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Is it crazy to think Stars can win as a low-scoring team?

If Dallas remains among the league's top teams in goals against, it can get by with offensive output here and there

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

I sat down to write this story three times Wednesday because it just seemed too positive for these turbulent times.

But the more I dabbled with research, the more I decided the 2019-20 Stars could actually make sense. The history of the NHL has produced winners or near-winners who did things in a variety of ways. The old Oilers out-scored their problems, so did the old Penguins. The Islanders and the Red Wings did well on both ends. The championship Kings were shutdown specialists.

There are indeed many ways to win in this league, so I just wanted to study if that line of thinking could fit in with the Stars. After 32 games, Dallas sits 27th in scoring at 2.59 goals per game. Not great. However, it also ranks first in goals against at 2.31.

And that is a pretty important figure right there.

Last year's Stanley Cup finalists ranked third (Boston) and fifth (St. Louis) in goals against. The Blues were 15th in scoring, and the Bruins 11th. Yes, there are several teams that have been high-volume offensive machines, but it seems that being great at defense gives you a better chance to succeed in the long run.

Video: NJD@DAL: Faksa strikes on wraparound for early lead

For five straight seasons from 2011 to 2015, the Stanley Cup champion ranked first or second in goals against. Now, some of those teams were also great at scoring, but some were not. The 2011-12 Kings were 29th in goals at 2.29 per game. The 2015-16 Kings were 26th. The believed in their style of play, and it worked.

Anze Kopitar led the 2011-12 Kings with 25 goals among 76 points. Justin Williams was second in scoring with 22 goals among 59 points. Dustin Brown was the only other 20-goal scorer with 22.

That's a bit of an outlier, but teams can win with balanced scoring.

On the Stars, Tyler Seguin has 23 points in 32 games, including just six goals. That seems bad when you consider he just started an eight-year contract extension that averages $9.85 million. Jamie Benn is at six goals among 15 points in 32 games. He averages $9.5 million a year on his contract. Alexander Radulov has 18 points, Joe Pavelski has 14 points. John Klingberg has 10 points.

There is legitimate concern when you go down that roll call. The Stars should be getting more production than that from players who have a history of scoring.

Video: NJD@DAL: Pavelski doubles lead on rebound

They might still. We'll see. The Stars are 27th in the league in shooting percentage at 8.3 percent, so if they simply upped that by a point or two, the numbers wouldn't seem nearly as bad.

If they can get up to 19th or 20th in scoring, then maybe they really can make a run.

The Kings' model is the most extreme case of a low-scoring team winning a title, but several other squads also have found a way into the mix. Tyler Seguin's Boston Bruins lost in the 2013 finals as the 13th best scoring team. The Flames made it in 2004 ranking 19th in offense. And the Ducks in 2003 were 22nd in scoring. Back in 2009, the Penguins and Red Wings ranked 17th in 19th respectively and made the finals.

Of course, a lot of great scoring teams also found that goals were helpful in winning, but that's not the point of this missive.

The Stars are a hard-scoring team. You know that shooting percentage of 8.3 percent? That's exactly what this team was through 82 games last season. They have since added Pavelski and Corey Perry and should get improved production from Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov, but there are some trends here that can't be denied.

Video: NYI@DAL: Cogliano deflects puck home with skate

Dallas has a history of not being able to convert.

Interim head coach Rick Bowness said he believes the team can score goals and will score goals if it simply sticks to the plan. Good aggressive defense will create scoring chances, and good aggressive players will convert scoring chances. That's what happened Tuesday when Pavelski and Radek Faksa each found the back of the net. That's what happened Saturday when Andrew Cogliano, Alexander Radulov and Denis Gurianov scored. In the two games combined, the Stars had just five goals. However, they allowed just one against.

That's the key to this thing.

If indeed the Stars can remain among the top two or three teams in goals against -- and that's where they have been for the past 104 games -- then they can get by with some key goals here and there.

"We're all here to win games and contribute," said Pavelski, who scored his seventh. "When you get opportunities like we have, you've got to contribute in certain ways. Every night is a little different, but it just helps when someone is stepping up."

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

While there's a really good chance Pavelski doesn't match the 38 goals he had last season in San Jose, or Seguin gets the 33 he had…or Radulov another 29 … or Benn another 27 … what if eight guys get 20? What if the Stars really do become a team where it's a different hero every night?

Maybe they truly will get key goals from Jason Dickinson or Mattias Janmark or Blake Comeau. Maybe they truly can improve the power play on the strength of guys like Corey Perry and Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov. Maybe, they can actually be one of those teams that wins with defense.

It's happened before, so maybe it's not that crazy of a theory.

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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