To the dismay of many Stars fans including myself, the Blackout Dallas staff writers and I don’t see how the Stars will be able to win the series. In fact, none of the ESPN NHL staff believe the Stars have a chance either. However, I want to think positively about our team despite all the negativity of the Stars “having no chance”. So let’s discuss three factors that must happen in order for the Stars to win this series.
Three Factors for Stars : 3. Defense has to contribute offensively
It has been frustrating to watch the Stars defensemen and notice they haven’t scored at the same pace they have in years past. Collectively, the Stars’ defensemen scored 30 goals in the 21-22 regular season. This puts the Stars at 25th in the NHL in goals scored by defensemen.
What’s even more concerning is which defenseman led the Stars in goal scoring this season. That would be free agent acquisition Ryan Suter with seven. I understand John Klingberg missed eight games and Miro Heiskanen missed twelve games, but one of those two players should be leading the Stars’ blueline in goal scoring.
Klingberg and Heiskanen need to contribute more goals in order for the Stars to win this series, and we saw that in the 2020 bubble playoffs. That magic needs to return.
Three Factors for Stars : 2. Jake Oettinger has to be Conn Smythe worthy
In our staff’s series’ preview, I talked about how I gave the Flames the edge when it came to goaltending. My reasoning was the proven record of Jacob Markstrom versus Oettinger. Markstrom is a solidified number one goaltender who won 37 games with a 2.22 goals against average, a .922 save percentage, and a formidable nine shutouts.
Oettinger in the playoffs is a giant question mark. Minus the couple of games he can in relief in the 2020 bubble playoffs, he has yet to play as a number one goaltender in the NHL playoffs which is a completely different beast than the regular season. Will he thrive in the playoffs like young goalies have in the past such as Matt Murray, Stars legend Antii Niemi, and Jordan Binnington? Or will he be flattened under the pressure?
To his credit, Oettinger has played in several high pressure, big stakes situations before. He started as a freshman at the Minnesota high school state hockey tournament which is a huge deal up there. Oettinger also started in the NCAA Frozen Four tournament as a freshman against North Dakota in North Dakota. He would make 56 saves as he backstopped his team to a 4-3 double overtime victory.
He’s also played against Canada at the World Juniors several years ago which went to a shootout and played a playoff-atmosphere game against the Golden Knights to end the season. Long story short, Otter is no stranger to big games. The Stars will need him to be their best player.
Three Factors for Stars: 1. The second line has to contribute offensively
Surprisingly, the second line of the Stars is fairly equal to the scoring of the second line of the Flames. The Flames’ second line of Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane, and Tyler Toffoli has contributed 67 goals while the Stars’ second line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and (insert one of several names here) – we’ll just go with Vladislav Namestnikov since Bowness seems to like him there Vladislav Namestnikov have scored 58 goals.
However, most of Namestnikov’s goals were scored with Detroit; 13 of the 16 goals to be exact. Benn and Seguin need to find the next gear of goal scoring that we didn’t see in the regular season. They’re getting paid over $20 million in cap space in order to do so.
But the biggest question in my opinion is who of the Stars forwards will step up into the third slot on the second line. Several players have been given auditions there including Jacob Peterson, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Denis Gurianov. Namestnikov has been okay while Gurianov has been disappointing defensively and has not produced enough offensively. The player I believe that will step up in the playoffs for the Stars will be Jacob Peterson.
I understand he is only a rookie and has only one more goal than Gurianov, but Peterson has shown flashes of dangleness (is that even a word?) and has done it with significantly less ice time. Not to mention, he has been healthy scratched numerous times throughout the regular season.
There are numerous other factors in this playoff matchup, but I believe these three factors could most positively impact the Stars’ chance in defeating the Flames. We’ll see when the Stars take on the Flames in Calgary at 9:00 pm for Game 1.