The Stanley Cup Playoffs are not for the faint of heart, whether you’re seated on the couch watching on television or netting a game-winner in double overtime. The postseason is truly a meat-grinder that pressure tests the characteristics that have made each team great. Finding themselves down 2-1 to the Seattle Kraken, the Stars will need to lean into those strengths to rise above the hydraulic press of Seattle’s game. Numerous battles are being fought simultaneously, and each holds the same weight in deciding the outcome.
Dallas Stars Battle Tested: It all starts at the top
Pete DeBoer has shown his ability to adjust tactfully to Hakstol’s scheme, as indicated in the game 2 bounce back, but can he beat him to the punch at some point? There’s a fundamental theory I have for the series that rang true for Round 1, and that is that the first team to win consecutive games in this round will win the series.
If DeBoer’s counterpunch to the fast-paced, clean breakouts that Seattle had in game 3 results in knotting the series at two, his next move will be just as important. If the Stars’ trip to Seattle is winless, however, the efforts may be all for naught. In this matchup, Hakstol has something that the previously dispatched Dean Evason doesn’t have.
As indicated by the postseason score chart, Seattle’s top line is just as gifted as their fourth line. 16 different players have scored a goal and 10 have scored multiple, showing that the same is asked of each and every line.
The Stars matched up well with Minnesota, they could neutralize each line’s specialty based on who was deployed on the ice. Miro-Suter could contain the playmaking of the Kaprizov and Boldy lines and Lindell-Hakanpaa could absorb the physical style of Foligno or Reaves’ lines. Unlike Minnesota, Seattle’s team signature is carried by each line equally.
With Hakstol’s message being carried each shift with even distribution, the focus of the Stars may change to a more chaotic approach. The movement of talented players up and down for the sake of creating depth has been the wrench of Dallas’ toolbox since the peak Seguin & Benn days, but now is the time for a hammer.
Pavelski’s role on the second line brought Max Domi’s game up a notch for the first two games of the series, and it was useful for that time. After a 7-2 drubbing amidst Robo’s struggles, Pavelski’s spot on the top line should be restored for game 4. The Stars need to recreate their successes from the regular season in order to take control of this series.
Dallas Stars Battle Tested: Business as usual
As crazy as it sounds, seven points in nine games is being widely considered a slump for our superstar winger. Little needs to be said about Robo’s 109-point season to argue in favor of reuniting him with Pavelski, the glue of the Stars’ top line. Additionally, there isn’t much good chemistry left over from the first series as Roope’s two points per-game pace against Minnesota has slowed to one point in three matchups with Seattle.
The spark on the second line from Pavelski’s presence was unfortunately not enough to create a flame, while the demand for his services at the top remains. The trio has been proven to be a top line in the league during the regular season campaign and has only gotten about 10 minutes to prove it in the playoffs.
In a similar fashion, numerous returns to normalcy across the board would benefit the Stars for game 4. Looking to grab home ice advantage back, Jake Oettinger is coming off of a horrifying game 3 that saw five goals get through in the second period alone.
Otter has been notoriously solid coming off a loss this year, as the TBS broadcast stated to the tune of a 19-1-4 record in such situations. Maintaining this pattern of renewed focus after defeat would be imperative, along with Seattle playing poorly on home ice as they did in the regular season at a clip of 20-17-4. Holding true to the season’s trends would certainly benefit the Stars for game 4.
While the body of work may indicate positivity for the Stars’ outlook, it’s more than progressing back to the mean. Oettinger has shown what kind of skin he has for the playoffs as recently as this season. After an embarrassing game 3 loss to be in the same position they are now, Otter focused in and saved 82 of the next 85 Minnesota shots for 3 wins, 1 GAA, and a second-round berth.
To counter any accusations of recency bias, Otter’s feats in last year’s Calgary series shine despite the Stars falling to the Flames. Otter stopped 179 of the 189 shots taken in games 4-7 of that series, demonstrating his focus when it comes to closing the series.
Dallas Stars Battle Tested: Virtually reality
Restoring the firepower of the top line and keeping Otter focused seems theoretically simple when walking back the Stars winning formula as a revisionist. However, the Stars are here now and it’s up to them to make those things real.
They know better than us that they can’t allocate regular season success to these battles and smooth over any rough edges emerging in crunch time (ask Boston). The important thing about all of these concepts is that they’ve been true of this team at some point in recent history. The key to overcoming the Kraken is bringing these truths to life now, under the pressures of a postseason push.