What to call the 2021-2022 Dallas Stars: Overpowering, underwhelming, semi-charged, potent, stuck in neutral, frenetic, disciplined? Depending on when you were watching, all of them fit the bill. And all of them seem much more appropriate than “wildcard playoff team,” but, as it happens, here we are.
How did the exceptionally bi-modal Stars careen their way into a playoff berth? Here is some Dallas Stars trivia to digest as you watch them battle it out against the Flames. And for the trivia geeks out there, don’t get too worked up. The answers are all, “the Dallas Stars.” Seriously.
The Dallas Stars have been an exciting playoff team the past few seasons, and they’ve made some happy campers out of fans who bet on them. Can you gamble on sports in Texas? Sadly, no. You’ve got to cross state lines if you want to put some action on the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If that drive to Winstar in Oklahoma is getting old, let your state representative know. The 2023 legislative session is the next chance to bring legal gaming to the voters.
Special teams play
Q. Which NHL team’s power-play started top ten but finished bottom ten?
A. The Dallas Stars (see?). The PP lines through the first half of the season stayed pretty consistent, but the Stars shook things up in the second half as the team struggled.
Change can be good, but it can also create confusion. After the All-Star break, the Stars inconsistent PP spent most of the time chasing pucks, and Jamie Benn, swatting an occasional rebound, looked just plain bored. Going into the playoffs, the Stars have returned to their early season PP units in hopes of turning it around.
Q. Which NHL team’s penalty kill started bottom ten but finished top ten?
A. Surprise! It’s the Dallas Stars. The Stars gave up six power-play opportunities and three PP goals to the Canucks on Nov. 8, and that awful performance was enough for Coach Bowness to call shenanigans on the Stars’ on-ice work ethic.
Radek Faksa, one of the Stars’ best PK players, said after the game, “we’re doing stupid stuff on the ice.” He said some other things too, but that pretty much captured it. Since then, the Stars have turned the PK around and played their usual brand of lock-down-grind-out defense that frustrates opposing teams. But more importantly, it’s led to this…
Q. Which team took the fewest penalties this season?
A. Stars again. Giving up 251 penalties put them two above the next least-penalized team (Pittsburgh), and 140 (wow!) above the most penalized team (Nashville). One way to keep your PK units fresh is–how’d Faksa put it?–stop doing stupid stuff on the ice.
Matching up against the rest of the league
Q. What was the only team to beat the Avalanche twice in regulation and lose twice in regulation to the worst-in-the-West Coyotes?
A. That would be the Stars. Over the past two seasons, the Stars have played their high-powered division rivals tough. They’re 6-1 against the Avalanche, with the only loss coming this past February.
They’ve outscored Colorado 19-12 over that stretch, never giving up more than two goals per game except for Colorado’s lone win where they gave up four. On the flip side, the Stars gave up seven goals to Arizona in their two losses to them this season.
Q. Which Western Conference team split the season series against the President’s Trophy-winning Florida Panthers, AND the worst-in-the-NHL Montreal Canadiens?
A. The freakin’ Stars. They got beat around the boards in both games against the Panthers, giving up 12 goals in the two games, but they fought for a 6-5 OT win this January in Dallas, which became a signature moment for the team.
On the other side of signature games, the Stars lost 5-3 in Dallas to the Canadiens and surrendered eight goals over two games to the Habs.
The Stars lineup
Q. Which NHL team’s top line accounted for the highest percentage of the team’s goals?
A. The Stars’ top line got off to a slow start this season, but no one remembers that. After about week three, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jason Robertson took over. And, frankly, that’s what Stars fans expected from this line.
Pavs, the seasoned vet, a solid two-way center or winger, was the savvy anchor. Hintz, an emerging star at center and wing, could fly, score, and create. His hockey IQ is off the charts, and his performance this year confirmed the glimmers of brilliance he showed in stretches last year.
Finally, Robertson, the young gun, brilliant in his first year, continued the scoring onslaught this year, at a furious pace. In the end, they accounted for 46% of the team’s goals. Tops in the league.
Q. Which playoff team’s starting goalie started the season fourth on the team’s depth chart?
A. You know this one! But grab a seat. The lead-up is complicated.
Ben Bishop was on the decline but no one quite knew why. He had been injured off and on since 2019 but made a heroic return to net in the 2020 playoffs against Colorado. This decision would mark the end for Bishop.
He got blown out of the net by the Avalanche, cementing Anton Khudobin’s spot in the net and leaving Stars fans wondering what had happened to their franchise net minder. Bishop, after a stint in the AHL, found out the sobering truth in December of last year: Torn meniscus; career over.
Backtrack a little to the start of this season, and the Stars knew Bishop was a risky bet, so they signed Capitals goalie Braden Holtby in free agency to a one-year deal. He and Khudobin traded starts pretty evenly in the net. If Bishop got healthy, he’d be third.
Well, in December of last year, Bishop got the aforementioned bad news. Not long after, the Stars waived Khudobin who had suddenly lost his form and then got injured. They were left with Holtby, a solid number one net minder, and Jake Oettinger, a call-up from the AHL team, as his backup.
Then in January, Holtby got hurt and landed on the IR, and Oettinger was the last man standing. He’s stepped up big, going 30-15-1 this season with a .914 save percentage. That’s some focused work for a guy who had three franchise-type goalies in front of him to start the year.
Dallas Stars will need some magic
If the Dallas Stars are going to give the Flames a run, it’s going to take solid goaltending and scoring. And that’s where the Stars will need some magic. After the first line, the play dries up quickly.
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have to produce, which they haven’t done much. This isn’t new for the Stars though. In the past few years, their playoff runs have all been the unexpected result of scrappy play, hard-nosed hockey, and a timely goal or two.
That team’s still there. Let’s hope they flip the switch at the right time.