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Hockey

What We Saw, What It Felt Like: Stars-Avalanche, Game 6

A dramatic second overtime leads to a second consecutive elimination of a recent Cup champion
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Matt Duchene was on the bad end of a call in the first overtime. He got even in the second. Ron Chenoy-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

In the end, the better team in the series, and the game, got the proper reward. 

This nearly ended one overtime period sooner. In the first session, Cale Makar shoved Matt Duchene into Avalanche goalie Alexander Georgiev, Mason Marchment shot the puck into the vacant net, and the Stars should have been celebrating a victory. 

Instead, no goal. The NHL issued a wordy, yet unconvincing explanation of why the goal didn’t count and defended the initial no-goal call for goalie interference. Had Colorado won, this would have been one of those all-time debates about a call that impacted the balance of a series and potentially the entire postseason. 

Instead, Dallas buckled down and outplayed Colorado for the remainder of overtime. Midway through the second extra stanza, Duchene got a bit of cosmic karma when he did the work to collect the loose puck and fire it home to seal a Stars victory.

The $3 million salary for a player fresh off a buyout? This was the payoff. 

Game 6 was also the payoff and redemption for Jake Oettinger, who effectively cost the Stars Game 5 with his third-period struggles. The goalie was duped on Mikko Rantanen’s second-period goal, but beyond that, he was dialed in for advancement. 

Oettinger checked all the timely save boxes. In the first period, while the Stars weathered a stretch of more than 12 minutes without a shot of their own, their goalie made key saves on Nathan MacKinnon, Casey Mittelsstadt, and Artturi Lehkonen to ensure Dallas made it to the first intermission tied. 

In the overtime sessions, with Georgiev standing tall at the other end, Oettinger stopped Lehkonen twice more and made a rebound stand on Zach Parise, which effectively served as the final scoring chance of the veteran forward’s 19-season NHL career. 

It’s also a game when Stars coach Pete DeBoer pushed all the right buttons. Before the game he scratched Nils Lundkvist, finally, and instead dressed Alex Petrovic on defense. What’s more, DeBoer actually trusted his sixth defenseman in overtime, a vital bit of relief the Stars’ other defenders had lacked when Lundkvist was dressed as a spectator nailed to the bench. 

With his team trailing going into the third period, DeBoer shifted the lines, pairing Evgenii Dadonov with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. That trio instantly connected for a goal that made sure overtime was necessary. 

And then in the bonus session, the Stars never went away from rolling lines. While the Avalanche shortened the bench, the Stars extended theirs. Sure enough, when a slightly fresher Duchene beat a tired and ragged MacKinnon to the puck, the coach’s imprint was all over it. —Sean Shapiro

What It Felt Like

It’s almost a chore to do anything but preview Dallas versus the winner of Edmonton or Vancouver. 

Threatening as Colorado was, this write-up has felt like it was a matter of time. All-world talents like Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar were shut down as much as they could be. There are reasons for that, between Wyatt Johnston’s analytical penalty killing and Chris Tanev’s heavy-bodied diligence, but Dallas’ success ultimately came down to being a team that could trust more than one player to do a critical job. Colorado couldn’t, and that’s why this series was a few dramatic comeback wins away from being a little less close than a double-overtime victory in Game 6 would lead you to believe.

This is going to sound stupid, but humor me: in some ways, the hardest part feels over. No, not because the journey is over or anything like that. But let’s imagine a deep run for a second. If Dallas was going to lose, wouldn’t these first two rounds have been the best candidates for it to happen? Vegas was the ultimate test of their strength. Colorado was the ultimate test of their speed. The litmus test for a Cup champion is endurance, and now, by beating Vegas and Colorado, the Stars proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are physically prepared to win the whole thing.

That’s why I’d argue that no team can better leverage the experience of their first two rounds into success the rest of the way. And the Stars are doing it together. It wasn’t just Johnston and Tanev helping silence MacKinnon; it was also Sam Steel and Evgenii Dadonov who kept Colorado’s top line hemmed in its own zone at times. And ultimately, Matt Duchene delivers the dagger against his former team to seal it.  

Of course, winning two rounds is no cause for celebration. Nor is winning three. You need four, just in case you’re bad at math like me. But now the last two Cup champs are down, out, and gearing up for golf. 

The Stars did that. What better resume to prepare Dallas for conference finals? —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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