Stark Reminders: Eights Across The Board

The Stars of Game 6 showed up in Game 1. Five goals later, they lead the series against the Avalanche, 1-0.

Less than 48 hours after eliminating the Calgary Flames, the Dallas Stars took to the ice in Game 1 against the Colorado Avalanche. Friday, the day before Game 1, was a mandated day off for the team, and many on social media had raised concern about the lack of a team practice between the two series for the Stars. However, the Stars of Game 6 showed up against the Avalanche and never looked back. Apparently, a day in the sun — playing frisbee, soccer, baseball, and all manner of sports — was exactly what the Stars needed to relax and prepare for the second round.

Game 1 between Dallas and Colorado featured eight combined goals, a refreshingly small number of penalties (compared to the Calgary series), and Stars fans everywhere rejoicing at the return of “The Big Three” in the postseason. Let’s dig into the reminders for this game.

Reminder No 1: You Spin Me Right Round

What was I just saying about the cycle after Game 6? Trust the cycle, allow it the time and players needed, and it will work. Tyler Seguin’s first goal in the postseason came off of a cycle. The Stars used the Avalanche’s net as the focal point of their cycle early in the first period. They had Alexander Radulov on the left, Seguin on the right, and Jamie Benn behind the net. The Stars worked the circuit twice as they kept the puck away from the Avalanche before Benn snapped the puck over to Seguin. Seguin never hesitated as he fired at the net, and put Dallas up 1-0 just four minutes into the game.

While short shifts and a barrage of goals works against a disrupted line system like in Game 6 against Calgary, fully developed cycles work wonders against high-pressure teams like Colorado. Using the cycle early on gave the Stars the edge in energy and helped them direct play in their favor for the rest of the period, and eventually, the game.

However, the Stars also need to prevent a cycle from happening in their own zone. Colorado practically perfected their cycle during the regular season, and no cycle was more lethal than the one composed of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabe Landeskog. The Stars were made aware of that fact 64 seconds after Seguin’s goal.

Colorado set their cycle high in the zone, as opposed to centered tight around the net. MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Landeskog remained high while working the puck and waiting for a good opportunity while Cale Makar set up shop in front of Anton Khudobin to provide their screen. MacKinnon spied an opportunity and laid on the speed as Landeskog got him the puck. The puck hit the tape on MacKinnon’s stick as Makar dove out of the way, leaving Khudobin unaware until it was too late. A flick of the wrist later, MacKinnon had tied the game at 1-1.

The Stars can learn two valuable takeaways from this play. The first is to guard Nathan MacKinnon and never let him near the puck (something I touched on in my previous “Stark Reminders”). The second takeaway is that the Stars have to not only allow their own cycle time and space to work, but break up any in progress in their defensive zone. Khudobin is an amazing goaltender, but there’s only so much he can do to stop a puck with Makar creating a solid screen until it’s too late.

Reminder to the Stars to trust your own cycle and throw everything you have into shutting down the Avalanche on their cycle.

Reminder No. 2: Better Eight Than Never

Benn, Seguin, and Radulov have had trouble making an impact thus far in the 2019-20 Stanley Cup playoffs. Commentators, analysts, and fans everywhere had Seguin on “goal watch” while wondering if Benn and Radulov could make a real difference in the game. Through the round robin and the series against Calgary, Benn only recorded two goals and two assists. Seguin had three assists. Radulov had two goals and one assist. By the end of Game 6 against Calgary, they had combined for a total of 10 points in nine playoff games.

After 33 minutes of Game 1 against Colorado, they had combined for a total of eight points. Ten points in nine playoff games versus eight in one game. The “Big Three” appear to be back in a big way. By the conclusion of Game 1, Benn had three assists, Seguin had one goal and one assist, and Radulov had two goals and one assist. Whatever the three of them had for their pregame meal, it clearly worked.

Pregame meal jokes aside, the return of the top line has only been a matter of time. They’ve made their way onto the scoresheet in small ways throughout the playoffs, and have made small, but meaningful differences in key moments. However, Game 1 against Colorado featured an explosive display of well-honed passes (and that cycle I mentioned before), trusting each other, and the joy of scoring. Throughout the season and the beginning of the playoffs, many fans have questioned if Benn, Seguin, and Radulov had entered the downward slope of their production curve. I’d say that Saturday’s game was an emphatic answer to that question.

Reminder to the Stars that your top line is good; trust their skillset, trust them on that cycle, and eventually the points will rack up in a meaningful way.

Reminder No. 3: Women Are Not A Distraction

Women are not a distraction. Women in sports are not a distraction. Women are equal. Just ask Megan Rapinoe.

Game 2 between Dallas and Colorado is scheduled for 8:45 p.m. CT on Monday, August 24.