Power plays can be a funny thing. Sometimes the numbers look good, but the power play is actually struggling. This is not a sustainable situation. Over the course of an 82-game season, imposters will be discovered. Anyone who watched the Stars power play during the second half of the 2021-22 season knows exactly how damaging a power play in retreat can be.
When the calendar rolled into 2022, Dallas had power play clicking at 26.7% which was the fourth best in the NHL. Over the last three months of the season, as the Stars clawed their way into the playoffs, the power play struggled, ranked 20th in the league at 19.1%. When the Stars needed the power play to swing momentum or provide a key goal, it usually performed at its worst. The futility of the Stars man-advantage was amplified in the postseason as Dallas went a minuscule 2-for-24 (8.3%) against Calgary. In a series where one goal meant the difference between moving on and going home, the Stars offensive deficiency loomed even larger.
Lack of goals was only part of the problem as the Stars attack zone time with the man-advantage waned dramatically as the season wore on. Dallas struggled to carry the puck into the attack zone. Enlisting the dump and chase didn’t work and neither did the hard rim and retrieve. Goals were mostly a result of a lucky bounce or an individual end-to-end rush. Unlike the 2020 Stanley Cup run, creativity and crisp passing were nowhere to be found. The booming one-timers off the stick of Denis Gurianov or Tyler Seguin could only be found on YouTube. Much like my teenager’s bedroom, it was a mess.
Unlike the situation in my house, the perpetrators of the mess are not going to be the ones to clean it up. Stars new Head Coach Pete DeBoer and his staff know they must create a special teams unit that is feared and most importantly effective. They believe enough talent is in place, and some structural and design changes must be made.
Although the Stars lost to Colorado 3-1 last night, a big takeaway was the cohesiveness of the two power-play units. The first power play unit consisted of Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, Wyatt Johnston, and Miro Heiskanen. The second unit was Mason Marchment, Denis Gurianov, Mavrik Bourque, Ryan Suter, and Nils Lundkvist. Both power play units were effective, controlled the puck, and made sharp passes changing the angle of attack. Marchment looks formidable in front of the net while Heiskanen and Lundkvist seem highly capable of carrying the puck into the zone and setting up possession. Dallas had five power plays and managed 11 shots on goal. The Stars only score of the night came on a Lundkvist one-time laser just one second after the last power play had expired. Yes, a regulation power play goal would have been nice, but progress was noticeable. Eventually, Jason Robertson will sign, adding a 40-goal scorer to the talent pool. Tyler Seguin should see some PP time during the last exhibition games, bringing a veteran presence who knows how to score. DeBoer may be right, the talent for potent power play is already here.
There will be some growing pains for the special teams as the season begins. Going up against the best penalty killers in the world is much different than trying to find your groove in pre-season. New Stars players have to mesh, and a new system has to be learned. Finding true cohesion may take a week, a month, or longer but the bottom line is to have a consistent power play that puts pucks in the net and can be a difference maker. Last night was far from perfect but certainly gives hope for what lies ahead this season when Jeff K says “Your Dallas Stars..are on the POWER PLAY!”.