The Dallas Stars begin their final road trip of the season with a stop in Vancouver to face the Canucks on Monday night.
Stars Still Have a Lot of Work to Do
Let’s flashback to March of 2018 for a moment. The Stars were considered a lock to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a team that could make a serious run for the Final. Then, a 6-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks sparked a winless six-game road trip, an 0-6-2 stretch, and a 7-12-4 run. Dallas was eliminated from the playoffs shortly after in what was one of the largest collapses in the NHL’s salary-cap era. What does this mean? With seven games still remaining and a three-game western Canadian road swing starting tonight, there is still plenty of work to be done.
“Until we see that ‘X’ beside our name in the playoffs, we just gotta keep pushing,” Rick Bowness said.
They will need to keep pushing through three road games in four nights up in the great north before heading back to Dallas for four straight at the American Airlines Center. Currently, the Stars have a three-point cushion on the Vegas Golden Knights and sit in the top wild card ahead of the Nashville Predators simple due to playing one fewer game.
So yes, they are in a good spot. Yes, they have been playing pretty good hockey and keeping that intensity high. But, they cannot afford to take their foot off the gas for even a second because if they do, this league is very unforgiving.
“Getting points is important,” Joe Pavelski said. “When you have a chance to do that, even if you haven’t played your best, you need to get the points. We understand how close this is and that it could come down to one or two games at the end of the year.”
Dallas Looks to Continue ‘Playoff-Style Hockey’
The last week or so of the season has felt like the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Every turning point within the game feels that much bigger and the pressure is continuing to mount on Dallas as they try to secure points on their end while watching the other scores around the league. With this increased pressure, comes the need to remain calm and take things one shift at a time.
“Just stay in the moment,” Bowness said when asked how he addresses his team during these swings. “There is a lot of things that happen during a game that you can’t control. Control what we can control and stay in the moment. We knew we had a couple of not great shifts out there so you’ve got to recover from that, you’ve got to move on and get ready for the next shift.”
There is no doubt that these final seven games will feature some playoff intensity and Dallas will need to bring it to secure their spot in the final 16.
Canucks Scouting Report
Vancouver is one of the four teams remaining on the Stars schedule that will not make the playoffs this season. Yes, they are still mathematically alive, but with a seven-point gap between them and Dallas/Nashville, it is more than unlikely. With that being said, this team is playing some good hockey as of late and has been a different club since hiring Bruce Boudreau as their coach in December. The Canucks are 6-2-2 in their last 10 and have won five straight games heading into tonight. Their latest, a 7-1 spanking of the Arizona Coyotes in which forward J.T. Miller tallied five assists.
“It’s just one of those games, I guess, where we seem to have open ice a little bit and guys are driving the net,” Miller said of his line with Podkolzin and Chiasson. “I’m just passing it to them, they’re the ones putting it in the net.”
Miller has led the Canucks throughout the season with 91 points in 73 games. He also tallied four points in the two previous matchups with Dallas this season.
- Vladislav Namnestnikov did not make the trip and is still nursing a lower-body injury
- Dallas recalled 24-year-old forward Frederik Karlstrom from the Texas Stars. Karlstrom has 29 points in 65 games at the AHL level this season.
- Joel Kiviranta will jump into the lineup and Jacob Peterson will come out
He Said It
“That’s how it’s going to be the rest of the way here,” said Oettinger after Saturday’s win over San Jose. “That team isn’t in the playoff picture, but guys are working for jobs next year. It’s not going to be an easy game seeing that everyone wants to do well at the end of the year, and we’re gonna have to get used to that.”
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!