The Dallas Stars wrap up their 2021-22 regular season with a home game against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.
Stars Have Clinched But Have Work to Do
The Stars clinched a playoff berth with one point in an overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday. However, they still have the ability to catch Nashville for the top wild card on the final day of the season. Basically, 8th place would put them against the conference champion Colorado Avalanche and keep them in the Central Division, which seems tougher, while 7th would see them fly to Calgary to take on the Flames and fight on the Pacific side of the bracket.
“We want to win the game,” head coach Rick Bowness said. “We have a chance to move into 7th. We will count on Arizona winning tonight but we want to go in 7th place no question, we want more.”
On top of seeding, Dallas wants to play well tonight to head into the playoffs with some confidence. The group has lost four of the last six games and watched as the 31st-placed Arizona Coyotes scored four straight goals in the third period and overtime to overcome a 3-0 Stars lead and win the game.
“60 minutes of playing the right way, like we did for 40 [against Arizona],” Bowness said. “We need to play 60 minutes like that. It’s good habits. I am not a believer in once the playoffs start, you flick a switch, and all of the sudden you are playing, I am not a believer in that. You play the right way. We are going to play to win this game.”
Stars’ Playoff Scenarios
There a two possible opponents for the Stars and a few ways that tonight can go to lead them into their first round. Dallas currently trails Nashville by one point. The Preds own the first tiebreaker so the Stars would need to finish with more points in order to take over 7th. The only way that can happen is if Dallas defeats Anaheim tonight in any fashion and the Predators lose in regulation to the Arizona Coyotes. In any other scenario, the Stars will finish in 8th and prepare for a flight to Denver. Either way, they will take on a team they defeated during their 2020 playoff run in Edmonton.
“We are starting on the road, so we will figure it out as the game goes on,” Bowness said when asked about handling the top lines of Calgary or Colorado. “Then, when we come back here for game 3, we will dictate at that point.”
Ducks Scouting Report
The Ducks are far from a playoff spot but pose a dangerous threat due to their high skill and speed of play. Trevor Zegras is the most recognizable name in Anaheim, and for good reason. The 21-year-old rookie has had a great season full of points (23 goals, 60 points), highlight-reel goals (see below), and his first appearance at an All-Star game (in the skills competition.)
Linemates Sonny Milano and Troy Terry are also dangerous players for Anaheim and the kids had some success against Dallas in the two-game series in California at the end of March.
“The new USA hockey model is so much about skill work and individual,” Ryan Suter said of the success of young players in the league this season. “It’s fun for me, I don’t know what the other older guys think but I think it’s great for the game, and for the fans, and my kids love it.”
- Jake Oettinger will start in net. He has a 29-15-1 record on the season
- John Klingberg will be out with a lower-body injury but is expected to be fully ready for Game 1 of the playoffs. Joel Hanley will jump into the lineup
- Jacob Peterson, Frederik Karlstrom, and Andrej Sekera will be healthy scratches
He Said It
“Absolutely, we are very excited about playing here,” Bowness said about having fans back for playoff games after the 2020 bubble. “Our crowds have been fantastic all year. The playoffs will ramp it up to another level. Two years ago, we played Nashville and St. Louis and the building was just rocking every night and we are looking forward to that again. That bubble experience, it was weird. You are playing for the Stanley Cup and there is nobody there, there is no atmosphere, that is weird, I don’t want to do that again. This is far better.”
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!