The Dallas Stars used a gritty Game 6 performance to force a Game 7. Take a look at a few things they need to do to get to the Western Conference Finals.
The Dallas Stars came out on a mission in Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues. Two goals within 20 seconds of each other gave the team a lead roughly five minutes into the game. With 3:11 left in the first period, Jason Spezza netted the third goal of the game giving the Stars a 3-0 edge heading into the second period.
That’s where things began to get interesting.
With a few big saves from Kari Lehtonen and the right defensive plays at the right time, the Stars were able to send the series back to Dallas for a Game 7 on Wednesday night.
They did it with just 14 shots, compared to the Blues’ 37, and played in yet another game where they scored all of their goals in the first period, before slowly letting the opponent back into the game.
With a massive Game 7 coming up, let’s preview three things that the Stars need to do to win and move on.
1. Bank on the experience of Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya.
Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya played together on the Chicago Blackhawks from 2011-12 to 2014-15. During those four years, they played in three Game 7’s. The first was in the conference semifinals while the next two came in the conference finals.
In 2012-13, they battled back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games. In 2013-14, the came back from down 3-1 again but ultimately lost the series to the Los Angeles Kings and in 2014-15, they trailed 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks before winning the next two games and heading to the Final.
In two out of the past three years, both Sharp and Oduya have played and won critical win or go home games.
Most players on the Stars don’t have nearly as much playoff experience and for many of them, this will be their first Game 7 in the NHL. It will be important to understand the situation and follow in the footsteps of more experienced leaders before and during the game.
2. Avoid falling off once there’s a lead.
We’ve seen it many times from the Stars this season. They’ll take the lead and then immediately go into “prevent” mode in an attempt to simply seal the game with defense.
During the regular season, there were notable games against the Blackhawks and Capitals where the Stars went up 4-0, before furiously avoiding a late collapse. It’s already happened in the playoffs, like in Game 6 against the Minnesota Wild, where their 4-0 third period lead dissolved as time went by.
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We even saw it as recently as Game 6 against the Blues where they narrowly escaped a loss at Scottrade Center.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with taking a big lead and it would be awesome to see them go up early in Game 7, but once that lead is established, the Stars have to continue to play their game.
Letting up is the last thing you want to do in an elimination game and it could’ve cost them in Game 6. No matter if they go up by one or four, they can’t get lazy and focus entirely on simply stopping a comeback from happening. They have to continue to play consistently throughout the course of the game.
3. Use home ice as an advantage.
The Stars didn’t finish first in the West for nothing. They didn’t put it all on the line late in the regular season for no reason at all. They earned home ice throughout the Western Conference portion of the playoffs for a reason: Game 7’s.
Though home ice hasn’t really played a major role in their second round series (home teams are 2-4), the Stars are going to have to make it work. This will serve as the first Game 7 played in American Airlines Center and the good fans in Dallas are expected to put on an electric performance in the stands.
Game 1 has been the only home victory for the Stars in this series. It was a close 2-1 win in which the crowd energy sparked the team to dig in and finish the job.
If the Stars want any chance of moving on, they’ll have to feed off of a rowdy home crowd on Wednesday night.