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Hockey

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

After a Stars 3-1 victory, the series is now tied.
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Jake Oettinger throws a puck to a fan after the 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

The Stars got the home split they needed. It feels weird to say for a team with home-ice advantage, but when you make a habit of losing Game 1s, you need to make up for it in Game 2. And the Stars did.

It was a really weird game, because the first-period shot counter told a different story than reality. Yes, the shots were 16-5, and, yes, Jake Oettinger had to be good, but the game wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the shot count nor the broadcast crew would have made you believe. 

Actual scoring chances were close; I counted it as 9-6 in favor of the Oilers. They were better than the Stars in the first period, but they were far from dominant. In fact, excluding the first 15 minutes, the Stars were by far the better team. 

Connor McDavid was held without a point for just the second time in the playoffs, Leon Draisitl had zero points for the first time this postseason, and the Oilers were exposed for how toothless they are when the big names fail to do much of anything. 

Stars coach Pete DeBoer continued to push the right buttons. In a 1-1 game heading into the third period, he switched the lines and unlocked Mason Marchment on a trio with Ty Dellandrea and Sam Steel. That line scored the game-winning goal after the Stars stacked strong shifts. 

In the end, Esa Lindell got a gift of an empty-net goal from the Oilers to make it 3-1. Edmonton seemed to forget it had pulled the goalie, and the Stars defender took three unpressured strides before shooting into an empty net from the neutral zone. 

Lindell’s goal was also a nice reward for a defensive group that rallied around Oettinger’s timely saves. Edmonton tried to push and crash the crease more in this game, with varying levels of success, but ultimately got frustrated by a defense that created a bubble around the crease in the second and third periods. 

The series is exactly where we expected it to be heading to Alberta. Dallas won’t be happy with its record in Game 1s, but when you routinely respond in Game 2, it eliminates much of the sting. —Sean Shapiro

What It Felt Like

If you panicked after Game 1, I can’t blame you. I was also worried, not because I felt like Edmonton was the better team but because the Stars wouldn’t get a better opportunity to close out a tight game. They had four minutes of the man advantage in overtime, with a clean sheet of ice and the best player in the world sitting in the penalty box. It wasn’t enough. But neither is one win.

While the Stars can’t go back and make up for past mistakes, they can still remind the hockey world how they can be better.

There are a lot of sub-narratives going on: special teams, what percentage of Roope Hintz Dallas is getting when he comes back, Connor McDavid vs. Chris Tanev, and Jake Oettinger vs. Stuart Skinner, the latter of whom seems oddly up to the task. It’s exhausting to keep track of. But there’s no bigger narrative than what Dallas has managed to do on the road. In six games, the Stars have dropped only one, which was Game 6 against Vegas. Now they get to leverage their stellar road record for an opportunity to claim their first lead in the series and, hopefully, some breathing room while they await the return of their top pivot.

Whatever it is that makes Dallas more dangerous on the road, I can’t explain. What I can say is that the Stars feel well-positioned. In the absence of Hintz, Jamie Benn’s captaincy has never been stronger, and their depth continues to shine, regardless of Pete DeBoer’s line Tetris. The games are tight and the goals are scarce, but the sensation of being that proverbial “team of destiny” feels present. The Stars are the rightful favorite in this series. While they weren’t perfect Saturday night, they certainly felt like the favorite. —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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