Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs couldn’t have gone much better than it did for the Dallas Stars.
From start to finish, Dallas outplayed the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, and it was never really close. The Stars came out fast, focused and aggressive, spurred onwards by a raucous home crowd. They outshot the Wild 32-22 in the game, including 14-2 in the first period, as they skated away with a comfortable 4-0 victory to take a 1-0 series lead.
Things looked even better from on individual levels. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who has struggled in his playoff career, stopped all 22 shots that he faced for the shutout. Stars captain Jamie Benn picked up a goal and two helpers. Talented veteran Jason Spezza continued his recent torrent pace, scoring his fourth goal over his past two games.
The Wild, quite frankly, looked bad. They surrendered six powerplays throughout the night, and if they managed a single legitimate scoring chance in the game it’s hard to remember when and how it happened. In their defense, the team was missing three of its top forwards (Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek and Eric Haula), but for the rest of their team to come out flatter than the Saskatchewan prairies for their opening game of the playoffs is kind of unbelievable.
Despite how well things went for them in the series opener, however, the last thing that the Stars should do right now is get too comfortable.
On one hand, sure, the Wild are now losers of six straight games, heading back to the regular season. Nothing is going right for the team lately, and they’re spinning their tires in terms of gaining momentum.
And yet, on the other hand, no team should ever get too comfortable, especially in the playoffs. All it takes is one bad game, or sometimes even just one egregious mistake, to suddenly turn the flow of energy in the favor of the other team.
This is only exacerbated by the fact that, their recent struggles aside, this is largely the same Minnesota team that has upset the Central Division champions in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, topping the Colorado Avalanche in seven games in 2014 and then the St. Louis Blues in six games last year. Netminder Devan Dubnyk is a goalie that’s capable of single-handedly stealing games, while Ryan Suter still remains one of the top defensemen in all of hockey. At some point or another this team is inevitably going to win again.
If the Wild can find a way to eke out a victory in Game 2, and head back to Minnesota tied at one game apiece? All of a sudden it’s a whole new series
Dallas played an incredible game on Thursday night, sending a strong message to the rest of the league that they are serious about doing some major damage in the playoffs this year. But it takes sixteen wins to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, not one, so the Stars will need to continue channeling that same killer instinct consistently and not lose focus if they want go truly go the distance.