With the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars playing three games in four days, all eyes will be on Game 4 Sunday afternoon. The Stars trail the Flames 2-1 in the series. Yet, they did everything right in Game 3 except put the puck in the net. The driving force for the Stars has been defenceman Miro Heiskanen. Normally a team does not want a defenceman to be their leading scorer in the playoffs, but for the Stars, everything starts from the back end. As the series progresses the most important player for the Dallas Stars will be Miro Heiskanen.
Miro Heiskanen: The Stars Most Important Player
Through six games of the restart (three round-robin and three so far in the First Round), the Dallas Stars have scored a total of 11 goals. Of those 11 goals, Miro Heiskanen has been in on seven of them. Heiskanen is the Stars leading scorer with seven points (two goals and five assists). Heiskanen is a brilliant defenceman whose game is predicated on being an outstanding skater. And his speed was on display during Game 2 when Heiskanen recorded two goals kick-starting the offence. In addition, Heiskanen commands and controls the game on both offensive and defensive sides of the puck. Not to mention Heiskanen has a great transition game.
That was not more apparent during his first goal scored during Game 2. With the game tied at 1-1, Heiskanen forces Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund wide in the defensive zone. As the puck is forced up the wall, Heiskanen reads the play perfectly and uses his outstanding skating ability to exit the zone. He jumps into the rush with Alexander Radulov in the offensive zone and is soon fed the puck. Before you know it, the puck is off Heiskanen’s stick in the net behind Cam Talbot to give the Stars the lead. Without Heiskanen’s ability to read the play correctly, the Stars might not have scored on the play.
Heiskanen’s Play Driving The Top Line
In addition to becoming a future Norris Trophy winner, Miro Heiskanen has the ability to make his teammates better as a defenceman. Even though he’s playing on the second defensive unit for the Stars, when he gets paired with the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Radulov, he raises their game. We all know the troubles of the Stars’ top line not scoring this postseason. However, all three are gaining more and more confidence with each passing. That can be attributed to when they are playing Heiskanen.
All three players have confidence in Heiskanen to make the right play. When a player does not have to worry about his defenceman, they can focus on scoring goals. Heiskanen is always in the right position when he is on the ice. If the puck is in the offensive zone, he will pinch in a keep the play alive to give his guys a chance to score a goal on the opposing goaltender. He is also not afraid to get physical.
Not only do the Flames have to worry about Heiskanen scoring, they now have to keep an eye on what Seguin, Benn, and Radulov will do. The more attention the Flames give to Heiskanen, the more chances, Seguin, Benn, and Radulov will have the puck. Despite not scoring a goal in the Stars 2-0 loss, Seguin, Benn, and Radulov had their best games of the series. They were all buzzing around the net. Eventually, their work will pay off.
Jamie Oleksiak Gaining Confidence
Miro Heiskanen’s defensive partner Jamie Oleksiak is playing some of the best hockey of his career. After being traded twice in two years to the Pittsburgh Penguins and back again, Oleksiak has become one of the Stars’ most dependable players. Playing with a player like Heiskanen has turned Olesiak into a better player. Oleksiak knows his role on the team as he wants to get the puck to Heiskanen any chance he can get. However, he also wants to be an option for Heiskanen when the time is right.
Playing with Heiskanen has paid off. Just like Heiskanen did early in Game 2, Oleksiak understood when to jump into the play. Oleksiak’s ability to jump into the play allowed him to score the game-winning goal to even the series. He carried that play into Game 3. Oleksiak was more physical than he was in the prior to games, but that confidence would not have been there had it not been coach Rick Bowness pairing him with Heiskanen.
Clearly, without Heiskanen, the Stars’ offensive numbers would not be as good as they are. Reggie Jackson once said he was the straw that stirs the drink. For the Stars, Heiskanen is the engine that drives the team. When he does not produce, neither do the Stars. As the series continues Heiskanen must continue to be the most important player for the Stars.
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