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Afterwords: Statement Game

Credit: Tim Heitman / Dallas Stars

When the Dallas Stars fell in Game 1 to the Minnesota Wild in double overtime, they responded by dominating the Wild in Game 2 to a score of 7-3.

On Tuesday, the Dallas Stars in Game 2, after taking the Seattle Kraken in overtime in game 1, responded by dominating the Kraken to a score of 4-2.

Now, if you didn’t watch the game, you might look at that statement and think, “Wait, that can’t be right.” After all, how could the Stars have dominated in just a two-goal game? Why compare it to one in which they scored almost twice as many goals?

Well, just look at the #fancystats:

Now, I wouldn’t call myself an analytics expert. I certainly don’t run some fancy-shmancy model like some of our friends on Twitter. Nor can I expertly breakdown and integrate analytics into my writing like colleague David Castillo, who’s a professional writer for a reason.

But even a grade schooler can understand the concept of “greater than zero = good, less than zero = bad.” And hoo boy, is that a lot of Stars players shown as greater than zero. Only four players had any sort of negative impact in an area of their game, one of which being (somehow) Joe Pavelski on offense, despite scoring the game-winner. Even the Stars’ “weakest” skater, Radek Faksa, graded out as clearly positive.

Now compare that to the players’ GameScore in Game 1, and you can see exactly why this game is in the same category as Game 2 against Minnesota, even if the scoreboard is a bit misleading. The Stars were so dominant, in fact, that per, the Stars registered a whopping 97.6% on their “deserve-to-win” meter.

So if you didn’t watch the game, now you have the numbers to prove how incredible the Stars were last night. Of course, I’d wager (almost) all of you reading this did watch, because you’re all Stars playoff hockey junkies. In which case, you didn’t really need to see the fancy stats, because the good ol’ eye-test did the trick as well.

The Stars’ superior play could be seen as early as the first period. Although neither team failed to score, the Stars’ more than doubled the Kraken’s shots on net, along with some near misses. Jake Oettinger had to make a nice save here and there, but as a whole, Dallas was responding well to the Game 1 loss.

And then the second period happened, and the flood gates opened. Dallas went on the power play early thanks to a bizarre sequence that saw Carson Soucy earn two distinct minor penalties while Mason Marchment was called for embellishment, but only on one. The first unit failed to score, and so it was up to the second unit in the last 30 seconds or so.

Now, as anyone who’s ever been to a hockey game knows, there are fans that love to yell “Shoot!” when the home team is on the power play. As if the players aren’t quite sure what to do with the puck, and need a not-so-friendly reminder to get back on track.

Of course, sometimes this can be warranted – there is such a thing as passing around the puck too much, waiting for the “perfect” opportunity instead of getting quality chances on net and either hoping for a rebound or that one manages to slip by. But in general, the main advantage of the power play is the man advantage, which allows the team to set up scoring chances that simply couldn’t happen on 5-on-5.

It was this exact kind of patience that set the stage for Wyatt Johnston’s opening goal:

Rather than force a shot on net as the power play expired, the Stars continued to cycle the puck around. Daniel Sprong – who was serving the additional minor for Soucy – came out of the box, but he still had to get back to the defensive zone before the Kraken could transition back to a traditional 5-on-5 defense.

During this time, Max Domi passed the puck cross-ice to Colin Miller, who now had a clear shot at the net as the Kraken’s defenders had to shift back over. He fired the puck, Philipp Grubauer couldn’t corral it, and Johnston pounced on the rebound. It was technically an even-strength goal, but for all purposes it came on the power play.

Semantics aside, that goal served as a catalyst for both the Stars and their fans. The building was simply buzzing as the Stars began to dominate their will over the Kraken. It took a little over five minutes for Dallas to score their second goal, and honestly it felt like too long given the way they were playing (remember the #fancystats?)

That goal, by the way, came from Round 1 superstar Evgenii Dadonov, who, according to my sources, scored the first playoff wraparound goal for Dallas in over 500 years. In fact, it was so unbelievable that he managed to score on such a play that the referees didn’t even call it a goal at first – they only signaled after Jamie Benn sent it back into the net, which sadly robbed us of the Horn of Doom.

It was looking like a perfect period, ruined only by AHL Rookie of the Year Tye Kartye, who managed to snipe one top shelf past both Miro Heiskanen and Jake Oettinger. Yes, there was a bad shift change from the Stars’ other defenders, but it was a goal Oettinger probably wanted back, and it posed a risk of breathing life back into a Kraken team that looked to be on the ropes.

But it didn’t – five minutes later, Will Borgen went to the box for a WWE takedown holding, putting Dallas back on the power play. This time, they scored before time expired, and somehow in the middle of a shift change – Heiskanen recovered the puck on a clear and helped send it back up ice. Pavelski then found his adopted son Johnston open, who proceeded to bull-rush Grubauer. He got a shot off after a spin-o-rama, and this time it was Pavelski there to clean-up for his team-leading 5th goal of the postseason.

That put the bow on what really was a “perfect period,” minus the hiccup by Oettinger. And while the third period tipped in Seattle’s favor as far as scoring chances, the Stars still looked largely in control of the game. Whether it was Oettinger making a razor-thin save or Tyler Seguin scoring a Pavelsi-like tip to tie him for the team lead, everything seemed to go Dallas’ way.

Well, almost everything – in the offensive zone, Heiskanen broke his stick on a shot and was then immediately forced to skate back and defend against a rush the other way. Maybe he could have detoured slightly to grab one from the bench, but he didn’t, and one of the NHL’s best stick-handlers was forced to defend against Jordan Eberle. Eberle took full advantage of the situation, and beat Oettinger in what was yet another damper on an otherwise incredible goaltending performance.

And so, at the end of the game, the score was 4-2. At first glance, it was a nice, solid win from the higher seed, rebounding after dropping Game 1 at home. In reality, it was a dominating performance where the score differential should have been much greater. But it doesn’t really matter – at the end of the day, a win is a win.

… or does it? Last series, the Stars followed up their outstanding Game 2 with one of their worst performances of the season. But if Dallas can keep this momentum going into Seattle, then maybe this wasn’t just a win – perhaps it’ll be the tipping point for the whole series.