When the Dallas Stars took a 4-0 lead into the third period of an elimination game, it looked like the Minnesota Wild were going to be booed off the ice in their final game of the season.
But this is the run-and-gun, don’t-look-away Stars that have been one of the most exciting teams in the league this season for reasons both good and bad. Dallas’ goaltending has been unreliable all season and their defense, while improved, has still shown it needs some work before they become the type of two-way squad that can win by smothering the opposition defensively or blowing opponents away with their high-powered offense. And in Game 6 — a game which the Stars hung on to win 5-4 to eliminate the Wild — Dallas showed both sides of their game.
After taking a 4-0 lead to the second intermission, Dallas began to fall apart after an unnecessary penalty by winger Antoine Roussel. Minnesota blueliner Jared Spurgeon stuffed a puck home on the power play and 16 seconds later Jonas Brodin scored to bring the Wild within two. Minutes later, Spurgeon scored on another Wild power play to bring the home side within one:
Less than two minutes after Spurgeon’s goal, though, the Stars caught lucky break when a shot from the blueline by Alex Goligoski was deflected on its way in and bounced into the feet of Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. He stumbled into the net and knocked the puck across the goal line to give Dallas another two goal lead. Minnesota would score another, and come mere inches from tying the game, but the bizarre Goligoski goal would stand as the winner as the Stars advanced.
The contest was much closer than anyone believed it would have been, especially given the way Dallas came out of the gate, but it perfectly sums up the current era of Stars hockey. And in the end, the series victory was powered by the offense, not defense, and that may be the least surprising outcome of the post-season thus far.
Over the past two seasons, no team has been as powerful on the attack as Dallas. The Stars have scored 522 goals in the past two seasons, and the next closest team — the Washington Capitals — hasn’t even cracked the 500-goal mark. The gap between the two is 37 goals, but when you look at a Dallas roster that has Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza, it’s easy to see why the Stars’ offense is what wins them games and what won them this series. And Dallas played each game without the services of Tyler Seguin, their 30-goal, 70-point top-line winger. If Seguin is healthy, the Stars’ offense could have even further buried the Wild.
Minnesota was not without their injuries, either, and the loss of Zach Parise before the post-season very seriously damaged Minnesota’s chances in the first round. Even still, though, few expected the Wild to be able to keep up with the Stars offense.
However, the Stars may face more questions going forward than any other team heading to the second round. Dallas flipped back and forth between netminders Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, struggled to protect leads and showed the same porous defense in the series’ final four games that has haunted them at times throughout the campaign. Dallas conceded 16 goals in the past four games, and that’s not a recipe for success in the long run. So, yes, the Stars are moving on, but if they can’t lock things down defensively moving forward, their post-season might not last much longer.