The fate of the Dallas Stars postseason is at stake. There is no more cushion after a three-game Canadian road trip where they earned zero points against the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames.
The Stars and Vegas Golden Knights both have four games left with the Stars being just two points ahead of the Knights. They are currently sitting with a goal differential of -11. The team in playoffs position with the next lowest differential is the LA Kings with 0. That’s bad.
After the loss in Calgary, captain Jamie Benn said they have “to win probably four in a row here” and that’s the only mindset the team can have going forward. They face the Seattle Kraken on Saturday and then the Vegas Golden Knights in a critical game on Tuesday. The other two games are against the Arizona Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks.
Not only are these must-win games, but with the exception of Vegas they are all games Dallas easily should win. All of these remaining games are at home and they need to find that special home advantage magic again.
How did they get here? Why the sudden collapse on this road trip? I’d argue that this is nothing new, the Stars are known for their wild swings. When examining the past three games, the same themes and problems that have pestered them all season are there. Let’s dig through two main issues.
The Stars Have One Line
The “Pavs and Sons” top line has played 744.1 minutes together so far this season. The line with the next highest minutes of 352.9 is the checking line of Michael Raffl, Luke Glendening, and Radek Faksa. And behind them is the Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Denis Gurianov line with only 298.7 minutes played together.
These numbers show what we already know: the Dallas Stars are a one-line team. The offense comes from the top line or not at all. Remove the checking line from the picture, and the top line has played 2.5 times the number of minutes than the next offensively built line. The trio of Seguin, Benn, and Gurianov was the Stars best effort at having a proper second offensive threat.
“Pavs and Sons” have scored 100 goals this season while all other stars forwards combined have 94. Reading that may feel like extreme whiplash. Yes, this is one of the top lines in the league. And yes, the rest of the forwards combined are not as productive as that line. It is unreasonable to expect to reach, let alone succeed in the playoffs like this.
The Dallas Stars Lack Identity
The Dallas Stars lack identity. Sound familiar? I wrote about this three months ago and it has continued to be an issue all throughout their season. That defensive identity that Dallas prided themselves on was, to say the least, lackluster on this road trip. Across the three games, they surrendered an average of 40 shots against per game.
Goaltending has not been an issue. But when a team’s identity is centered on winning games by shutting down the opposition, it puts an increased strain on goaltenders to bail them out constantly. Combined with their shortage of scoring, it becomes increasingly difficult to win games with such poor defensive play.
So, will they dig their claws in and stay in a playoffs spot, or will it be another disappointing early summer? It’s now or never for the Dallas Stars.