The Dallas Stars are back in the playoffs and they’re taking on the Calgary Flames in the first round just like they did in the 2020 Edmonton bubble. The roster has changed from the team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals, but certain key players remain. As the Flames have seized game 1, here are nine Stars players you should keep an eye on.
This is broken down into three tiers. The first category is “proven performers” which is reserved for players that have performed at an elite level in the playoffs. The second catergory is “promising.” This is reserved for players that can be expected to play at a high level but do not have the postseason numbers yet to back them up. The third and final category is the “wild card” for players that have a high upside but it’s not a given that they will achieve that.
Dallas Stars Playoff Key Performers: Proven Performers
Joe Pavelski is the definition of a playoff performer. His hockey brain is as sharp as ever, allowing him to keep up with and help elevate his top line sons. His 2020 run with the Stars gave him 19 points in 27 games. This was his second most productive postseason only behind the 2016 San Jose Sharks’ Stanley Cup Final run where he put up 23 points in 24 games.
Pavelski also has the record for postseason goals scored by a U.S.-born player with 61 goals. It will be important for him to keep up his offensive prowess from the regular season where he led the team with a career best of 81 points.
His experience is key, especially for younger players. When asked about Pavelski, Miro Heiskanen said in a pregame interview on Bally Sports SouthWest “he gives some little advice and tips… he stays calm”. The impact of the veteran’s leadership is clear when examining the Star’s top line and it’s an added boost to have that permeate through the lineup.
Miro Heiskanen proved his ability during the 2020 run where he had 26 points in 27 games which led the team in scoring. Heiskanen has continued to develop his defensive game each year and is in an elite tier of his own on this team.
But the offense has lagged behind a bit. This could be due to him playing on his off-side while being defensively responsible on a pairing with Ryan Suter. If he can elevate his offense to that level again it will be game-changing for the Stars.
After breaking his 40-game goal drought against Arizona, Heiskanen looks playoff ready. Wearing his fresh gear in front of a playoffs backdrop, he was all smiles prior to game 1 saying “of course great feeling, it’s great to be back in the playoffs and really excited to get it going again”.
John Klingberg has shown his offensive skillset during the playoffs before and if he is relatively healthy, he should be a player the team can depend on for offense. During the 2020 run, he had 21 points in 26 games which were second on the team only to Heiskanen.
Klingberg has shown up in big moments — perhaps most notably the overtime series winner against Nashville in 2019. In a season muddled with contract negotiations and trade talks, putting that aside and focusing on his ability to generate will be crucial against Calgary.
He is also clearly fired up. Klingberg missed the final game of the season due to a lower-body injury and despite this, fought Rasmus Andersson on Tuesday night. His comments postgame revealed a ferocity in him. If Klingberg channels that rage into his on-ice play, it’s clear what he is capable of.
Dallas Stars Playoff Key Performers: Promising
Given how Jason Roberston has exploded over the past two seasons, it feels as though he should be a proven playoffs performer. But due to his lack of experience, he lands in the promising category.
He was in the 2020 bubble as a black ace but never saw game time. There is no reason to doubt his ability in the playoffs as he has risen to the occasion in key moments throughout the regular season like when he recorded back-to-back hat tricks. He is also now a 41-goal scorer. It’ll be exciting to watch Robertson take that next step in his game.
Roope Hintz has the drive, power, and passion to devour the puck. His game as a two-way center has only improved over the course of the past few seasons. When he gallops up the ice with the puck he seems virtually unstoppable.
Scoring slump induced by haircut at the beginning of the season aside, Pavelski’s other son was just a hat trick away from reaching 40 goals. Hintz scored two shorthanded goals this season in the same game for the first time in Dallas Stars history. He has proven to be dynamic on the penalty kill and power play.
Like Robertson, the only reason he did not make the first tier was due to his actual playoff numbers. His 13 points in 25 games in 2020 were not quite at that level. But the strides he has taken in the past two seasons do inspire confidence that Hintz can be a beast in the playoffs.
Stars fans have been spoiled by elite goaltending over the past two playoffs with the Vezina-caliber Ben Bishop and the magic of Anton Khudobin. It’s unreasonable to expect that from Jake Oettinger who is only 23 years old.
However, he should be very good. In the three recorded games where Oettinger played “mop up” duty in the 2020 bubble, he recorded a .971 save percentage. Facing only 8 shots, this is a small sample size. But also take into account that it was his NHL debut and he faced Vegas and Tampa.
His ability to bounce back from a slump just in time for playoffs proves confidence in him is not misplaced. In game 1 against Calgary, Oettinger stopped 25 out of 26 shots to record a .962 save percentage. While Dallas lost the game, it was clearly not his fault.
Dallas Stars Playoff Key Performers: Wild Cards
Just looking at his numbers, it feels like Jamie Benn should be a proven performer. But examining his play as of late, which is prone to decline due to his physical style of play, he’s a wildcard. Benn had 19 points in 27 games during the 2020 run, with 8 of those being goals. Those 19 points were the fourth highest on the team.
If Playoffs Benn gets going it could be a huge source of energy for the Stars (especially since Alexander Radulov is more subdued and his play and ice time have severely diminished). If Benn can rekindle some dynamic chemistry with Tyler Seguin it’ll greatly help the team.
Tyler Seguin had been dealing with injuries through the entire 2020 bubble run. He missed a game during the round-robin portion but played the rest. It later was revealed that he needed to have multiple surgeries to repair a torn labrum in his hip
Seguin returned to play in early May 2021. Given the nature and multitude of his surgeries, his abilities have still not fully returned as that will take time. But his progression is hopeful. He recorded only 9 goals and 13 points in his first 35 games this season. But in the next 35 games, he recorded 12 goals and 30 points.
His 2019 playoffs statistics also show a capable performer where he had 11 points in 13 games. Due to his injuries and slower progression, his potential is high but uncertain which makes him a wild card.
Calgary Flames + playoffs + Dallas Stars = hit ‘em with the 4 Denis
When a Stars fan thinks of the Flames in the playoffs, they probably fondly remember when Denis Gurianov scored four goals in the series clinching game in 2020. He was the Stars’ leading scorer that regular season with 20 goals and he added 9 more in the playoffs.
He hasn’t been as effective this season due to a number of reasons, the primary of which seems to be a complete lack of trust from his coach. Rick Bowness often demotes, benches, or scratches him after one mistake. If Gurianov can find his playoff magic again then he has tremendous upside to help the Stars take over games. He needs to be put on an offensively focused line where he can use his speed and shot instead of on a checking line with Kiviranta and Faksa
Seguin, Benn, and Gurianov all being wildcards is significant. They’ve all shown potential together and the ideal scenario for the Stars would be them coming together to be a powerful second line.