The Dallas Stars are off to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after dominating the Calgary Flames in Game 6 by a score of 7-3. A big reason why the Stars were able to come back in the series down 2-1 was the play of Joe Pavelski. Pavelski through his time in the NHL has shown the capability to play big in the big moments. And the series against the Flames was no different. When the Stars needed him the most Pavelski was there. His resurgence makes the Stars a strong candidate to win the Stanley Cup.
Joe Pavelski’s Resurgence Powers Stars
For the first time in his career, Joe Pavelski had to adjust to life in another city. Pavelski spent the first 13 years of his career with the San Jose Sharks. And come playoff time especially during the Sharks trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, is when Pavelski shined the brightest. However, things did not go exactly as planned for Pavelski and the Stars in his first season. Through 67 games Pavelski tallied 31 points (14 goals and 17 assists) before the season was paused.
The break did Pavelski wonders as he was rejuvenated as he took the ice when the NHL returned to play. He looked like his old self and besides the Stars did not sign him for his regular-season numbers. They signed him to be a playoff performer. And perform he did. Pavelski is the second-leading scorer on the team with eight points (six goals and two assists). Trailing 2-1 in the series, Pavelski stepped up in Game 4 and changed the tide of the series. Not only that but he played a crucial role in the Stars 3-0 comeback in Game 6.
In Game 4, Pavelski recorded a hat trick, his third of the goal came late in the game as the Flames failed to clear the puck. Pavelski parked himself right in front of the net and potted home the rebound to tie the game at 4-4. His hat trick was the reason why the Stars were in Game 4 as the Flames looked to take a stranglehold on the series. His play carried over into Games 5 but especially in Game 6.
Depth Scoring For The Stars
When the top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov are producing, usually the Stars are not winning. However, with Pavelski on board that changed quickly. While he was not at the head of the line leading the comeback, he played a part. The real star of the Game 6 victory was Denis Gurianov. Gurianov is the first player in Stars franchise history to score four goals in a playoff game. In addition, he is the second player in Stars franchise history to record a hat trick joining Hockey Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli.
Things are starting to click for Gurianov. Two years ago he was a healthy scratch for the Texas Stars of the AHL, now he guided the comeback for the Stars. Gurianov led the team in scoring with 20 goals averaging 13 minutes of ice time. That was 19th on the team. So far in the playoffs, Gurianov is tied for the lead in goals with six averaging about 13 minutes of ice time. Good for 15th on the team. Just look at the production the Stars are getting from their depth scoring.
Not to mention, in the Stars comeback victory, the top line did not register a point. That is outstanding and speaks to the volume of the work guys like Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, and Gurianov are putting in. Not did Gurianov record four goals, but Pavelski had three points including the game-winning goal. Clearly, teams that go far in the playoffs have depth scoring and leadership necessary to win.
Miro Heiskanen Continues To Step Up
After Game 3, we talked about how Miro Heiskanen was the most important player on the Stars roster. That trend continued for the rest of the series as he leads the team in scoring with 12 points. Heiskanen continued to play a crucial role for the Stars in their victories especially in Game 6. A major turning point for the Stars in Game 6 after falling down 3-0 was getting their power play going. After Milan Lucic gave the Stars life with a dumb penalty in the offensive zone, the Stars power play went to work led by Heiskanen.
Heiskanen got the momentum swinging in the Stars’ favour with a power play. From there, Heiskanen added three assists, including one on the game-winning goal. Heiskanen is calm and cool on the back end. With Esa Lindell struggling a bit to start the game, Heiskanen stepped up, which gave Lindell time to recover and have a better game. Not to mention with Heiskanen controlling the game from the back end, the Stars defenders are more active in the offence. As we saw with John Klingberg in Games 4 and 5.
If Heiskanen continues to be this productive and the Stars continue to get this level of production from Pavelski, their next opponent Colorado Avalanche will be in for a tough series.
Goaltending Is Key
Besides getting production from Joe Pavelski and Heiskanen, the Stars have to be happy with the way Anton Khudobin is playing. Khudobin has played seven games for the Stars this post-season with Ben Bishop unfit to play. There is no reason to think Khudobin loses the net until the Stars lose again. And nobody knows what is going on with Bishop, so Khudobin is the starter and the team has confidence in him. Just look how he handled himself during the Stars comeback victory in Game 6.
Even with the Stars down Khudobin remained confident in the net making save after save keeping his team in it. Once the Stars got the lead, Khudobin locked it down. Even in other games in the series with the Flames pressing, Khudobin game up with the big save to give the Stars a chance to win. In the end, going with Khudobin was the right call for the Stars and there is no reason to change going forward.
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