In what could’ve been the biggest game of the year Saturday, the Dallas Stars could not have given it any more than they did.
With an opportunity to pull even for fourth in the standings with the Nashville Predators, sixty minutes wasn’t enough to settle the finale in what’s been a neck-and-neck season series. Nashville ended up winning the game on an Eric Haula overtime winner for its fifth straight win over the Stars in extra time.
It’s a gut-punch for the Stars, who instead of tying the Predators for the Central division’s final playoff spot, end up worse of than they were coming into the series- despite picking up a point in the OT loss.
However, it’s not a fatal blow. With five games left in the bizarre 2021 season, here’s how Dallas shapes up unit-by-unit.
After Jamie Benn willed the Stars to a win over the elite Carolina Hurricanes in what coud’ve been the game of the year Monday, the unit slowed to a crawl in the final three games of the week. It’s now been 155 minutes and 16 seconds of game time since Dallas scored its last goal- an unassisted tally from April National Hockey League rookie of the month Jason Robertson 7:45 into the second period of Tuesday’s game against Carolina
The Stars’ dead sprint schedule due to multiple pauses in play is certainly hurting any chance Dallas has to build momentum- not to mention the elite defenses the top of the central division boasts. If the Stars get over the hump, they’ll need to buck that trend.
Again, it’s a story of Dallas’ defense keeping them in close games with a chance to win- but being unable to keep up and/or score in post-regulation situations. The blue line kept powerful Carolina and Tampa Bay quiet on the Tuesday and Thursday games, while nearly silencing Nashville Saturday.
This team still finds its identity in its back check- and the numbers back it up, too- allowing just 2.49 goals per game, good for seventh in the NHL.
Special Teams: B-
Not much has changed for the Stars in these areas in the past month. In an April that saw them rack up 10 wins, the power play certainly gave the Stars a push over the hump, and it now ranks seventh in the NHL with a 23.5% success rate. Joe Pavelski picked up a goal this week to re-gain the league lead in markers with the man advantage.
However, in recent games, it’s slowed to a crawl. Robertson’s tally Tuesday came in a five-on-five situation, so
Ater months of back-and-forth, speculation, and mutiple positive COVID-19 tests, Anton Khudobin stole a show again.
it seems that the darling of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs finally stitched together a performance resembling the larceny committed against the eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning. However, in the 3-0 loss in the rematch Thursday, it was rookie Jake Oettinger’s start- who allowed three past him for a consecutive game.
It was a bounce-back performance from Khudobin, who could figure to get the start Monday against Florida- and will likely be seen consecutively in the Stars final five. With starter Ben Bishop on the shelf for all of this season, the Stars have gotten more than they could’ve asked from the pair. The only question- will it be enough?
Dallas still hasn’t picked up a win against Tampa Bay this season after the walloping this week. The Lighting are head and shoulders better than the Stars this year, but if Dallas wants to catch Nashville- now trailing by three in the standings, it will have to take all three games against the two dominanting teams from Florida this year. The Stars have had more success head-to-head against Florida in the strange season- especially in April.
This week’s schedule- Monday at Florida, Wednesday at Tampa Bay, Friday at Tampa Bay, Sunday at Chicago.
Current Central Division Standings:
1 Carolina, 34-10-7 (75 pts)
2 Tampa Bay, 35-14-3 (73 pts)
3 Florida, 32-14-5 (73 pts)
4 Nashville, 28-22-2 (58 pts)
5 Dallas, 21-17-13 (55 pts)
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