After Friday night’s 2-1 Dallas Stars victory over the Blues, they are now 11 wins away from hockey immortality. Therefore, I thought it would be fitting to review 11 different reasons why the Cup will come back to Dallas.
Dallas Stars Reasons 1-4
1.) Depth, depth and more depth. While the Dallas Stars might lack a Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith type defenseman, they do have eight defensemen who have played significant NHL minutes this season. If we include Jamie Oleksiak, make it nine. At forward the Stars have been able to absorb Tyler Seguin’s injury without skipping a beat. Saturday the Stars recalled Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie from the Texas Stars as extra reinforcements.
2.) Strength of Opponent. Of the remaining teams in the West, only Dallas has won a Cup before (1999). Coming into the playoffs many people assumed Chicago or Los Angeles (combined to win five of the last six Cups) would be too strong. However, Chicago and Los Angeles lost in the first round of the playoffs. Of the remaining teams in the East, only Pittsburgh has won a Cup in the modern era (2009).
3.) Coach Lindy Ruff doesn’t have a Cup on his resume, but of the remaining coaches he trails only Blues coach Ken Hitchcock in career regular season wins. He is fifth all time in wins with 702 career wins. While Cup experience isn’t everything, if Dallas gets by the Blues, only Nashville’s Peter Laviolette has his name on the Cup. He won behind the bench with Carolina in 2006.
4.) The Stars roster has the right blend of veterans with Cup experience (Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Antti Niemi, Tyler Seguin and Alex Goligoski) mixed with hungry veterans who don’t have one and younger players who aren’t in awe of the playoff environment. None of the other remaining teams in the West can match the Stars’ veteran Cup experience.
Dallas Stars Reasons 5-7
5.) There has been a lot scrutiny and debate about the Stars Goaltending situation.
The reality is they have two capable goalies. While neither Kari Lehtonen of Niemi are considered big name, superstar goalies they combined to win more games than any other goalie this season. Yes, even Braden Holtby. Niemi has Cup experience and Lehtonen, after beating the Minnesota Wild, has the monkey off his back.
6.) Jamie Benn is the most complete player in the NHL. The only thing he is missing is a Cup. While I wasn’t a huge fan of his cross-checking penalty early in Game 1 against the Blues best defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, he was sending a message. This series will be a battle. So far behind Benn’s leadership the Stars are winning the battle.
7.) Jason Spezza has never looked better. A former second overall NHL Draft pick in 2001. Spezza is thriving in his second season in DFW. Prior to the move he spent his entire career in Ottawa under a microscope. The former Senators captain was one of three Dallas Stars to exceed 30 goals this season and averages more than a point per game in the playoffs over his career. He came close to winning the Cup once but lost to Anaheim in 2007.
Dallas Stars Reasons 8-11
8.) Impressive rookies Radek Faksa and Stephen Johns joined Dallas during the second half of the season. Both made immediate impacts and have continued their success in the playoffs. Ruff has praised both players and hasn’t hesitated to give them ice time in crucial situations.
9.) As Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill has said many times, this is the Stars time. Something tells me he’s sick and tired of hearing about other great organizations and he wants this Stars team to go ahead and grab the Cup.
10.) John Klingberg’s debute with the Stars last season led to hints of a Sergei Zubov comparison. Silky smooth with the puck Klingberg brings an element of skill from the backend that hadn’t been seen in DFW since the great Sergei Zubov. After a fantastic rookie season, Klingberg now in his second season and first playoff appearance is looking more and more comfortable with each game. If he can outperform the Blues defensemen the Stars will be in the Western Conference finals.
11.) It’s a big IF right now but if Tyler Seguin comes back at some point the Stars will be even more dangerous. Seguin should also have extra motivation to prove his playoff numbers in Boston were a fluke.