As history has shown in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the top name players usually do not play the role of hero in Game 7. It was no different in this series between the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars. With the Stars blowing a 3-1 series lead, it came down to a win or go home Game 7. Not only that the Stars had last year’s loss weighing heavily on their minds. And of course what is a Game 7 without overtime? An unlikely hero emerged and his name is Joel Kiviranta. That is how deep the Stars secondary scoring is when a guy nobody has heard of records a hat trick to send his team to the Western Conference Final.
Joel Kivitrana Plays Hero
Throughout these playoffs, the Stars have been finding offence from the most unlikely of players. In the first round against the Calgary Flames, Denis Gurianov had a four-goal performance in Game 6 to oust the Flames. Now Kiviranta has the game of his life recording a series-winning hat trick to propel his team to the next round.
Entering the series against Colorado, Joel Kiviranta recorded just one assist. In the regular season, he had one goal in 11 games. Now he has tripled that in one game. Normally playing alongside Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau, this trio has been able to produce when Dallas needed them to. However, in Game 7, Joel Kiviranta was alongside Gurianov and Roope Hintz. When a player has it going, the coach can put him anywhere in the lineup.
Having the ability to get goals from anyone on the roster is huge, especially in the playoffs. Joel Kiviranta just adds his name to the history books for his Game 7 performance. And without him and the play of Alexander Radulov, the Stars would have lost the series. Those two players stepped up when the team needed them to.
If Kiviranta was not going to be the hero then Radulov sure was. But like in any winner take all game in a series between two good teams, the least likely players have the biggest games. And Joel Kiviranta showed it does not matter what you do in the first six games of a series, it matters how you perform with your season on the line.
Dallas Stars Found Offence
The Stars are finding their offence and that is a scary thing for the Vegas Golden Knights who they will play in the Western Conference Final. One of the big knocks against entering the playoffs was the inability to score goals. And that appeared to be the case through three games against the Flames, but then all of a sudden this Stars team woke up.
Getting production from every line is huge as it takes the pressure off the top players. Radulov along with his linemates Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were not having the greatest of postseasons. Their production levels were not there. But all of a sudden they found something against the Avalanche. And when that line gets going so does the rest of the team.
However, outside of Radulov, Seguin and Benn were quiet the last three games of the series. That continues to be a problem for the Stars. They need those two to play at their best. Head coach Rick Bowness, made his feelings known prior to Game 7, that his top players need to be his best players. However, how much more motivation do these two players need? It comes to a point when they need to produce and get motivated on their own. Radulov took the coach’s word to heart and had a great Game 7. But the good news for Dallas is they’re winning series because of depth. That was something they didn’t have in the past.
2.88 Goals Per Game Helps
Another good thing for Dallas heading into the Western Conference Final is that the Stars have averaged four goals per game in the seven-game series against the Avalanche. Outside of Game 6 where they scored only one goal, Dallas was getting three to six goals a night. In 16 postseason games, the Stars have scored 46 goals. Considering this team had problems scoring goals in the regular season, it is good to see the Stars scoring. Again it’s players like Joe Pavelski, Hintz, Gurianov, Kiviranta, Corey Perry, and of course Miro Heiskanen.
Miro Heiskanen Is The Stars Most Valuable Player
Miro Heiskanen has emerged as one the best defenceman, if not one of the best players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He is continuing his amazing production. He now leads all players with 21 points now that Nathan MacKinnon has been eliminated from the playoffs. Think about that… Heiskanen has 21 points as a defenceman. He leads all defencemen with five goals and 16 assists and continues to produce when the Stars need him the most. Where would the Stars be without Heiskanen on their team? He just does it all. His vision is unbelievable and knows exactly where to be on the ice.
Heiskanen rarely makes a mistake and is making his teammates around him better. Sometimes Heiskanen is the forgotten man on the blue line with John Klingberg and Esa Lindell back there. But in these playoffs, the defence is clearly led by Heiskanen. And the Stars would not have it any other way. Through two rounds, Heiskanen is the Stars’ most valuable player and there is not a debate about it. If the Stars continue to their trek towards to the Stanley Cup Final, Miro Heiskanen will surely get a nod for the Conn Smythe Trophy for the way he has been playing thus far in the playoffs.
While Anton Khudobin has not looked the greatest the last couple of games, it is still his net to lose. Nobody really knows when Ben Bishop will be ready to return to action. Even though Bishop is the number-one goalie in Dallas, Khudobin has been the starter in the playoffs. Khudobin has given up some soft goals recently but has also made the saves when called upon. That is a combination of fatigue and workload. Khudobin is the guy until he is not the guy.
It will be a quick turnaround with the Western Conference Final starting Sunday. However, the Stars have the offence and defence to match the Vegas Golden Knights. The big thing will be… how will the Stars carry their Game 7 momentum into the next series? And can they use this win to propel them even further in the playoffs? The Stars have been through heartbreak and continue to use that as motivation. It only gets more difficult from here on out.
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