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Getting to know the Dallas Stars: Offence, Defence, Goaltending, and Special Teams

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Photo credit:© Yannick Peterhans-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
24 days ago
For the second time in three seasons, the Edmonton Oilers will play in the Western Conference Finals.
As you may recall, the Oilers were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2022 postseason in games much closer than the four-game sweep would indicate. However, they won’t be playing the Avalanche, as they’ll take on the Dallas Stars, a team the Oilers faced back in the playoffs in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003.
Those six playoff series in seven seasons is how Los Angeles Kings fans must feel about the Oilers. In 1997, Curtis Joseph robbed Joe Nieuwendyk with the save of the century in Game 7 overtime before Todd Marchant ended it all. However, this was the high point of the battle between the two teams for the Oilers, as they’d go on to lose the next five series against the Stars.
Fast forward 21 seasons later, and the two teams will battle once again with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line. Let’s preview the Dallas Stars.

Dallas boasts a deep offence with eight different 20-goal scorers

Out of any team that made the postseason, the Dallas Stars are probably the most balanced team. Their centre core consists of Wyatt Johnston, Matt Duchene, Tyler Seguin, and Sam Steel. The first three players had fifty or more points in the postseason, while Steel, a fourth-line centre, had nine goals and 24 points. Johnston leads the team in postseason goals with seven.
The team is deep on the wings, too. Jason Robertson led the team in points with 29 goals and 80 points and has three goals and 12 points this postseason. He plays alongside Wyatt Johnston and Logan Stankoven, a fairly young line.
Mason Marchment had 22 goals and 53 points and plays alongside veteran Joe Pavelski (27 goals, 67 points, and he’s 39) and Matt Duchene. Veteran and captain Jamie Benn plays with Seguin, part of the older core, along with Evgeny Dadonov, who had 12 goals and 23 points in 51 games.
Even their fourth line of Radek Faska, Steel, and Craig Smith is a useful scoring line, as Faska had seven goals and 19 points, while Smith had 11 goals and 20 points. This doesn’t even mention Roope Hintz, who is considered day-to-day and had 30 goals and 65 points in 80 games this past season.
It’s a very deep team, but they lack a true superstar in their offence core.

Miro Heiskanen, Chris Tanev lead the Stars’ blueline

As you can imagine, the Stars’ defence is also pretty strong.
Making up their first pairing is Thomas Harley, who scored 15 goals and 47 points in 79 games this season, but has just two assists in 13 games in the postseason. Still, despite the lack of postseason points, he’s one of the best up-and-coming defencemen in the league.
The same cannot be said for his defence partner, Miro Heiskanen. The left-shot defenceman playing on his off-side leads the Stars in the postseason with 13 points, along with five goals. He’s an underrated defenceman and one of the best in the league.
Their second pair consists of Esa Lindell, who had five goals and 26 points in the regular season and a goal and an assist in 13 postseason games. By his side is former Calgary Flame Chris Tanev, a shot-blocking machine who the Oilers were apparently interested in around the trade deadline.
Veteran Ryan Suter plays on the left side of the third pairing, but his usual partner, Jani Hakanpää, is out day-to-day, leading the Stars to call up former Oiler Alex Petrovic. 
Okay, can we talk about how awful that trade was? Why would Peter Chiarelli trade a third-round pick in for a sixth defenceman in a year where the Oilers weren’t going to make the playoffs? The player, a defencemen named John Ludvig, has just three goals and five points in 33 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but oh boy, that trade was one of Chiarelli’s worst.
Tangent aside, the Stars have a strong defence core as well, and it’s totally capable of shutting McDavid down, so it’s essential for the Oilers to split him and Leon Draisaitl up.

Mar 24, 2024; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) looks on against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Mullett Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Goaltender Jake Oettinger has been strong during the playoffs

Jake Oettinger had a rough 2023 postseason, posting an .895 save percentage and a 3.06 goals-against average in 19 games played. Unfortunately for the Oilers, he has rebounded in a big way as he has a .918 save percentage and 2.09 goals-against average in 13 games played.
It’s a strong defence core in front of him, but he also happens to be one of the best young netminders in the league and has saved his best for the postseason. He’s going to be a tough nut to crack, but so was Jacob Markström during the 2022 postseason.
As you can imagine with Oettinger’s strong play, backup Scott Wedgewood has yet to get into a postseason game so far.

Dallas has a strong power play but a penalty kill that can be exposed

Everyone knows about the Edmonton Oilers’ power play. This postseason, they have converted 37.5% of the time on the man advantage. The Stars also have a similar power play, scoring 29% of the time.
However, this series will come down to how good of a job teams do with the penalty kill. The Oilers have not gotten the credit they deserve so far this postseason. They have a league’s best 91.4% penalty kill percentage, allowing just three goals on 34 attempts. 
On the other hand, the Stars have a 69.2% percentage. That’s partially due to running into the wagon that is the Colorado Avalanche power play (36.7% success rate). If the Stars can’t control the Oilers’ power play, it’ll be hard for them to win this series, especially if Edmonton’s penalty kill remains strong.
If you’re wondering, the Oilers lead the postseason with 28 five-on-five goals and have allowed 29 five-on-five goals. Realistically, they need to be average five-on-five and win the special team battle.

Speaking of the Colorado Avalanche…

The Edmonton Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche are similarly built. They have a top 3 player in the league (Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon), a big scoring forward (Leon Draisaitl, Mikko Rantanen), and an unstoppable power forward (Zach Hyman, Valeri Nichuskin). 
It’s not a perfect comparison. The Oilers have a little more depth up front with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, while the Colorado Avalanche have a very deep backend carried by Cale Makar. Evan Bouchard is a comparable player but is a step down on the talent level.
After Game 3 in the second round, the Avalanche lost Nichushkin due to a six-month suspension. At the time, he was tied with Hyman with the league lead in goals with nine. If Nichushkin wasn’t suspended, who knows what would have happened in that series.
Can the Stars fend off another team with two superstar talents, a fantastic defenceman, and weak goaltending? Time will tell, but special teams will be a big factor in this series.

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