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Hockey

What We Saw, What It Felt Like: Stars-Avalanche, Game 2

This time, the lead held.
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Tyler Seguin's shorthanded goal helped seal the Stars' win. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs are complicated. Each series is its own story, and each game is its own chapter encompassing a dozen moments and plot points. But the playoffs can also be simple. Each of those moments, those plot points, falls into one of two buckets: the things we observe and the emotions they inspire within us. That’s what we’re here to talk about.

What We Saw

All of the Stars’ problems seemed to be fixed in Game 2. 

Roope Hintz was unlocked, putting together a 4-point night. Miro Heiskanen scored twice on the power play. Jake Oettinger delivered a 28-save performance. Even Nils Lundkvist delivered a hallmark performance featuring a highlight-reel assist. 

After dropping Game 1 in dramatic fashion, Dallas won Game 2 and did enough early to survive another Colorado comeback attempt in the third period. 

It all started with Hintz, who broke out after failing to do anything against an actual goalie in the Stars’ first eight games of the postseason. Hintz won a puck battle in the offensive zone and then zipped a dime of an assist to Heiskanen to make it 1-0. 

In the second period, Lundkvist, surprisingly trusted in a one-goal game, delivered an equally pretty assist to Hintz on the rush to make it 2-0. 

From there, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin did their part to ensure Dallas pushed it to 4-0 before the second intermission. Benn got to the front of the net on the power play, setting the screen on Heiskanen’s second goal, while Seguin scored on a shorthanded rush with Benn and Harley. 

Those goals were vital. Always a threat to come back, the Avalanche struck thrice in the third period on goals by Joel Kiviranta, Brandon Duhaime, and Valeri Nichushkin, which created some very uneasy feelings at the AAC. 

From a Colorado perspective, it was a rare night when Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar looked human. Makar bobbled the puck more frequently than normal, and MacKinnon didn’t have his normal collection of rushes that incite fear and excitement alike. 

Colorado’s comeback, which featured a power-play opportunity late before Esa Lindell scored into the empty net, was driven by depth and ex-Star Nichushkin, who has scored in every game of the postseason. 

The Avalanche return to Denver asking themselves what could have been had the normal focal points been dialed in. The Stars, on the other hand, will take comfort in believing it can limit those big guns enough to make their superior depth a deciding factor once again in Game 3. —Sean Shapiro

What It Felt Like

These Stars don’t like a lead very much, do they? 

Pete DeBoer’s Dallas squads have routinely dropped their opening games, which isn’t what you want. DeBoer isn’t playing some strange game of Chess But For Even Smarter People; nearly blowing a four-goal lead one game after squandering a three-score advantage in Game 1 is proof of that. But perhaps there’s something to be said for a team gathering information, taking its time, and leveraging that newfound knowledge to strike back even harder.

If Game 1 was the cautionary tale for how the series might go, then Game 2 was the victory green pendulum swinging back in Dallas’ favor. Thursday reminded the hockey world why the Stars remain one of hockey’s most complete teams. Yes, there was a bad feeling in your gut late in the third, when it seemed Colorado might tie it back up against improbable odds. But I didn’t think the Avalanche’s outburst of goals was an example of process converting into success any more than Dallas’ flurry in Game 1 indicated the Stars controlled play and were being rewarded for their efforts. These games will continue to be a tension between process and outcome, and I’d argue that Game 2 was a good example of Dallas’ process being in sync with the outcome.

And a lot of players contributed to that process. Chris Tanev has been on the ice for only one goal against, which leads all active playoff defenders. He achieved the impossible task of shutting down MacKinnon. Wyatt Johnston’s five goals are behind only Nichushkin (8) and Zach Hyman (9). Oettinger’s 3.4 goals saved above expected at even strength is second behind only Frederik Anderson among active goalies. And now, at least for a game, Hintz appears to be back.

Thursday night might not have felt like a good performance from the Stars after they once again let Colorado back in the game, but recall that it took two Colorado fourth-liners to drag the Avalanche back into this. Don’t let a bit of puck luck undercut what they accomplished.

Now comes the hard part. Here’s Colorado’s points percentage on the road: .537 (19-6-6). And here’s its points percentage at home: .768 (31-9-1). The Stars have evened the series, but there’s no controlling the series without at least one win on Denver’s fury road. —David Castillo

Authors

Sean Shapiro

Sean Shapiro

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Sean Shapiro covers the Stars for StrongSide. He is a national NHL reporter and writer who previously covered the Dallas…
David Castillo

David Castillo

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David Castillo covers the Stars for StrongSide. He has written for SB Nation and Wrong Side of the Red Line,…
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