The Stars’ loss to Blue Jackets shows that scoring opportunities transcend the power play

Given how much the stars’ power play has dried up in recent months, it’s been a hot topic of conversation with players and coaches alike. Ninety minutes before the Stars hosted the Blue Jackets, Stars head coach Pete DeBoer was asked about several ways he could get the power play going again.

“We do a little bit of everything, but I mean, this power play thing, I know, until we score, we’re going to talk about it,” DeBoer said. “But for me the most important thing is if you’re a team that just wins, just scores, when your power play is hot, you’re not going to win in the playoffs anyway. You can have the best power play in the league – I think Toronto was a good example of that – teams find a way to finish the best power plays in the playoffs, so you have to find other ways to score.”

As if on cue, Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Blue Jackets illustrated DeBoer’s point. Each team had only one power play opportunity and Dallas almost scored on his chance. But even if the Stars had scored on their power play opportunity, it still wouldn’t have been enough to earn a point at all. In hindsight, it’s not that easy to look back at odds and add them to the scoreboard because those things ultimately change the way the game is played, but the point remains.

The Stars clearly have a power play problem right now, but more than that, they have a points problem. As we reported Friday night, Boston has been in an identical power-play slump as the Stars, whether the sample size goes back a few weeks or into early 2023. But since the turn of the calendar, despite their power-play struggles, the Bruins are still No. 6 in the NHL for goals scored per game; the stars are 28.

“Whether our power play is hot this week, cold this week, going into the playoffs (and) it’s No. 1 in the league, No. 10 in the league, we’ve got to have secondary scoring, scored five-for-five,” added Added DeBoer. “For me, we have to take a step there. I’m confident that our power play will be good enough. I’ve seen enough of it to know it’s going to be good enough, but the reality is we can’t just be a powerplay team.”

Fixing the points issue will be a collaborative effort between the coaching staff, the players and the hockey gods who have infuriated the stars. The Stars’ loss to the Blue Jackets is inexcusable no matter how you slice it. Sure, the Stars played back-to-back on the second night and yes, they jinxed weekend afternoons and yes, Columbus went to Winnipeg and beat the Jets on Thursday. None of this ignores the fact that the Stars are the top team in their conference, which is going through a rough patch, so that the sense of urgency is heightened. The Blue Jackets were without their best player in Johnny Gaudreau and just two points from Dallas eluded them as the NHL’s worst team.

Here’s the grand reality for the stars: it’s all about what happens In the playoffs. The stars will join the dance. Unlike years past, when they’ve lived on the fringes, they have a playoff spot practically at hand, although the seeding is clearly in the air. Not only do the Stars have a cushion in the standings, but according to the Tankathon, the Stars have the easiest remaining schedule in the NHL. Therefore, they can acknowledge the struggles with overtime and shootings, but at the same time dismiss these things.

But scoring a goal, whether it’s five-a-side or on the power play, gets you nowhere. As DeBoer himself said, drying up the well gets you an early summer vacation. While powerplay issues have rightfully grabbed the headlines of late, the Stars need to correct the overall standings. One of the hallmarks of DeBoer’s tenure in his freshman season was his patience and consistency with lineups.

“We’ve shown that we want to be as patient as possible, but ultimately you have to try to make a change,” DeBoer said.

A notable change came in the third period against the Blue Jackets when DeBoer split the top line of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski and pushed Wyatt Johnston in the middle of the two wingers and paired Hintz with Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov.

“I just think[Johnston]was great, maybe our best player the last few nights,” DeBoer said. “I’m just trying to spark something. We’ve got some guys who squeeze it a bit, feel the pressure of prolonged slumps or don’t score. Sometimes you look for a spark.”

DeBoer is right that Johnston has been arguably the Stars’ best player in recent games. That’s a testament to the maturity and growth of Johnston, who typically tries to skirt the rookie wall in Game 56 and Game 57 rather than get promoted in top-line duties. However, it also speaks to the state of affairs for the stars in the other 17 spots in the lineup that a squad of so much talent and expectation is overtaken by a 19-year-old rookie.

Changing the lineup is probably the first thing DeBoer can do, but it’s also worth noting that this scoring drought is an obvious systemic issue.

According to the Natural Stat trick, the Stars have been level or ahead on expected goals six times in their last nine games, but have just two wins to their credit. They were clearly outplayed in that stretch only against the Hurricanes, whom they lost 3-2. This means there is also a lot of responsibility on the players, which boils down to execution and puck luck.

Against the Blue Jackets, for example, Miro Heiskanen’s early chance needs to go in the net 10 times out of 10.

Robertson actually netted the puck, but the goal was recalled for offside. It’s unfortunate as Hintz was sidelined and didn’t really affect the scoring side of the game but it was still the right decision. Robertson was unlucky again as his shot on the power play, which could have helped for the total score and power play slump, went hard off the bar with one of the loudest clangs at American Airlines Center in quite some time.

Another goal, that of Johnston, was correctly ruled out due to goalkeeper interference.

That’s four goals that come to mind that the Stars should have scored against the Blue Jackets. It does not include other good looks including one for Ty Dellandrea and one for Tyler Seguin among others who should have found the back of the net.

The Stars now have three days off to rest and recover before welcoming another NHL basement team in the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. Not so long ago, that seemed like an easy deal for the stars. Well, there is no such thing.


(This was the setup to start the game, before the line shuffling mentioned above)

March — Seguin — 1G (Dellandrea)


0.917 savings percentage (Wedgewood)

Three plays

This iteration includes the Stars’ only goal and two games without scoring.

Dellandrea’s one man show

Shortly after Robertson’s goal was knocked over, Dellandrea put the team on their backs. He stole the puck and went straight to the net for an unassisted hit.

Robertson’s goal actually played a part in that.

“I saw Robo come in from the same angle and saw a small opening,” Dellandrea said.

Wyatt Johnston’s clever move

Just to underscore how good Johnston was, this was probably my favorite play of the entire game.

Johnston’s confidence grows and his skills shine. He was the biggest surprise of the stars and exceeds expectations. It’s a shame that his stellar game is overshadowed by the team’s playing weakness. Johnston deserves to be in the top three in the Calder vote.

Passed by Mason Marchment

I understand Stars fans are longing for Marchment to start scoring again, but his line with Tyler Seguin and Dellandrea had some good moments on Saturday. Even when Marchment doesn’t score, he has the ability to add to the stars. He’s one of the best passers on the team, especially from a distance. It just doesn’t get as much attention because the players it suits haven’t been able to finish the games.

(Photo: Jerome Miron / USA Today) The Stars’ loss to Blue Jackets shows that scoring opportunities transcend the power play

Russell Falcon

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