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After early struggles, Stars finding success on power play

Dallas is 7-for-18 with the man advantage in its past seven games, including four goals in wins over Winnipeg and New York

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

FRISCO, Texas -- The Stars' power play has been a bit of a mystery for the past two seasons, but that's probably an extension of the team's offense.

Statistically speaking, Dallas is actually out-performing its even-strength play with the man advantage, as it ranks 26th in overall scoring at 2.61 goals per game and in a tie for 19th in power-play goals at 16. Even more encouraging, the Stars rank 18th in power-play success rate at 18.2 percent.

 

[GAME DAY GUIDE: Everything you need to know for Stars vs. Devils]

 

That's not as good as last season when Dallas ranked 28th in overall scoring at 2.55 goals per game, and ranked 11th in both power-play goals (45) and power-play success rate (21.0 percent).

Bottom line, the Stars need their power play to add that all-important half a goal per game that helps convert their stingy goals against average (second in the NHL this season at 2.44 per game) into victories. Of course, they also want to add positivity and make sure the power play doesn't drag things down -- as it did earlier in the season during the 1-7-1 start.

"You obviously want to score goals, but I think it's just as important that the power play adds momentum to your game and doesn't take it away," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery at the time. "If you do the right things, we believe the goals will come."

Video: Montgomery previews Stars' matchup against Devils

Those goals are arriving right now, as Dallas is 7-for-18 in its past seven games, including scoring four goals in the past two games. The reason for the success is both structural and intellectual.

"Players are hanging onto pucks longer," Montgomery said. "I think that our execution on entries and finishing your routes on entries, that's why we win more battles and have more O-zone time, is because of those factors."

And of course, they're also beating the goalie.

Alexander Radulov's snipe against the Islanders was a thing of beauty, as was his set up to Denis Gurianov on Saturday. Jamie Benn snapped a shot through a Joe Pavelski screen against the Jets in a prototypical power-play goal Thursday, and then Tyler Seguin made a quick tip pass off of his own rebound to Pavelski for the game-winning goal in overtime to beat Winnipeg.

It was a display of just how good the Stars can be with the man advantage, and also how important those goals are to this team.

Video: NYI@DAL: Radulov nets wrister through traffic for PPG

"I think players are moving the puck and letting the puck do the work, and they have an attack mindset," Montgomery said of the power play. "Even when pucks get chipped out in the neutral zone, we're turning it up and going right back at them. That's the mindset we want to have. We want to put people on their heels, and players are doing a great job at that."

It hasn't always been that was this season. The Stars have struggled with power-play entries at times, and also with chemistry among the units. As it has been with lines at even strength, there has been much shuffling -- but many of the adjustments have worked at key moments.

Mattias Janmark has been added to the power play at times simply to help transition the team into the offensive zone and win a few puck battles. Maintaining a 5-on-5 mentality is important even when you have the extra man.

"It kind of goes hand in hand with how we play," Janmark said. "In the beginning of the year, we just couldn't score on the power play, and that kind of hurt us in games. I don't know exactly what it is (now), but we kind of want to attack -- we want to have an attacking mindset."

The Stars this season are slightly behind their pace for power-play goals from last season (45) at 42 goals right now. They are slightly ahead of their pace for power--play opportunities from last season (214) at 242. They continue to spread out their minutes and use two balanced units, and Montgomery said a lot of that is because of the talent on the team.

Video: Faksa on what Stars expect to see from New Jersey

"You would like to get down to a consistent No. 1 unit, but we have both units playing at a high level right now and you really like that," he said.

That said, they could use the big guns to start scoring again. Radulov was second in power play scoring last season with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) and he leads this season with six points (four goals, two assists). Tyler Seguin led last season with 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists), but he is way behind that pace this season with five assists and no goals.

Could the addition of Joe Pavelski (three goals and two assists on the power play), help improve the power play going forward? Will Denis Gurianov (two goals, two assists) and Miro Heiskanen (four assists) help keep the two units balanced? It's all something to talk about going forward.

Bottom line, the Stars have the ability to be more consistent with the man advantage, and would like to get to that place. At the very least, they want to make sure the power play isn't taking anything away from the team.

"Sometimes you don't get goals, but you have to do the same thing," said Radulov. "You have to create momentum, bring momentum from the power play for the rest of the game."

 

Stars (17-11-3) vs. Devils (9-15-5)

Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the New Jersey Devils as they continue the homestand on Tuesday at American Airlines Center. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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