Saturday, May 25, 2024 May 25, 2024
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What We Saw, What It Felt Like: Stars-Golden Knights, Game 6

Dallas came up on the wrong end of the smallest margins.
The Stars couldn't push Vegas into elimination. Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports The Stars couldn't push Vegas into elimination. Stephen R. Sylvanie-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

I’ve never liked the claim that low-scoring games are boring. If you were a neutral fan, one whose stress levels mercifully were not impacted by the score, this was as fun as hockey gets. 

Because exciting games aren’t about goals. They’re about chances. And despite Vegas only winning 2-0, with only one goal scored against a goalie, the teams went back and forth for 60 minutes, trading high-danger attacks. Adin Hill and Jake Oettinger both built effective fortresses in front of their own nets, doing their finest to rebuff 21 high-danger chances. 

Dallas had breakaways and odd-man rushes. So did Vegas. The Stars had gaping opportunities with vacant nets, just like the Golden Knights. But only one of those teams could finish.  

In the end, Vegas got the bounce it needed when Noah Haninifin’s shot, which came after a nice piece of puck protection, deflected off Ryan Suter and past Oettinger. An empty-net goal at the end by Mark Stone made it 2-0, but from the opening face-off, this always looked like a game where only one goal was going to be enough. 

The reality is that Dallas did its job during the regular season to be in the best spot for Game 7 The Stars will play a do-or-die game in front of a home crowd, with the city’s undivided attention behind them after the Mavericks won their Game 6 in the American Airlines Center to move on to the second round. That’s a luxury that the Stars need to take advantage of, or else they’ll confront an offseason filled with regret.—Sean Shapiro

What It Felt Like

And just like that, all bets are off.

Nothing I can write here will take the edge off what Stars fans are feeling. Jake Oettinger was as brilliant as he could be, but Friday night, Adin Hill was the one with the shutout. 

Dallas had a parade of forwards with grade-A chances between Logan Stankoven, Wyatt Johnston, Tyler Seguin, and Evgenii Dadonov. Absent on that list are names the Stars will need to see show up if they intend to close out the series. Roope Hintz. Matt Duchene. Joe Pavelski. Each played a pivotal role in Dallas earning the top seed out West, but none have performed to their usual standard as the Stars defend it. 

Then again, if Dallas’ depth is truly the key to its success, then the absence of a few players won’t necessarily be why the Stars lose the series. They are contending with the defending champs; of course a marquee name or three will be shut down.

And of course the margins would be razor thin. Just go back to that third-period, game-winning goal. It was Vegas’ fourth line versus Dallas’ fourth line, and the difference was a screen on an impossible angle through two bodies from Noah Hanifan. That’s the edge in this series, as well as the reality of these two teams. Even when one has been better than the other, it’s never felt like either has been in control of the outcome. 

If it seems like I’m speaking in riddles, it’s because the only way to handle that whirlwind of emotions is to accept the very real luck factor embedded in hockey. There’s never a silver lining for a Game 7, no matter the round. Process, expected goals, transitions, expensive contracts, home-ice advantage—each are at the mercy of which way the puck bounces when it counts. All that’s left to find out is whether it bounces back in the Stars’ favor on Sunday. —David Castillo


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,…