The Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars wrap up their season series by playing four games over the next six days. Dallas dominated in the first four meetings, outscoring the Wings 14-7 while posting a 3-1 record against Detroit. Over the last 10 games, the Stars have been the hottest team in the Discover Central Division, earning 14 out of a possible 20 points to climb back into playoff contention.
As the Stars look to continue their winning ways against the Wings, I sat down with Dallas contributor, Sam Nestler, to discuss the upcoming series and how the teams are on the opposite sides of the playoff push. Here is our conversation, as well as our predictions for the four games ahead.
Stars Surging Toward Success
Question: The Stars have been one of the hottest teams in the Central, going 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. What has been the key to their recent surge up the standings?
Sam: The thing that has stood out most is the resurgence of Jamie Benn. He has eight points in 10 games and looks like the captain of old. He moved back to center due to injury for the past week, which has led to him having the puck more, and he is winning battles, finding teammates, and finishing at the net.
Another big one is making the key save at the right time, and the goal or bounce at the right time, which has eluded Dallas so much this season, have finally been in their favor.
Dallas’ Defense Dominates Detroit
Q: Dallas is 3-1 against Detroit this season, outscoring the Wings 14-7 in their first four matchups. Why do you think the Stars have been so successful against the Wings this season?
Sam: Detroit, as we know, is in a full rebuild, and Dallas is a structured defensive team. It can be really frustrating for any team to play against the Stars, but especially one with not much to play for. Dallas is able to contain the Wings for the most part and frustrate them, and then they have the speed to finish on the other end. Detroit also struggles a lot with breaking out of their own zone, while Dallas plays its best when their forecheck is on, so it feeds right into it.
Jason Robertson’s Detroit Connections
Q: As Red Wings and Stars fans may or may not know, Jason Robertson played his bantam hockey in Detroit before moving on to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Robertson has been incredible this season and has 10 points in his last 10 games. What is it about his game that has translated well at the NHL level?
Sam: Robertson committed to a crazy off-season workout program on and off the ice, and it shows. His real emergence at this level came after he watched a few games from the press box as a healthy scratch. Since then, he has shown extra patience with the puck and looks like one of the most confident players in every game. He is a smart kid with great vision, and he is also one of the Stars’ best possession players. He can hang on and protect pucks but also hound the opponents to get it back, especially along the boards. They miss that without Radulov, so it has been huge for them. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a wicked fast release!
Goalie Duo: Khudobin & Oettinger
Q: In the last month of play, both Stars’ goaltenders — Jake Oettinger and Anton Khudobin — each have four wins and a .922 save percentage (SV%) in 18 games combined. Does Dallas have a number one goalie ready to emerge, or are they content with relying on their current tandem system?
Sam: If you asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have said it was Oettinger. But then Dobby came back and was lights out, looking like he did in the bubble. Right now, they do not have a number one. Head coach Rick Bowness likes to ride the hot goalie, so he usually plays them until they fatigue a bit or their play drops off, then switches it up.
That will be huge down the stretch here because Dobby is a solid backup, and Otter is 22 years old, so putting all the weight of this intense playoff race and a possible playoff run on one of them would be tough.
Stars’ Season on the Line
Q: What does this series mean to the Stars in terms of their playoff push to close out the season?
Sam: Honestly, this series means everything. Dallas only has four home games left and four against the lower end of the division. Their remaining schedule includes their final seven games on the road and every game against the big three (Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, or Florida Panthers) or the two teams they are chasing (Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks). Playing a team that is far out of a playoff spot four times straight could not only jump the Stars into a playoff spot but give them a nice lead if it goes well.
Final Wings/Stars Predictions
Q: What are your predictions for the upcoming four game series?
Sam: With the desperation that Dallas has right now and the way they are playing, a four-game sweep is not out of the question. However, I predict one night will not go their way with how many games they have played lately, so I say Dallas goes 3-1-0 this week.
Kyle: The Stars are the only team the Wings have yet to beat at least twice this season in the Discover Central Division. While the Stars have outplayed Detroit in almost every game, the Wings are playing with a little more confidence down the stretch. Thomas Greiss has played well as of late as Jonathan Bernier was returning from his injury. With back-to-back games, expect to see both goalies in net in Dallas.
I think the Stars will continue to control the flow of play while pushing the Red Wings around in their own zone and agree with Sam that they will likely take three out of the four games. However, I think Detroit will force one of those games into overtime and come away with three out of a possible eight points, finishing the series with a 1-2-1 record.
Thank you so much to Sam for joining me in discussing the final series between the Stars and Red Wings. Detroit will look to play spoiler in Dallas on Monday and Tuesday nights before the two teams head back to Hockeytown for games on Thursday and Saturday.
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Born and raised in Michigan, Kyle Knopp started playing hockey when he was 3 years old. Knopp has played, coached or worked at every level of ice hockey — including three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and two seasons with the Detroit Red Wings where he was part of the Stanley Cup Championship team in 2008. He began covering the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Hockey Writers but will now be contributing for the Red Wings.