The Dallas Stars recently hit the midpoint of the 2011-2012 season. The Stars started the season with an impressive 11-3-0 record and have been surviving on that run ever since. Since that hot start they have gone 13-15-1 and are currently in 10th place in the Western Conference and on the verge of missing the playoffs for yet another year.
This team is good when the score is close at the end of the game, as evidenced by a recent 5-4 shootout win at L.A. The Stars have lost just one game in overtime, but have only gone to overtime a handful of times this season. When this team loses, it usually loses big – so the Stars need to figure out a way to make more games closer at the end.
They can start by being better in the second period, where they are being badly outscored. That means making in-game adjustments and taking advantage of their scoring chances. The coaches must find a way to make better adjustments during the game but also must realize the importance of match-ups and while rolling three lines consistently may be desirable at times, you must adjust to what the other coach is throwing at you.
And the Stars desperately need to figure out their power play. They have converted only 13.9 percent of their power plays and have been outscored 32-20 by the opposition. That puts them literally at the bottom of the league statistically.
Overall team midterm grade: C-
This team still has the potential to make the postseason but adjustments must be made. They will continue to struggle if not fully healthy, but when healthy has the ability to give any team in the NHL a run for their money.
Some midseason awards:
Best Player – While Kari Lehtonen put this team on his back to start the season; it’s been Jamie Benn that has made the most difference this year. When Benn is playing his best and scoring, the Stars are always a threat. Benn is on pace for over 80 points this season and headed to his first All-Star game. He is enjoying a breakout season for a team that desperately needs a superstar.
Biggest Surprise – Eric Nystrom was supposed to be a forward that helped the Stars get back over the cap floor. Instead, he’s become a fan favorite who helped the Stars weather some early-season struggles. With 13 goals thus far this season, Nystrom has already surpassed his career-best season.
Best Off-Season Acquisition – Michael Ryder has always been known for his goal-scoring ways, but after two disappointing seasons in Boston, he was looking for a fresh start. Ryder leads the Dallas Stars with 17 goals in the first half of the season and is on pace for his first 60+ point season since his rookie season in Montreal. Ryder has showcased a devastatingly accurate shot and he’s enjoying the best shot percentage of his career, hopefully not a sign that he’ll slow the second half.