The Dallas Stars are fighting to stay in the playoff race, currently sitting in the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. With 72 games played, they are clawing at every chance they’ve been given as they make their final push for a spot in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The team has had a strong home record and a decent one on the road and both are going to matter as they enter their last 10 games. With 86 points, they are just one point behind the Nashville Predators while the Vegas Golden Knights are also not far behind with 84 points.
With limited time left in the hourglass, what do the Stars need to do in order to clinch a playoff berth?
Stars’ Offensive Game
Dallas’ top line of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski has been on fire offensively since the beginning of the season. They have carried the team into playoff contention, leading the team in points, but they can’t do it alone. Every line needs to contribute.
Other players have been showing up too, including newcomer Marian Studenic, who is coming into his own, especially against the New York Islanders on April 5 when he opened the scoring. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have also become more balanced in their scoring and Miro Heiskanen is back after missing 11 games, seemingly healthy after battling an illness. Finally, goaltender Jake Oettinger has been solid in net for the team, sporting a .914 save percentage (SV%).
“I think everyone here is all-in now. You can’t sit here worrying about it and then look back in a month and be like ‘Aw, I wish everyone stayed’ or this or that. Guys are in. Guys want to make the playoffs.”– Stars forward Joe Pavelski
There’s no doubt that the Stars are hungry and head coach Rick Bowness knows it, too.
“When we met with the team at the start of March, we said, ‘Our best hockey is ahead of us,'” Bowness said. “To come out of March 9-5 with 11 of those games without Miro, we knew going into the month that we had to stay in the fight for that playoff spot, and we have done that.”
Every line has to play with as much grit as the top line, especially the players who have been chasing the Stanley Cup since they joined the team.
Stars’ Veterans Stepping Up
Pavelski is rapidly making a name for himself on the Stars’ roster, shining on the top line with the most points on the team at 72. But that doesn’t mean that other big names on the Stars’ roster have faded into the background. Seguin and Benn have put up more points and have earned their ice time in recent matches. Benn looks more like a captain and Seguin has been on the puck more than he has ever been with 45 points, 22 of which are goals.
After renewing his contract, John Klingberg seems to have found his footing again, showing why the team decided to keep him in Texas. He’s sitting with 43 points (six goals, 37 assists) and may be the team’s key defensive asset in this final stretch of games. However, Alexander Radulov is one veteran who has been disappointing. The forward only has 21 points on the season and hasn’t stood out very much throughout. He was once one of the team’s leaders but has lost his offensive grit and aggressive playing style. If the pieces are going to come together for the Stars, everyone needs to pull their weight.
Consistency is the Stars’ Kryptonite
The one thing the Stars have struggled with this season is their lack of consistency. They can have a really solid game followed by a terrible performance. They’ve lost three of their last five games. They had an abysmal game against the New Jersey Devils on April 9 and lost 3-1. Then on April 10, the Stars bounced back with a 6-4 win against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The top line dominated as expected, with two goals from Robertson and one each from Hintz and Pavelski. Veterans Benn and Seguin each had a goal as well. The power-play unit came alive and the Stars started to look like a real playoff team.
The Stars are a resilient group, despite their often hectic style. The race for the wild-card spot is tight, and it will only get tighter as they only have a short time frame to rack up as many points as they can, all while keeping their consistency in check.
Stars’ Home Ice Advantage
With an intense stretch of home games coming up for the Stars, they are set to take full advantage of their seven matches taking place inside the American Airlines Center. They are 22-10-2 at home — with the potential to finish with one of the best home records in franchise history. The players’ at-home numbers are elite too. Oettinger has a 17-6-0 record and the top line of Hintz, Robertson and Pavelski have combined for 34 points, which is essentially a point-per-game pace. Benn and Denis Gurianov have also improved their home scoring, with the captain having 28 points in 34 games and Gurianov having 21 points in 30 games.
And the fans have been rooting for the team on home ice too. The echoing cheers fill the inside of the home arena and fuel the players and staff.
You should have an advantage. We definitely enjoy playing here, and we get the match-ups we want, and we feel good with the crowd there and just being home, so we need to take advantage.– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
The stakes are higher than ever, but the Stars are in a perfect position to go all the way in their next few games on home ice in a barn flooded with a sea of green. Based on their home record, their best hockey should be ahead of them.
Who is The Stars’ Biggest Threat?
While the Stars are nipping at the coattails of the Predators for that first wild card spot, the real threat seems to be the Golden Knights. They’ve been swapping back and forth with them for what feels like months now. But the Stars are poised for upcoming at-home matchups, against teams they should be confident against. But Vegas has similar at-home stats, with a 21-14-3 record, so they should not be underestimated. The fight for the wild card spot is still a close one, but if the Stars can play the rest of their season as they did in their most recent game against the Chicago Blackhawks, they may just leave the Predators in their dust.
These last couple of weeks of the season will truly determine if the Stars can clinch a spot in the playoffs and extend their games into the Spring. If the team can rely on their top-line heavyweights and keep the rest of their roster, including their goaltenders, healthy, the Stars will be unstoppable. Fans will have to make some extra noise as their favourite team makes its final playoff push in these last 10 matches of the regular season. However, only time will tell if that will be enough to end up with a spot in the postseason.
Raylene Lung is a journalist based in Ottawa and has a Masters of Journalism from Carleton University. She has previously written for The Victory Press, The Hockey News, Canadian Geographic and most recently worked at CBC Edmonton. She still reads magazines religiously and loves women’s hockey. When she isn’t writing, she is riding her horse. She currently covers the Dallas Stars for The Hockey Writers.