The Three Stars of the Dallas-Nashville Series
Tyler Seguin had a phenomenal first round performance, but where does he rank among the series’ best?
Well, they did it — the Dallas Stars upset the Nashville Predators in the first round, winning Game 6 after playing almost 80 minutes of hockey.
Hockey is a team effort, and every Star pitched in to make this win possible, from Tyler Seguin to Jamie Oleksiak. But some players performed much better than others, and even Nashville got some quality performances despite losing.
So while the series is still fresh on our minds, let’s take a look at who the best players were this series on both sides of the ice. We’ll follow NHL tradition and name three players as the “Three Stars,” focusing on how they played throughout the entire series, not just in one or two games.
But first, let’s take a look at who just missed the cut, in no particular order:
Mats Zuccarello — The Stars’ deadline acquisition has been fantastic for the Stars this postseason. He scored three goals in the first four games, and while he was held off the scoresheet in the final two, he constantly generated offense when he was on the ice, giving the Predators more than a handful to deal with.
Rocco Grimaldi — With three goals this series, Grimaldi was tied for second in goals with Zuccarello despite having only ten goals in his career up until this point. He even outperformed Nashville’s top line, scoring more goals than Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson combined.
Miro Heiskanen — He may have only had two points in the series — both in Game 1 — but Heiskanen was one of the Stars’ best player night-in and night-out. He played 159:10 across six games, more than any other skater this series and second to only Brett Burns in the entire NHL playoffs.
John Klingberg — The other stud on the Stars’ blueline was in a four-way tie for most points this series with six, including the series-winning goal in overtime last night. Often the target of unwarranted criticism due to being an offensive defenseman, Klingberg has certainly silenced his doubters these past several games.
.@johnklingberg sends the @DallasStars into the next round! #GoStars | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/wa7VfPCB1b— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) April 23, 2019
Pekka Rinne — Don’t let the .905 save percentage fool you — Rinne was fantastic this series. His only “bad” games were ones where his team left him out to dry, and Dallas could have had their third five-goal game in a row if it weren’t for his stellar play last night. Rinne deserved better than what his teammates gave him.
Tyler Seguin — For the first time since 2013, Tyler Seguin played a full series of playoff hockey, and man did he look good. His two goals and four assists tied him for first in points, and he led both teams in shots with 31. If only we were naming the “Four Stars” of the series.
THE THREE STARS OF THE SERIES ARE....
Third Star — Alexander Radulov
The Russian winger led the series in goals with four, including a two-goal performance in Game 5. In many ways, Radulov was the “villain” for Nashville this series — he left the team twice to play hockey in the KHL, and he was consistently one of the best players on the ice in all six games. He was also fairly disciplined (for his standards) this series, taking only two minor penalties. And given Nashville’s power play struggles, maybe he was actually doing the Stars a favor there.
Second Star — Jamie Benn
A lightning rod of criticism these days, the captain led the Stars to victory with a “beast mode” performance. Along with Radulov, Seguin, and Klingberg, Benn was tied for first in scoring this series with six points, netting a goal and five assists in four of the six games. The captain also played an intense physical game, constantly knocking over Predators players while staying out of the penalty box entirely.
Jamie Benn just going to work pic.twitter.com/VraxJxMju0— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 20, 2019
And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for...
First Star — Ben Bishop
Most of the time, the obvious answer is obvious for a reason. Make no mistake — as great as the Stars’ top players have been, Dallas would have absolutely lost this series if not for Ben Bishop. With a .945 save percentage second to only Robin Lehner in the playoffs so far, Bishop bailed out the Stars countless times this series. He had just a single “bad” game — one where he was not the only reason the Stars lost — and was otherwise the glue that held the Stars together. Four of the six games were decided by just a single goal, including last night’s overtime thriller where he stopped 47 of 48 shots.
Anton Khudobin is a great backup, but expect the Stars to keep riding Bishop going forward. At the level he’s playing, dreams of a Stanley Cup run this postseason might not be so crazy after all...