The first game of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final was nothing short of thrilling hockey. And through the three periods of action, there were plenty of obvious lessons that the Dallas Stars could learn from.
“Wow, what a ride.”
That’s one proper way of describing game one of the Stanley Cup Final following its conclusion on Monday night. Through 60 action-packed minutes, the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals put on an entertaining show. They also gave us a proper kickoff to what will be a Final for the history books.
It’s not ordinary to have two teams in the Final that have never won the Stanley Cup in their respective histories. And yet, that’s exactly what we have this season.
The Capitals haven’t been to the Final in 20 years. On the other hand, the Knights weren’t even around last May. But now they both sit just one series victory away from claiming the Cup. And after a 6-4 victory last night, the Golden Knights are one win closer.
If you watched last night’s game, you probably noticed a few things. For one, it was an absolute thrill ride. Unlike in years past where the Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks were running the show with their typical style of play, this performance was totally different. It was two teams with unique playing styles leaving every ounce of effort they had on the ice at T-Mobile Arena.
60 minutes passed and left every hockey fan wanting more. In fact, the best part of game one is thinking about getting to indulge in up to six more of those. The 2017-18 hockey season will definitely be closing out with a bang with these two teams in control.
But as the two teams traded punches and kept you on the edge of your seat, a familiar empty thought likely crossed your mind at some point. That thought was, “Will the Dallas Stars be back in this position anytime soon?” And yes, it’s only natural for a hockey fan to feel this way.
After all, next season will mark the 20th season since the Stars won their first and only Stanley Cup. It will also be the 19 year mark since they last competed in a Stanley Cup Final. So, it’s been a while. On top of that, this past year marked the second straight season that Dallas missed the playoffs.
It’s been a rough go for the Dallas Stars lately. In each of the past two seasons, the Stars have entered the regular season with high expectations only to be met with shocking disappointment by the time game 82 rolls around.
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And with shocking disappointment comes early exit interview days and an early offseason. It also comes with watching the Stanley Cup Final from home only to see another team that worked harder and pushed farther hoist the ultimate prize. But that isn’t entirely bad. In fact, Dallas can pick up on a few lessons from game one and likely throughout the rest of the 2018 Final.
After all, it is the two best teams in the league going toe-to-toe with each other. There’s bound to be something to learn from their bout that can be applied to make the team better next year. In game one, there were a few specific lessons that the Dallas Stars should pick up on.
The first thing that stood out in game one was the speed. Not only was it fast-paced, but it was consistent. And it wasn’t from just one side: both the Caps and Knights were tearing up and down the ice. They were quick on their transitions but also fast in getting back to defend. As a result, the teams traded offensive zone opportunities all night.
One of the Stars’ biggest problems this past season was that they seemed to have lost their speed. When Lindy Ruff coached the team from 2013-2017, Dallas was a team that didn’t defend well but made up for it with speed and offensive firepower. They were one of the fastest teams in the league and created offensive chances from practically nothing.
Under Ken Hitchcock last year, the Stars were much better defensively. But with their extra focus on defense came a sudden lacking in their speedy offense. The offensive attack didn’t have the same tempo as they once possessed and it caught them flatfooted at times. Every good team has a quick and rapid attack that they can front on a regular basis. Washington and Vegas showed that last night, and it made the game all the more exciting and intense.
Dallas needs to revive that style next season, but it all comes with finding balance. After all, defense is a significant factor in winning championships, too.
Another factor that was heavily prevalent was the depth scoring from both sides. Of the 10 combined goals scored by the two clubs, six came from players not skating on the top line/pairing for their respective team. While the top line players did make significant contributions, both teams had plenty of help from all four lines. And to top it all off, Tomas Nosek (fourth line) scored the game winning tally for Vegas.
If you’ve been a Dallas Stars fan for more than two months, you know that depth was a major problem for the team this past season. Outside of their top line and defensive pairing, there wasn’t much to be seen in terms of production. The Stars had a lot of grinders in their lineup, but couldn’t get the necessary production that all good teams get. And when their top line struggled to come through (as all top lines do at times), there was almost no hope of coming away with two points.
The problem showed up on the stat sheet as well. Following Jamie Benn (79 points), Tyler Seguin (78 points), Alexander Radulov (72 points), and John Klingberg (67 points), there is a sharp 33-point drop-off before reaching the next skater, being Mattias Janmark (34 points). It’s definitely something that the Stars need to fix.
All in all, a lot can be taken out of a raucous game one affair between two powerhouse teams. The need for speed and depth scoring are just two lessons in the overall performance that the Dallas Stars can learn from. Even though the Stars won’t get a chance to apply them to their play until October, it’s always good to jot them down for future reference.
And chances are there will be plenty more to tap into as this Stanley Cup Final matchup rages on. Game one promised us that much.