3 Takeaways From Stars’ Game 6 Loss to Kraken

The Dallas Stars are headed to a decisive Game 7 on home ice at American Airlines Center after dropping a 6-3 Game 6 contest against the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night. Interestingly, just like their first series against the defending Stanley Cup champion, Colorado Avalanche, the Kraken are not done fighting, earning the right to play their second consecutive winner-take-all contest. 

Meanwhile, the Stars are back in a Game 7 for the first time since 2019-20 when they eliminated the Avalanche in the second round en route to an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Historically, since relocating to Dallas for the start of the 1993-94 season, the club is 3-5 in Game 7 situations, only beating the Avalanche (three times) while losing to the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, and St. Louis Blues (twice). 

Now with the series knotted up at three wins a piece, neither team is feeling the pressure to win; however, after Saturday night’s loss, it is safe to say that the Stars have a lot on the line in front of their home crowd for Game 7. Let’s discuss what happened in Game 6 with a few takeaways.

Stars Never Found Momentum After Giving Up the First Goal

During the Kraken’s series with the Avalanche, they opened the scoring in all seven games, skating away with a victory in Game 7. Thus far in their matchup with the Stars, they only tallied the game’s first goal in Game 3, which turned into a 7-3 victory at Climate Pledge Arena. Ultimately, the Stars came out flat and were outshot 9-4 in the first period. Eventually, the Kraken collected a 4-0 lead before Dallas scored once, ultimately putting the game out of reach after two periods.

Jake Oettinger Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On Saturday night, despite starting strong immediately off the opening faceoff, the Stars didn’t keep the momentum in their favor, which allowed Seattle to strike first, igniting a crowd waiting to celebrate. Although Mason Marchment tied the game 31 seconds later, the Kraken would take the lead into the second and tack on two extra goals early in the next frame to make it 4-1. Furthermore, head coach Pete Deboer pulled his All-Star goalie Jake Oettinger, giving him a mental break from the relentless Kraken team.

Even though each team added goals in the third period, the energy in the building was electric, and the Stars never got their game going to make it a tighter contest in the dying minutes. Outside of Joel Kiviranta’s late goal, the Stars’ best chance came early in the period but ended with a goal post. If the Stars are serious about advancing, they need to come out strong in Game 7, not allowing Seattle any chance of building momentum, or it could be another stormy night.

Jake Oettinger is Fighting Himself and the Kraken

Until this second-round series against the Kraken, Oettinger had a 4-1 record against the latest expansion club, with a .901 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.83 goals-against average (GAA). Thus far in this series, he’s given up 21 goals, been pulled twice, and is currently sporting a .865 SV% and 4.20 GAA. 

Since Oettinger is considered an elite goalie in today’s NHL, continuously ranking among the top ten in most goalie statistical categories, his performance in this round has been shocking. Conversely, his numbers from Round 1 against the Minnesota Wild were 4-0, 13 goals against, .921 SV%, and a 2.10 GAA.

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Former goalies turned analysts often talk about a mental block that developed against specific teams, and no matter how good they played, they couldn’t get a win. Right now, the Kraken are deeply embedded in Oettinger’s mind because he’s overthinking his movements, losing his angles, and getting beat cleanly on several back-breaking goals. Now, the blame doesn’t lie squarely on his shoulders; however, as the last line of defense on a team with some great defenders, he needs to put these lopsided games behind him and prepare for the most formidable challenge in his young career. 

The Stars Rely Too Heavy on Joe Pavelski for Offense

Almost every game, Joe Pavelski tips home a goal and continues to rewrite the NHL record book for anyone over 38. However, that’s a glaring flaw in the Stars’ game plan. As exciting as it is to see him on a tear at this stage of his career, he shouldn’t have to carry the offense by himself.

So far in this postseason, Tyler Seguin has nine points through 13 games, with just three points in the second round. Additionally, Jason Robertson, who potted 109 points during the regular season, picked up his fifth point of the series (all assists) in Game 6, bringing his playoff total to just 12. Now, anyone would be fortunate enough to produce at almost a point-per-game average; however, these two players collected most of their points in the first round and can’t find the back of the net against a tough Kraken team. 

Meanwhile, the Stars have 23 points from their defensemen, with Miro Heiskanen leading the pack with nine. Ultimately, he’s playing through a facial injury which explains why he’s got only three points in this series, but he led all defensemen in team scoring by 48 points during the regular season. Realistically, the Stars do not rely on their rearguards contributing on offense; however, if no one else is chipping in goals and assists, the lack of production outside of Pavelski and Roope Hintz may cost the team in a must-win situation. 

Historically, the home team would be favored to walk away victorious in Game 7; however, the Stars franchise is 6-9 in a winner-take-all game, dating back to their inception in 1967. Thus far in the 2023 Playoffs, the home team is 1-2 in Game 7, with the New Jersey Devils the only team to pull out a win on home ice. Ultimately we will find out who advances to the Western Conference Final on Monday at 8:00 pm EST. 

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