The Dallas Stars entered Tuesday night’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights with a simple scenario: Win in regulation, and they’re into the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It took more than just one game, and it wasn’t quite that simple, but at the end of the day, the Stars got the job done.
With a bizarre 4-3 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday, the Stars officially eliminated the Golden Knights from the playoff chase, and punched their ticket to the postseason for the first time since the team’s magical run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.
Both games saw Dallas heavily rely on the formula that got it this far- heavy reliance on its top forward line, stout defense, and above-average goaltending. In Tuesday’s thrilling 3-2 shootout win, goalie Jake Oettinger made a sparking 35 saves in 37 tries- including an incredible 32-33 saves in even-strength situations.
Second-year sensation Jason Robertson tallied two huge goals- his 39th and 40th of the season. He’s in very rare company among Stars franchise players to reach that total- Mike Modano, teammates Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who have also had 40-goal campaigns.
It wasn’t always pretty for Dallas this season- take Wednesday’s loss and squandered three-goal lead for example- but in the end, a team built to win can check off primary objective number one: get to the dance. The Stars narrowly missed the postseason last year after a late-season pushed in the re-aligned Central division for a 56-game 2021 season.
Despite having obvious limitations, most notably, a lack of depth scoring, the Stars and their practically indefensible top line featuring Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski will still prove to be a tough out in the first round of the playoffs.
It remains to be seen whom the Stars will match up with in the opening round. Since Dallas is the second wild card, they will play the Western Conference’s top seed- currently, the Colorado Avalanche. At time of writing, the Stars are still tied with the Nashville Predators with 95 points in the wild card standings- but Nashville owns the tiebreaker over Dallas, and is currently slated to play the 2-seeded Calgary Flames.
No matter who they draw, as its current core that remains largely the same from that 2020 run will tell you: you play the games for a reason, and anything can happen in one of sports most exciting postseasons.
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