For the second straight season, playoff hockey returns to Dallas.
In head coach Peter Deboer’s first season with the team, Dallas raced to a 45-win season and 108 points, the most for the franchise since 2015-16. Though they led the central entering the final day of the regular season, the Stars missed a central division title by just a single point, as the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche clinched the title on Friday night with a narrow win over Nashville.
Deboer is known for leading significant improvements in his first season with new teams in his coaching career, and that held to form in his first with the Stars. Both teams are riding strong months- since March, Dallas is 16-5-1, while Minnesota is 12-4-5.
Dallas will see a familiar first-round opponent in the Minnesota Wild in the first round. It’s the first playoff matchup between the two since that aforementioned 2015-16 series, which saw the Stars take it in six games. Here’s a look at a few key players and storylines entering the matchup, with puck drop set game one on Monday night.
Welcome to the national stage, Jason Robertson
Robertson continues to be the most underrated player in the NHL. After a whopping 46-goal, 109-point regular season- the latter which set a franchise record- it’s getting hard to overlook him. Robertson continues to thrive in Deboer’s system and alongside Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski. Can he step up under the national spotlight in his second career playoff series?
Can Jake Oettinger steal the show again?
Oettinger burst onto the spotlight with an incredible performance with 64 saves in game seven on the first round last season in the heart-breaking seven game series loss to Calgary. It was clearly his show coming into this season, and with a little help from backup Scott Wedgewood behind him, Oettinger put up solid numbers with a 2.37 GAA and .919 save percentage. He showed he can steal a game or two in a playoff series against the Flames. The question is, with a better offense going into this series, will he need to?
Can the Stars slow Karill Kaprizov?
Kaprizov is the player to watch on a Minnesota team that’s looking for its first playoff series win. Kaprizov narrowly earned the Hart Trophy, given to the league’s top rookie, in 2021 over Robertson. Dallas’ offense has been much better under DeBoer than in recent seasons, but the overall defensive play has taken a step back. Can the Stars tap back into their back checking identity that carried them for several years against Minnesota’s star 25-year-old who put up a 40 goal season?
DSF Series Prediction: Stars in 7.
This has all the makings of a classic series. Minnesota’s fans despise the Dallas franchise. Minnesota is very capable of getting hot at the right time- it had a 14-game point streak in the heart of the regular season. Dallas has to play smart and not rely only on the top line of Roope Hintz, Robertson and Joe Pavelski. Marc-Andre Fleury could steal a game or two in the round- but overall, Dallas’ +63 goal differential in the regular season, plus Deboer’s track record of sparking lengthy playoff runs in year one, are enough to convince me the Stars can win at least a round.