Afterwords: Sick to the Stomach
The Stars were the better team yesterday. They're also down 0-2 against Vegas. And that sucks.
I'm not sure I have any words.
I mean, the fact that you're reading this right now is proof that yes, I have managed to come up with words to describe yesterday's loss. But I'm not sure I can come up with some hard-hitting analysis, or a break-down of some key plays in the game. Whenever I try to think about the game, I just get a bit knot in my stomach, which sort of deflates any enthusiasm I have about revisiting this game.
Still, this is my job. Kind of. So while it might be another word vomit, I'll at least try and convey my feelings in a semi-readable way. Who knows, maybe it will resonate with you as readers more that way.
Let's start with an unequivocal truth: the Dallas Stars were the better team yesterday. Full stop. They completely suffocated the Vegas Golden Knights offense, holding them to ten shots on net throughout the first forty minutes. After coming out flat in Game 1, Miro Heiskanen scored early in the game to give Dallas an early lead.
For most of the game, their sole goal against was a result of a rare two minute 5-on-3 power play, and they were later able to reclaim their lead with a power play goal of their own. There were some mistakes here and there – I think Thomas Harley in particular had it rough early on – and the Golden Knights had some great opportunities, but there weren't many. Those that were there were swallowed up by Jake Oettinger.
And then... the goal. Look, believe it or not, I don't want to rag on Ryan Suter. Not because he doesn't deserve it, but because literally everyone else in the NHL has already done it. The nicest thing someone could say about the play was more or less, "Yeah that was bad, but he's only out there because most of the Stars' defense is bad as well." Even Suter himself knew it was an awful play with his snippy post-game response.
So no, I don't really feel like piling on. Maybe if I was watching the game yesterday afternoon along with everyone else and writing this piece that evening. But I didn't – I watched the game starting at about 11PM on record, stayed up past midnight to watch that, and then had to get up in the morning and write about such a crushing loss. I honestly can't say I'm even angry – just tired and defeated.
Overtime didn't help things, by the way. Wyatt Johnston had a chance to end it early, making this a 1-1 series. Instead, a bad change leads to another quick Vegas goal in overtime and the Stars are down 2-0. An entire game of good, even great play, completely erased in a matter of (in-game) minutes.
Ironically, if you want your silver lining, there it is. Like I said to start, Dallas was the better team, through and through. Some people will argue that Vegas was better simply because they "found a way to win," that Jack Eichel and company willed their team to victory, but I'm honestly not buying it. Full credit to the Golden Knights for capitalizing on the Stars' mistakes, but Dallas sank themselves.
All of which to say is that if Dallas can put in the same type of performance Tuesday, minus the critical errors, we're probably looking at a 1-2 series after Game 3 with a chance to tie it up 2-2. Sure, the odds are not in the favor of teams down 0-2, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. The New Jersey Devils managed that same comeback against the New York Rangers. The Florida Panthers overcame a 1-3 deficit against the Boston Bruins.
Hell, even Vegas themselves came back from 0-2 against the Colorado Avalanche in 2021, under Pete DeBoer no less. To imply that this series is somehow over after two overtime losses is grossly underestimating a Stars team that, until now, had never lost twice in a row.
What those losses do mean, however, is that the road to the Stanley Cup just got a hell of a lot tougher. Dallas lost Game 3 in both Rounds 1 and 2 this postseason – they can't afford to this time around. Jake Oettinger has looked average to good at best. He can't be anything less than elite going forward. The Stars' top trio looks like a good line combo instead of (one of) the best line of hockey. They have to take over games, starting now.
Those are all qualifiers you wouldn't have had to add on had the Stars taken care of business in Game 2. They would instead be looking at a best-of-five series with home-ice advantage, starting with two games at home with a chance to put Vegas on the ropes.
But that's not what happened. And the Stars have to live with that.