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Sturm Blog: Penalty Killing Has To Improve

by Bob Sturm / Dallas Stars

Bob Sturm
I have been wanting to take a good look at the Dallas Stars for a few days after this first 5 game stretch that has seen the Stars get out of the gates with 4 wins in 5 attempts. 

The great start has been fun for all involved and most importantly I think it is key for the guys in the room to experience success early.  It is common thought that losing is a disease that can easily spread and if losing sets in with a  young team then bad things will usually follow.  Somewhere you have to break the cycle, otherwise the ability to coach them and get them to fight with 100% resolve is not always a given.

Winning also spreads across a room, and when things start going well, a team starts to believe that more things will eventually go well.  It is such a slippery issue, this momentum thing in sports, but if you don't think it exists, then I will respectfully disagree.

I will grant you that I am both an optimist and a pessimist when it comes to the teams I follow.  I am an optimist on certain issues like a new season offers a fresh start and a blank slate.  I usually dare to dream about what a roster can do if everything "breaks right".

Conversely, I can be called a pessimist, because often times, the scoreboard at the end of the game does not always make me feel better about what my eyes saw.  Some people like the absolutes of "win" or "loss".  If they win, then anything that happened that night is awesome.  If they lost, anything that happens that night is garbage.  I just don't think that is a practical stance and I can see good in a loss and bad in a win.

Which leads me to a very sensitive topic these days when I talk about the Stars big start.

I think it very possibly is a mirage. 

Now, before you get your torches and storm my castle, let me explain.

Yes, I think the Stars are off to a nice start.  And yes, I hope it continues.  But, I want to get this word of warning out now, while the team is 4-1.

There is no way you can make the playoffs with this penalty kill performance we are seeing.   You may win games in the short term (4 out of 5 games), but in the long term, it is impossible.  It can't be done.  There is no way.  (Is there any other way I can express my feelings about a topic?)

In 2008-09, the Stars missed the playoffs.  One reason why is that their PK unit was 24th in the NHL. 
In 2009-10, the Stars missed the playoffs.  One reason why is that their PK unit was 27th in the NHL.
In 2010-11, the Stars want to make the playoffs.  One reason why they may not is their PK unit is 30th in the NHL.

There are only 30 teams.

If you combine all 3 seasons since the Stars last were in the playoffs - and had one of the greatest PK defensemen of our generation, Sergei Zubov, they are 29th in the NHL as a cumulative total.  77.3% is well off the pace, and only is ahead of the 3 year total of Toronto (75.1).

Look, I am so thrilled they have won 4 of their first 5.   But, I cannot escape the pain in my neck everytime the Stars take a penalty.  And, you cannot play "abrasive - tough to play against" hockey and never take a penalty.  Penalties are going to happen in the NHL.

But, then you have to prove you can kill one off.  So far, Stars opponents have had 25 chances against the Stars PK unit.  They have scored 10 goals at a 40% PP rate.  Or, a 60% PK rate for the Stars when they are shorthanded.

No other team in hockey has allowed more than 7 PP Goals.  Flordia and Washington have not allowed any.

It is early.  And we are smiling right now.

But, this is no time for anyone to feel like they have accomplished anything.  They have to get the PK sorted.  Quickly. Or this great start will be lost to the PK.

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