More Than Just Goaltending Went Wrong for Dallas Stars
It's easy to see 6-1 on the scoreboard and make assumptions. There's a finality to Game 7 that pressures us to simplify analysis. Yes, there were a few howlers, but that's only a part of the story. Two other major issues dogged the Stars throughout the post-season, and are just as culpab
There is one very obvious conclusion to draw from the Stars' 6-1 defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues. Such is the nature of hockey, and in particular, the goaltending position. It isn't the entire story, however. The Blues were better by more than just Brian Elliott. Piling into the crease might be therapeutic for a disappointed Dallas fanbase, but it's not the entire story.
So what went wrong? Because we know the stream of "What to do about Kari/Antti" articles are coming, let's shift focus. There were other problems, other culprits. Keeping them in mind as we head into the offseason is just as critical to the team's fortunes as addressing the elephant(s) in the crease.
Let's start with the obvious; the Stars' power play was limp and non-threatening throughout the series. Frankly, 2-20 is an awful number for a team with Dallas' pedigree. That's 10% from a unit that produced at a 22.1% clip during the regular season. Awful, and it wasn't for lack of trying. The Stars had at least one opportunity in every single game during the series. Highlights include going 0/4 twice and 0/3 in Game 7.
You can drive yourself nuts with hypotheticals, but what if Dallas does better than 0/4 in Game 2? What if John Klingberg manages more than a single point with the man advantage? One point, by the way, is more than Jamie Benn produced with the man advantage. The loss of Tyler Seguin was obviously a factor, but are we really willing to assign him a 10% swing?
For whatever reason, the Stars never found their legs. Despite what appeared to be an abundance of pieces. Given the margins of play for much of the series, that missing 12% could have gone a long way towards either diffusing the physicality of the St. Louis Blues, or turning it into goals.
And while we're on the topic of adjustments that never got made, how about the Stars' defense? Against Minnesota it felt like the first pair was wobbling, against St. Louis it was the third. All-in-all Alex Goligoski managed 7 points. Klingberg tied with Kris Russel at 4, and only registered a single goal. That's a problem.
It's even more of a problem when you consider depth was supposed to be the one thing this unit had in abundance. The six defenders that started Game 1 against the Wild accounted for all but one Stars' start. Jordie Benn spelled Russel for a game, but that was due to injury, not any kind of tactical adjustment.
The problem is one of wastefulness, of resource management. Nemeth played 38 games this past season, Oleksiak 19. Neither was in any position to be thrust into the Stars' lineup, no matter what was going on. A little size might have helped against St. Louis. Instead, the Stars spent 82 games preparing a pair of once-valued prospects to sit and watch the team lose.
Both were evident at points during the regular season. Dallas' power play, though generally excellent, was prone to stagnation, and only the late-season of Russel brought anything approaching stability to the blue line.
Contention came faster than anyone expected, so it's hard to be too upset, but both were un-addressed problems during the regular season that had a post-season impact. No, neither manifested as obviously as a 6-1 catastrophe, but they hurt the Stars all the same. Hopefully, another off-season will allow GM Jim Nill to add a few finishing touches.