The Dallas Stars may have missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year this season, but at least the organization has something to be happy about: the Texas Stars have a chance to bring home a championship as they take on the Toronto Marlies in the Calder Cup Finals.
However, this isn’t how this season was supposed to go. No one is really surprised that the Marlies won the East, but Texas had to defy all expectations on their road to the Finals:
The Stars should have lost to the Ontario Reign in the first round but were rescued by Mike McKenna. They were expected to fall against the Tucson Roadrunners in Round 2 but completed what felt like a five-game sweep against easily the best team in the AHL’s Pacific Division. Things were supposed to fall apart against the IceHogs, who had swept their way through the first two rounds, but Texas once again prevailed in a series that featured four overtime games.
Getting this much playoff experience will do wonders for the development of the organizations’ prospects playing for Texas, such as Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson. But it’s not a surge of youth that’s dragged Texas to the Finals, but rather the opposite:
And none of this happens without Mike McKenna. The 35-year-old goalie has been the backbone of this playoff run and the workhorse that has made overtime possible... In 15 games McKenna has as .940 save percentage and 1.97 goals against average. In 10 overtime periods McKenna has stopped 59 of 61 shots, a .967 save percentage when the game is on the line.
Win or lose against Toronto, we should all feel excited to watch this improbable playoff run take place in Texas.
You can read more in Sean Shapiro’s piece here.
More Stars Stuff
More AHL stuff! Jared Clinton breaks down players to watch in the Calder Cup Finals:
Where does Jason Spezza land on Jonathan Willis’ buyout rankings? I’ll give you a hint: he’s in the top 10. [The Athletic]
Could Ilya Kovalchuk be wearing Victory Green next season? Dallas makes Matt Larkin’s list of potential destinations for the KHL superstar. [The Hockey News]
Is it embarrassing that I didn’t pronounce it either of these ways before?
By the way, it's pronounced ROH-pay HIHNTS. Even though every hockey exec/coach continues to say Roo-pee.— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) May 29, 2018
Stanley Cup Finals
My favored team may not have won, but man was Monday’s Game 1 awesome:
As good as the game was, however, it wasn’t without it’s black spots in the form of horrible missed calls:
Game 1 was everything great and awful and wonderful and exhausting about the NHL, and it’s too bad the NHL doesn’t do anything to rid itself of the awful and exhausting stuff: https://t.co/glwJkA6jku— DL (@davelozo) May 29, 2018
Speaking of which, I understand that there was no head-to-head contact, but this just seems wrong to me:
No hearing for Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson for his penalized hit on Jonathan Marchessault.— Kevin Allen (@ByKevinAllen) May 29, 2018
Leading the over-achieving line is Ryan Reaves, who is having a career renaissance:
Ryan Reaves breathes new life into NHL career https://t.co/DFjpvDOJGX— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) May 29, 2018
Around the League
Kovalchuk isn’t the only KHL star eyeing an NHL return, although Slava Voynov is one playerr who (in my opinion) shouldn’t be given even a chance:
NHL plays waiting game on Slava Voynov reinstatement https://t.co/fjOh41oWJ7— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) May 29, 2018
It’s stuck behind a paywall, but Corey Pronman wrote a really good piece on draft boards and drafting strategy in general:
Speaking of the draft, here’s a blast from the past for you all: