It’s been six weeks since the Dallas Stars last played a 2019-20 regular season game. It’s also been one year since they defeated the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. So, with the lack of current events to focus on, let’s take a step back to April 22, 2019.
Timehop can be both a wonderful and cruel application. And sometimes, in very unique situations, it can be both.
Such was the case on Wednesday morning when I opened the app to find that it has been one year since the Dallas Stars defeated the Nashville Predators in overtime of Game 6 of the 2019 Western Conference quarterfinals.
On the one hand, it’s provides a good memory of a wonderful and emotional night for the organization and its fanbase. By the same token, it’s also a tough reminder that the Stars could be in the middle of weaving another thrilling tale in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs had the NHL not joined other sports leagues and paused its 2019-20 season back on March 12 due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
And while the pause was the correct move, it’s normal to think about where the Stars could be in their 2020 postseason journey right now.
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Would they have finished in second or third in the Central Division and still be intertwined in a first-round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche right now? Could they have already finished off the series and advanced to round two? On the flip side, would they already have cleaned out their lockers and parted ways for the summer?
It’s anyone’s guess as to how the end of the season and beginning of the postseason would have turned out. And although there is still hope that the regular season and 2020 playoffs can be completed, there is no timetable as to when it could be safe enough to play everything out. So, we’re left to estimations and simulations for now.
But that’s where an app like Timehop can help. While the present and future are mysteries, the past is absolute and set in stone. So, why not take a step back and indulge in it again? After all, this was no typical April 22, 2019 for the Dallas Stars.
As that Monday dawned on the city of Dallas, there was an unfamiliar feeling in the air. For the first time since April 2016, a Dallas sports team had a chance to clinch a playoff series at home and advanced to the next round. And if the Stars succeeded, it would be the first instance since May 25, 2011 when the Dallas Mavericks finished off the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
So, as the Stars took the ice for warmups against the Nashville Predators that night, you couldn’t help but think of what might be on the other end of Game 6.
It had been a year of ups-and-downs for the Dallas Stars, but had also been a year of growth. First-year head coach Jim Montgomery had successfully navigated the franchise to a playoff berth for the first time since 2016. He had done so by teaching a new system, one that hinged on defensive efficiency and structure mixed with strong goaltending by Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin.
The new style had taken some getting used to in the first few months of the 2018-19 season, but the Stars eventually adapted. From Jan. 19 to April 6, the Stars produced a record of 20-11-3 (including a 9-4-2 mark in a busy and important March). They were one of the best teams in the NHL down the stretch and put enough effort into the final few months to secure the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.
That seeding matched them up with the Nashville Predators, a team that had just won its second consecutive Central Division title, in the first round.
It was expected to be one of the more exciting and enticing matchups in the opening round. The Stars and Predators had been crafting a divisional rivalry in the previous few seasons, and their five games during the regular season had only added fuel to the fire.
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The stage was set for a matchup between two Vezina-caliber goaltenders, two star-studded defenses, and two offenses built on superstar talent.
Through the first five games, the series had lived up to the hype. Each team had won a game at home and stolen one on the road in the first four contests, and the Stars had just picked up another big win at Bridgestone Arena on April 20 to carry a 3-2 series edge into Game 6.
But the Predators, who had built up a strong resume of playoff experience and defying the odds in the postseason, had every reason to believe that they could force a Game 7 back in their hometown.
And so, with 19,025 settled in at the American Airlines Center, the puck was dropped.
It ended up being a less-than-ideal start for the Dallas Stars as Austin Watson scored on a rebound 5:47 into the first period and the Predators built a 19-10 shots advantage through the first 20 minutes. But the Stars, who had allowed the first goal in three of the first five games, had grown accustomed to digging out of early deficits.
That once again proved true at the 5:20 mark of the second period when Blake Comeau wired a shot past Rinne in transition to tie the game at 1-1.
From the goal, to the reaction of the crowd, to Comeau’s enthusiastic celebration, it didn’t seem like there was any turning back. The Stars would go on to outshoot the Predators 27-21 in the final two periods of regulation and seemed to be holding the momentum by the time the third period ended.
Almost all of the fans remained standing for the entirety of overtime as the Stars continued to wear down the Predators with their style of hockey. They were stifling in the defensive zone, allowing few chances. Bishop took his game to another level following the first goal against and turned aside the following 40 shots by Nashville. And as the Predators began breaking down, the Stars kept pushing.
It was on the Dallas Stars’ 14th shot of overtime and 51st of the game that everything changed. John Klingberg received a pass from Alexander Radulov in the offensive zone, took a low shot on the glove side of Rinne, and scored his first goal of the postseason.
Just like that, the Stars had won and clinched the series. Just like that, the Stars had secured their first series win on home ice since 2008. And just like that, the Stars were on their way to the second round against the St. Louis Blues with undoubtable momentum.
The unique thing about a moment like this is engrained in how you recall it, whether it be from the one-year mark like today or five years from now.
If you were at the American Airlines Center, you likely remember the roar of the crowd and the extended blast of the goal horn. You probably remember the streamers raining down as the two teams met at center ice for the traditional post-series handshakes. You might even remember fans yelling and screaming various chants in the streets as everyone made their way to the parking lots.
If you were watching on TV, you likely remember Josh Bogorad’s,” Klingberg shoots, he scores! John Klingberg sends the Stars to the second round!”, or Chris Cuthbert’s call of, “John Klingberg says, ‘Meet me in St. Louis!'”
Wherever you were and however you indulged the Stars’ crowning moment from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s a memory you won’t forget.
And so, on the first anniversary of a monumental series-clinching win, it can be useful and even encouraging to recount that memory. It’s a reminder of just how powerful the game of hockey is and how influential it can be in our lives.
It’s also another opportunity to realize that we’re missing out on new memories, which can further encourage doing your part and helping those around you to do their part to flatten the curve on the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to make an eventual return to normalcy and get back to the storylines and emotions that come with the Stanley Cup Playoffs and hockey as a whole, we must first get through this crisis. The only way we can successfully achieve that is by sticking together (while staying apart).
So, until the Dallas Stars can safely return to the ice and begin competing again, we’re left with simulations and thoughts on what could have been as well as replaying and reliving good memories of what has been.
But that’s not always a bad thing, especially considering the circumstances.