The Dallas Stars season came to an end in overtime of Game 7 in the first-round matchup against the Calgary Flames. In the end, the Stars took games 2,3, and 6 while Calgary won games 1,4,5, and 7 in a much tighter series than most expected.
Stars Offense Struggles
The Stars have not been a high-scoring team over the past few seasons. That trend unfortunately continued and really put them in a tough position in the playoffs. Over the seven games of this series, Dallas only scored 14 goals (2.0 per game). That would have slotted them last during the regular season and put them in 16th out of 16 playoff teams in the first round.
“It’s the style you have to play,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said after Game 2. “Playoff hockey, not a lot of room out there to make a lot of plays. They’re playing hard. We’re playing hard. It’s playoff hockey. Both goaltenders were obviously great, making the big saves. But there’s not much room out there and you’ve got to work for everything you’re going to get.”
The good news is that Calgary was ranked 15th just above them at 2.1 goals per game. While the Stars offense could have produced more, their defense held a very skilled Flames team to just 15 goals in seven games. Playing a top line with three 40-goal scorers and one of the better offensive teams all season (3.5 goals per game, ranked 6th), Dallas should be very proud of what they accomplished.
“Everyone played their hearts out,” Bowness said. “As a coach, that’s all you can ask. Your players give you everything they’ve got, and I’m proud of the effort they gave. I’m proud of the way we battled. They were a better team in the regular season, and they played well [on Sunday]. Give them credit.”
Dallas Power Play Never Finds Their Footing
One aspect of the Stars offense that really struggled was their power play. After ranking in the top 10 for most of the season, the unit hit a skid at the end of the regular season which continued into the playoffs. In the first round, the Stars power play went 2-24 (8.33%). There were many opportunities for them to make a huge difference in a game but they were unable to step up and score a goal. Realistically, their two goals came late in a blowout Game 4 and in the final seconds of a poor power-play chance, so it is safe to say that group did not have their best performance.
“The power play’s getting outworked,” Bowness said. “It’s as simple as that. Their penalty killers had two shots. Our power play had two shots in six minutes. It’s as simple as that.”
The only teams below the Stars were the Calgary Flames (tied at 8.33%) and the Florida Panthers (0%). Again, the Stars were able to overcome these issues and push the series to seven games because they forced their opponents to be just as bad as they were in certain areas. Still, if the power play could have converted just once, Games 4, 5, and 7 could have looked much different and they could be preparing for a second-round matchup with the Edmonton Oilers instead of cleaning out their lockers.
“We believed in each other,” Benn said. “We thought we could win this series. Game 7 overtime, just one shot away.”
Calgary Controlled Much of the Series
When looking at the overall stats and flow of the games, the Flames were mostly the better team. Throughout nearly every game, they dominated the time of possession as well as the shots and scoring chances. After keeping them fairly quiet in Games 1, 2, and 3, the Stars struggled to control their offense for the rest of the series.
“When you’re under pressure you don’t have that time to make crisp plays, and you have to rush things sometimes,” said Tyler Seguin. “I guess the puck was bouncing a little bit, but it was bouncing for both teams. When they were in that offensive zone, they had that momentum. When you’re moving, it’s easier to get that loose puck, and we were kind of standing around.”
Calgary pumped 54 shots in Game 4, 32 in Game 5, 38 in Game 6, and an astonishing 67 in Game 7, 52 of which came in regulation. It was clear that they were the more well-rounded team and when the Stars began to lose bodies towards the end of the series, the ice became even more tilted. Arguably the only reason that this series stretched until overtime in Game 7 was the play of 23-year-old goaltender, Jake Oettinger.
A Star is Born in Jake Oettinger
Jake Oettinger was the Stars playoff MVP. He was also the series MVP. He was also likely the MVP of the entire first round across the league. In his first seven playoff starts, the Minnesota native stopped 285 of 299 Calgary shots, finishing with a save percentage of .954% and a goals-against-average of 1.81.
These stats are not only incredible for a rookie goaltender but ranked him first in nearly every category. His finest hour came when his team needed him most as Oettinger stopped 64 of 67 shots in Game 7, keeping Dallas alive and pushing them into overtime. It was simply one of the best playoff goaltending performances of all time. His stats were as follows:
- Stars franchise-record 64 saves
- Second-most saves in a Game 7 in NHL history
- 3.75 goals saved above expected
- Franchise record 272 saves in the series, third-most in NHL history
“He played a hell of a game,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “Haven’t seen too many like that. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have been close to overtime and having a chance to win.”
In the 2020 bubble, the world was introduced to Stars top players Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz. In the 2022 playoffs, they were introduced to Jake Oettinger. Although he began the season in the American Hockey League, the young goaltender has blossomed before our eyes into a superstar. Now heading into the offseason, Dallas has no question about who their starting goaltender will be, not only in 2022-23 but for a long time to come.
“Jake Oettinger’s a franchise goalie, and he’s going to get better,” Bowness said. “He’s a young guy, this is his first run through the playoffs and he’s going to gain from his experience. The Dallas Stars are in good shape for a long time with Jake.”
For Jake, the work has just begun. As one of the hardest working and humble guys in the lineup, he knows that he is just scratching the surface of what he can become and what he can help his team accomplish at the NHL level.
“I’ve never been more motivated than I am right now,” Oettinger said. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that I get this opportunity again, and I’ll make sure I’m on the other side of it the next time. I have a lot of stuff I want to work on. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of where I’m going to be one day. That excites me.”
Stars fans, thank you for sticking with me throughout a wild 2021-22 season. Stay tuned all offseason for tons of Stars content both looking back at the season and playoffs as well as looking ahead to the summer and next season. Is it October yet?