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Eight reasons why Stars reached the Final

September 15, 2020, 2:52 PM ET [3 Comments]
Kevin Allen
Blogger •HHOF Writer's column on the NHL • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Dallas Stars have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2000. With a .594 winning percentage, they were the NHL’s 10th-best team in the regular-season. Their scoring average of 2.58 goals per game ranked 26th out of 31 NHL teams. They were second-to-last in even strength goals. Throughout the season, this team struggled to score. Denis Gurianov was the team’s only 20-goal scorer.

Here are eight reasons why this offensively-challenged regular-season team has advanced this far:

Miro Heiskanen playing like a young Nick Lidstrom: The 21-year-old Finn has been the team’s MVP, logging key minutes against top players and leading the team with 22 points in 21 games.

No. 1 defensively: The were the Western Conference’s No. 1 defensive team (2.53 goals per game) in the regular-season. They haven’t been that stingy in the postseason, but that tight defensive play was there when needed. The Stars, giving up 3.03 goals per game in the playoffs, have been more of a bend-but-don’t-break defense. They have been hard to play against, and they have pushed and pushed back.

The backup plan: Ben Bishop projected to be the playoff goalie. He played in 63.7% of the team’s regular-season games. But backup Anton Khudobin had better numbers (2.22 goals-against average and .930). We shouldn’t have been surprised that when a Bishop injury opened the door for Khudobin he claimed the net and refused to give it back. He has played big for the Stars, particularly in the last three games against Vegas. He gave up eight goals in five games against Vegas while stopping 153 of 161 shots (.950 save percentage).

Welcome back Jamie Benn: When was the last time we talked about Benn’s game like we are now? It’s been a while. He boasts eight goals and 18 points in 21 games. He scored in the team’s last three games and totaled 13 shots on goal in the last three games against Vegas. More importantly, he was visible on every shift.

Stars rose in the West: The team’s offensive performance level in the Edmonton bubble was better than it was in the regular season. Joe Pavelski had a miserable regular-season, tying a career-low with 14 goals. He has nine goals thus far in the playoffs. Radulov only had 15 goals in the regular-season and he already has netted eight. Gurianov’s scoring rate is higher. In this postseason, the Dallas Stars’ have been more effective on the power play (27.3%) than the Tampa Bay Lightning (20.8%).

Adding D to the O: It’s not just Heiskanen jumping into the rush. John Klingberg has 16 points, playing with more effectiveness than he did during the regular-season. Jamie Oleksiak has four goals. Defensemen have scored 13 goals in 21 games for the Stars.

Owning the momentum: We’ve seen this before. A surprise team seizes the momentum and builds on it. It’s about confidence, camaraderie and chemistry. Some call them teams of destiny. The Blues were a momentum team but their momentum was building in the second-half of the season. The 2016-17 Nashville Predators built on their momentum. Remember the 2011-12 New Jersey Devils reaching the Stanley Cup Final?

Nice guys finish first?: General manager Jim Nill and Rick Bowness are a candidate for the NHL’s nicest GM-coach tandem. They have lasted in this league a long time because they treat everyone with respect. Players buy in because they like and respect these guys. That helps plenty in these situations.
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