While certain factors went right and allowed the Dallas Stars to push Calgary to seven games, there were also a lot of things that went wrong. Unfortunately, just one of these trending upwards would have likely propelled the Stars into the second round, but that is simply not how it went down.
Stars Offense Was Nowhere to be Found
The Stars have had offensive struggles for a while, this is nothing new. However, they were magnified even further in the playoffs and likely cost them a few games in the series. In seven games, Dallas scored just 14 goals (2.0 per game). You do not win a lot of hockey games scoring just two goals and the Stars forced Jake Oettinger to be heroic in order to close out or remain in some games down the stretch. On repeat, the postgame press conferences were filled with comments from Rick Bowness such as:
“We didn’t get that second goal when we had the opportunity, and that always comes back to bite you.”
“We had a great scoring opportunity right away, and I talk about timely goals. We actually weren’t in any trouble until they got that first goal, so it’s a timely goal we could’ve gotten, but it wasn’t there, we didn’t get it, and we’ve got to defend better.”
The real issue with the Stars offense was the lack of production across the board. Their dominant top line of Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, and Joe Pavelski tallied 14 points in seven games. While that number seems strong, it is nowhere near their usual production that we saw throughout the regular season, and Dallas needed them to be better when it mattered most.
The depth below them including Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Denis Gurianov, Alexander Radulov, Miro Heiskanen, and John Klingberg was mostly shut down throughout the series, forcing a new unsung player to find the back of the net each night. Without the top line, some depth scoring, and high-level play from their two studs on the blue line, the Stars did not stand much of a chance of getting out of this series.
“We need to get some balance,” Bowness said after Game 4. “We’ve been fighting with it all year. But now that we get down to the nitty gritty of the whole thing, it just raises the importance of getting more scoring. And we’ve got to score more than one goal. Really, it’s going to come back to that, our inability to get that big goal and that timely goal and get a couple of goals.”
In order to win in the playoffs, especially as the underdog, an X-Factor is needed. This came in the form of Roope Hintz in 2019, Joel Kiviranta, Miro Heiskanen, and Denis Gurianov in 2020, and was completely absent in 2022. Some players like Michael Raffl and Vladislav Namestnikov played pretty good hockey but not nearly at the level the Stars needed from someone in the room. In the end, it cost them as the Flames tallied 15 goals in seven games, one more than Dallas and enough to win Game 7 in overtime and take the series 4-3.
The lack of scoring will certainly remain a focal point of the offseason as the issue has now followed this team for years. Will they add some depth or will they trust their corps? Only time will tell. But it is clear something has to change.
“We have to fix some things, we can improve on some things, absolutely,” Bowness said. “But so can every other team.”
Stars Power Play Continued to Struggle
Another huge part of the offensive struggles was the Stars power play, or lack thereof. After sitting in the top-10 and scoring essentially a goal per game for much of the season, the extra man unit hit a massive skid towards the end of the regular season. That skid continued in the playoffs, as Dallas looked sloppy and flustered on the power play, going 2-24 in the series overall.
“The power play’s getting outworked,” Bowness said. “It’s as simple as that. Their penalty killers had two shots. Our power play had two shots in six minutes. It’s as simple as that.”
Dallas tried to solve the issue on multiple occasions. They scratched players, moved others around the two units, and tried to attack in different ways. However, in the end, they were unable to enter the zone with possession consistently and did not threaten nearly enough at the Calgary net. Unfortunately, one or two more power-play goals in the series could have also been enough to swing things in their favor.
Injuries Hurt Dallas in the End
Yes, the Stars were relatively healthy this season, especially when compared to the 2020 bubble and the entire 2020-21 season. However, they did have some tough losses that hurt them down the stretch. Injuries to Roope Hintz and Luke Glendening in Game 6 kept them out of the vital Game 7 while Radek Faksa went down midway through the game and did not return. Add to that the fact that Tyler Seguin was playing on a fractured foot since Game 1, and Dallas was playing without some of their top defensive and offensive players, not to mention their top two centers.
“We ran out of bodies, simple as that,” Bowness said. “Everyone played their hearts out. We took a great team over there to overtime in Game 7. The young guys who played, they’re going to get better from that.”
Injuries are part of the playoffs and were certainly not the main reason for the Stars falling to Calgary in seven games. However, are they able to create more offense and protect Oettinger more with a healthy Hintz, Seguin, Faksa, and Glendening? It is hard to argue against that. Similar to an X-Factor, you also need some luck when it comes to health if you stand a chance of an underdog victory and they did not get enough of it.
There it is. The list of what went wrong is certainly longer than what went right, hence the end result. Looking for the optimistic side? Check out the “What Went Right” article and compare for yourself.
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!