After finishing as the second seed in the Central Division and eliminating the Minnesota Wild in five games, the Dallas Stars set their sights on the Seattle Kraken, fresh off knocking out the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche.
As the Stars prepared for Round 2, they got the exciting news that veteran Joe Pavelski, who got injured in the first game of the playoffs, would be returning to the lineup. Whether or not people are rooting for the Stars, after the way Pavelski left the series on a nasty hit, it is a feel-good story that he has returned.
Now, with his veteran leadership back, how would the Stars approach the Kraken, who played on Sunday night in a thrilling Game 7 elimination at Ball Arena in Denver? Unfortunately, the team did not execute as they did in the Wild series, eventually wasting Pavelski’s four-goal game, losing 5-4 in overtime. Here are four takeaways from Game 1.
Jake Oettinger is Human; After All
Despite not winning any hardware yet, many consider Jake Oettinger one of this generation’s best goalies with a record of 78-34-19, a .916 save percentage (SV%), and a 2.42 goals-against average (GAA). Interestingly, his numbers are even more impressive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a .945 SV% and a 1.89 GAA. However, after the Game 1 loss to the Kraken, he’s now 7-7 as a starter in the postseason.
Shockingly, until Tuesday night, Oettinger had never given up five goals in a playoff game, and he didn’t even give up four in a contest until Game 3 against the Wild in Round 1. Realistically, all the greatest goalies have bad games; Patrick Roy gave up seven goals on two occasions, while Martin Brodeur gave up six goals on two occasions. Ultimately, those guys rebounded and had Hall of Fame careers, and although the Stars will only go as far as Oettinger carries them, the Kraken showed the hockey world that he is capable of having a bad game.
As the Stars prepare for their next game, they must limit the shots since the Kraken’s 44 on Tuesday night was the fourth most Oettinger has faced in a playoff game. Heading into the playoffs, he faced 40 or more shots on three occasions during the regular season, all winning. So far, he’s 0-2 in the playoffs when facing 40 or more shots, which shows that even elite players have a limit to their abilities.
Kraken Special Teams Shut Down Intimidating Stars Power Play
Heading into Round 2, the Stars employed the third-best power-play unit in the postseason, clicking at 34.6%, yet went 0-2 on Tuesday night, which played right into the Kraken’s hands, who have killed off 90% of their penalties. Furthermore, Seattle only trails the Carolina Hurricanes (94.4%) for the top spot.
Interestingly, the longer this series goes, special teams will only play a more prominent role and could be the deciding factor in an elimination contest. During the regular season, the Stars scored 64 power-play goals (PPG). Additionally, in the first round of the playoffs, they potted nine PPG in five games against the Wild, with Tyler Seguin collecting four of them.
Considering the Stars only registered 35 shots on goal, they didn’t capitalize in critical moments, including their two power-play opportunities, the second game in a row that they only got two chances on the man advantage. Furthermore, after opening the playoffs with a power-play goal in four straight games, the Stars haven’t scored on the man advantage in the last three.
Stars Shy Away From Physical Contact in Game 1
The Kraken just skated on Sunday night, playing in a nail-biter against the Avalanche with their season on the line. Meanwhile, the Stars haven’t played since April 28, enjoying a three-game break to nurse any bumps and bruises. Therefore, Dallas should have taken advantage of the extra time off and hammered Seattle all over the ice. Instead, they were only credited with 17 hits, tying their lowest total of the 2023 Playoffs.
When they opened the series against the Wild, the Stars collected 50 hits and lost 3-2 in overtime. Ultimately, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a long grind, and the best teams don’t shy away from punishing their opponents, knowing that every hit wears them down.
Interestingly, the Kraken outhit the Avalanche in five of their seven games, which had to factor into why they advanced. During Game 1, the Kraken picked up where they left off, collecting 49 hits compared to the Stars’ 17. Even though the teams traded goals and leads, the Kraken never held back and took every opportunity to take the body. If the Stars are serious about advancing to the final four again, they need to respond to the Kraken’s physicality, or it may cost them.
Joe Pavelski Returns to Lineup, Skates into NHL Record Book
During Game 1 of the Wild series, 17-year veteran Joe Pavelski exited the playoffs with a head injury after a brutal hit from Matt Dumba. Sadly, the moment reminded fans of a similar hit he took in the 2019 Playoffs when he left the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights series in Game 7.
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When dealing with head injuries, there is never a time frame for someone to return since everyone recovers at their own pace. However, Pavelski was in the lineup for Game 1 of the second round, and the heart and soul of the Stars’ dressing room responded by collecting the first four-goal game of his career. While scoring two goals on his own and tipping in two others, he became the oldest player in league history to achieve this feat at 38 years old.
Although many could argue that the Stars wasted his special night by losing in overtime, the positive thing to take away is he’s healthy and contributing. Even if he’s not wearing a letter on his jersey, he’s a veteran that the rest of the team can rally around and hopefully send him into retirement someday with a Stanley Cup ring.
Historically, he’s just the 39th player to score four goals in a playoff game, which should keep the energy up in the room. Ultimately, after his performance in Game 1, the rest of the Stars players will want to win the next one for him since they let him down on Tuesday.
Game 2 of the Stars and Kraken series takes place Thursday at 9:30 pm EST.