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Hockey

What We Saw, What It Felt Like: Stars-Oilers, Game 1

A double-overtime loss that is hard to stomach
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Jake Oettinger goes to the ice in the third period. 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

The Stars have lost Game 1 in seven straight series. All three this season, all three in 2022, and the one in 2021. The last time the Stars won a series opener? The 2020 Stanley Cup final in the COVID bubble, fittingly in Edmonton. The last time the Stars won a Game 1 in a building with a live audience? Round 1 of the 2019 playoffs against the Nashville Predators. 

And, honestly, if the Stars were ever going to win a Game 1, it should have been this one. From the third period on, all the key bounces went their way. Edmonton played tight, shutdown hockey, tight enough to win in regulation, but a wonky shot and rebound tied the game, 2-2, when Tyler Seguin was waiting on the doorstep. 

On the next shift, Jake Oettinger bit hard on a breakaway by Dylan Holloway and probably should have been beaten, but the goalie stretched enough, and the Oilers forward failed to elevate the puck. 

Just 17 seconds into overtime, Connor McDavid was called for high-sticking Matt Duchene and spent four minutes in the penalty box for drawing blood. One game after getting hosed by officials in overtime in Colorado, the Stars got the right call and a chance to capitalize with the best player in the world in the box. 

When they didn’t, and should have been punished, McDavid failed to roof the puck into an empty net and kept a shot low enough that Oettinger and Chris Tanev could both get a stick on it. On the final shift of the first overtime, the Stars’ third defensive pairing iced the puck and the Oilers smelled blood, sending out both McDavid and Leon Draisitl to end the game. Somehow Alexander Petrovic and Ryan Suter survived the final 30 seconds. 

The Stars never seized opportunity, but destiny or karma or hockey gods, depending on your belief system, had given all indication they wouldn’t get the short shrift in this Game 1. 

And then the second overtime happened. It took just 32 seconds for McDavid to find an open slot in front of the net to score on a deflection off a shot by Evan Bouchard. 

Game over, another 1-0 series deficit. —Sean Shapiro

What It Felt Like

Losing the first game in a playoff series has been a good omen, but let’s get serious: nobody intentionally falls behind. This is a series Dallas needs to close out as quickly as possible because, well, why would you give Connor McDavid (who had two points) any more opportunities than what he threatens to generate each shift? 

The thing about playoff hockey is that your opponents are no longer just in the process of being good on the rush or versus the rush; they’re a moving train, boosted by the confidence of having beaten two opponents already. What’s one more? So whether the Stars are the better team is beside the point.  

To overreact a bit, I didn’t like this loss. It’s one thing to lose a game in overtime. It’s another to face an opponent that on paper should be a step down from Vegas and Colorado (although the fancy models didn’t call it that way). And it’s another to watch Dallas’ power play get dramatically outplayed by the Oilers’ penalty kill. The Stars need to gain back momentum without Roope Hintz, especially with home ice. 

That’s the thing about the postseason: momentum is fickle, but in the playoffs, it’s a punchline. No play better illustrated this fact than Esa Lindell jumping into the action to nearly tie the game, only to see Zach Hyman beat Lindell, Chris Tanev, and Jake Oettinger on the counter. It was a tight game, with neither team giving each other much, if any, room. But is this the kind of series, with more attrition to add to the attrition they’ve already experienced, the Stars want opposite McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?

This reaction might feel like doom and gloom, which is not my intention, but perhaps that’s just because of the expectation that Dallas would be able to squeeze an ostensibly lesser team just a little tighter than its previous opponents. But I think it’s more than that. It feels cheap to point out the Stars’ record when dropping Game 1 of a series. It’s possible, if not likely, that they reverse the narrative in Game 2. But they had 10 minutes of power play time to Edmonton’s two, going 0 for 5 on the man advantage. So with respect to a great Stars team, let’s call this what it was: a lost opportunity. —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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