The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly with The Dallas Stars’ 2023 Western Conference Finals Performance

By: Anthony Miller

After fighting back with two straight wins, the Dallas Stars lost momentum and the right to make the Stanley Cup Finals after losing to the Las Vegas Golden Knights 6-0 in game six Monday night.

What started as a disaster for the Dallas Stars in the series became an impressive comeback. After being down 3-0 in the series, the Stars were able to steal two games from the Golden Knights despite not having their captain Jamie Benn in those two games due to his suspension. Dallas came together in those two games and found ways to pull away at the end to force a game six against Las Vegas.

Game six was a whole other story where it became about how good the Golden Knights are and how ready they are to win their first Stanley Cup. Within the first 15 minutes of the first period, Las Vegas was up 3-0 on Dallas and it never got better after that. The Stars were not able to produce much offensively as they only got 23 shots on goal after having 34 shots in game five.

The season ended in pure ugliness as the Stars fell to the Golden Knights 6-0 in front of the Dallas home crowd as their season came to an end. Despite the tough end to the season, Dallas has a lot of good they can feed off finishing with the fourth most points in the Western Conference. They proved to be one of the better teams in the NHL, but they faced the true number-one team in the conference.

With the series concluded, let’s reflect back on what was good, what was bad, and what was straight ugly about the series.

The Good: Dallas Showed Resiliency

All hope appeared to be lost for the Stars after game three’s 4-0 disastrous loss to Las Vegas as they needed a miracle to win some games back. Jamie Benn had just received a two-game suspension due to his stick hit near Mark Stone’s neck in game three. It appeared that it was inevitable that the Stars were going to lose the series.

That was until guys like Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, and Ty Dellandrea stepped up in big ways in the next two games. Robertson produced three goals total in games four and five against Las Vegas. Pavelski was the hero in game four, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to keep Dallas alive in the series. Dellandrea took over the hero duties scoring two goals in the third period of game five giving Dallas a 4-2 win to force game six.

Young players like Wyatt Johnston, Thomas Harley, and Miro Heiskanen were asked to step up in place of older players who weren’t playing as well, and they answered in those two games. Johnston had a couple of close goals in game five to put pressure on the Golden Knights. Harley and Heiskanen especially played well late in games four and five helping the defense hold strong in not allowing goals.

Goalie Jake Oettinger deserves a lot of credit for his performance in the two wins in the series with all the shots he had to save. Oettinger saved a total of 68 shots in those two games allowing four goals in those games. His two save percentages of the series came in those two wins as he produced a .949 save percentage in game four and a .931 save percentage in game five. It wasn’t always pretty for Oettinger, but he was able to hold up his end of the bargain for the most part in the series.

The Bad: Lack of Production from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin

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Teams usually don’t win their series very often when their top veteran players are not able to show up and perform well in the most important series of the season. It appeared to have affected the way Dallas played with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin not producing much for the team against Las Vegas.

Seguin disappeared for the most part in the last 13 games of the playoffs as after he scored four goals and two assists in the opening round against the Minnesota Wild, he scored just one goal and one assist total against the Seattle Kraken and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. It was a surprise to see the drop off from a player of Seguin’s caliber to have such a disappearing act in the most important series. He was not much of a factor at all in the Golden Knights series as Dallas saw younger players step up in his place. It’s no doubt a disappointing way to end the season for Seguin.

Benn’s performance in the Las Vegas series will be more known for what he did in game three that changed the course of the game. He was ejected from the game after his hit on Mark Stone with Benn lunging forward with his stick contacting close to Stone’s neck as they were sliding down on the ice. It’s an undisciplined play for a veteran who doesn’t make those kinds of mistakes. In his absence, the Stars won two straight games but lost game six when Benn returned. It will bring up questions about whether they should have had Benn come off the bench and not mess up the rotation. Regardless, Benn scored just one goal in the series leaving much to be desired from one of their top players.

The Ugly: Two Shutout Losses in the Series

Photo via Las Vegas Sun/Wade Vandervort

Ultimately, there were moments in the series where the team showed undisciplined penalties and missed assignments that resulted in some ugly games. Two of their four losses in the series resulted in Dallas producing exactly zero points.

Game three’s 4-0 shutout was ugly in multiple ways with the first being that the Stars allowed three goals in the first 7:30 minutes of the game. That led to the shortest start of Oettinger’s career as he was pulled from the game. Things didn’t get any better as the Stars had an unremarkable eight penalties in the game. Despite Dallas outshooting Las Vegas 34 to 16, the Knights scored a remarkable 25% of their goals.

While in game six’s 6-0 loss, it was similar except it took over 15 minutes for Las Vegas to take a 3-0 lead in the first period. The Golden Knights never took their foot off the pedal though scoring six goals on 29 shots making life miserable for the Stars’ defense. Dallas’ loss was the most lopsided playoff loss for the team since they moved from Minnesota before the 1993-94 season. There wasn’t much positive about this game for Dallas.

Final Analysis

Photo via AP Photo/John Locher

It’s easy to look at the negatives after the shellacking the Dallas Stars took against one of the best teams in the league, but there is so much positive to take away from the series also. A lot of younger players stepped up and performed well in their first playoffs giving light to the Stars’ future. Guys like Robertson, Johnston, Harley, Heiskanen, and Oettinger who are under 25 years old give hope to the future of the Stars now that they have a conference final under their belts.

Dallas’ performance this season is the most points in the standings the team has had since the 2015-16 season after producing 108 points and finishing second in the central division. It’s just the second time since 2002 that the team finished the season with 21 or fewer losses in a regular season. This is a team that will have a long look at their roster, but they are not far off from making the Stanley Cup Finals. Adding a piece or two to the already promising roster could be what the team needs to make another run for a title next season.

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