -- It’s no secret that the Dallas Stars power play was a sore spot this season. The numbers are well documented. It was the worst in the league at 13.5 percent. That percentage was the worst in franchise history and the 33 goals scored set a franchise mark for power play futility as well.
But here are some more numbers. The Stars were 20-6-3 this season when they scored on the power play and 22-29-2 when they didn’t. In their 42 wins they were 24-138 on the power play for a 17.4 percent conversion rate. In games they didn’t win they were 9-106 or 8.5 percent.
The power play was a hot topic the Stars faded away in the playoff race and it was still a topic as the Stars held exit interviews and met with the media this week.
“I am sure that will be number one on Glen Gulutzan’s agenda this summer, breaking that down and analyzing,” Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said of the power play. “There was a lot of discussion about Jamie Benn not being out there as much as some other guys. There was a time period where Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson were kind of carrying this team and having some success, but it didn’t translate on the power play for any of our guys and we’re really going to have dig in hard and figure out why.”
When asked about possible offseason moves, Nieuwendyk mentioned the power play as an area that needed to be addressed.
Gulutzan said the Stars had the personnel to have a better power play this season, but they just didn’t get the job done.
“I don’t think we need to bring in anyone for the power play. As coaches I think we can do a better job,” Gulutzan said. “The power play comes with a little bit of confidence and that got in our kitchens a little bit. I think we’d go about thing somewhat differently with our power play, but we changed it four or five times. Everybody focuses a little bit on the end, but we were getting pressure from day one to game 82 on that thing. We changed it four times and who played with who four times, and I think it just got in our kitchen a little bit.”
Gulutzan has some valid points. The Stars’ power play woes took center stage after a dismal performance in the loss to San Jose that basically doomed its playoff chances, but it was erratic for most of the year. And there were a lot of different combinations of players used over the season, too. The only constant was that it struggled most of the time. There were a few good runs on the power play, but they were offset by some long stretches of low productivity.
“It’s the number one part we have to get better at,” said Stars forward Loui Eriksson. “We have to score more on the power play, that’s the way we can win more games. … We have to outwork them. We’ve been a little too sloppy sometimes. We need to put more pucks to the net, too. I think that’s how you score goals. You have to get traffic in front and put pucks there. Then rebounds will come out and you will score more goals. That’s something we need to do.”
It didn’t help that the Stars had only 244 power play opportunities, the third lowest total in the league, and that they were shorthanded 303 times, the fourth most in the league. Despite having a respectable penalty kill that ranked 13th in the league, they still gave up 19 more power play goals than they scored.
“Certainly we think it’s an area we where we can get four or five more points by having a better power play,” said Gulutzan. “Along with discipline, we can get four or five more points and we’re not minus-60 as far as penalties for and against. But as far as personnel goes, I think we have the personnel here to have a good power play.”