The Stars Are Playing For The Fucking Cup! Hop On The Bandwagon And Get Hip To The First Dallas Stars Team To Reach The Stanley Cup Final In 20 Years.
OK, real talk? These last three weeks of NHL playoff action have us in a bit of a daze.
Like, is all of this really happening? Do Your Dallas Stars actually have a shot at winning Lord Stanley’s Cup? Are they that effin’ team, for real?
Maybe they are!
Think about it: In the bizarro year that is 2020, why can’t a team like Your Dallas Stars win it all? Really, why not us?
This team is everything at once, all the time. Consider the real poetic dichotomy to this year’s club, where terms like “good” and “bad” can be used to describe the team at pretty much any given point and in any given situation. It’s super weird. For instance, the Stars are one of the oldest teams in the NHL and are led by a heavily veteran core, yet that core relies heavily on the team’s youngest players to shine in the biggest moments of the season. Or look at how this team has a Vezina Trophy-caliber starting goaltender, but is being carried throughout these playoffs by a career journeyman backup. And then there’s the fact that this team has one of the league’s worst offenses and one of its most effective defenses. Yup, this is a Stars team can begin a third period down by three, but might end up winning by two. Meanwhile, Jamie Benn is pretty washed up, but then again Jamie Benn is also a goddamn beast, ain’t he?
Yes, like Mountain Dew before them, the Dallas Stars dabble in extremes. One minute, they are racing a Mad Max semi-truck through the desert on an insane corn syrup and sugar high — and, the next minute, they’re sterile.
It’s been a roller coaster of a year, for sure. And to cap it all off, here our bois are, back in the Stanley Cup Final after two whole decades of not earning the chance? Wowza.
It’s been a long 20 years, you guys. Much has changed since Madonna topped the charts with “Music” and Mike Modano was tipping pucks past Martin Brodeur.
But one thing has been consistent among the Stars faithful: Our fandom of this silly little hockey club down here in Texas is both undying and illogical. Now, to honor — or spite — the 20-year drought between this team’s Cup Final appearances, we’re breaking down everything that even the most casual of hockey fans should know about this year’s Cup Final-reaching team in 20 convenient points.
Don’t worry: It’s all killer, no filler. Because it’s September, it’s the Cup, and nothing else matters. Or, put another way: Yippie-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon.
Everything You Need To Know About The ’20 Dallas Stars.
1. Time is a flat circle. OK, what year is this? Let’s see: Dallas began training camp for this season over a year ago, all the way back on September 13, 2019, up at the Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas. Since then, things have been weirdly symmetrical. Like with how the Stars began the regular season with an abysmal 1-7-1 record and then finished things up pre-COVID shutdown on a free-fall of a six-game losing streak. At least they have a little outdoor magic working in their favor: The Stars’ advancement to the championship round marks the second year in a row that the winner of the Winter Classic will play in the Stanley Cup Final. The Boston Bruins accomplished this feat in 2019, but eventually lost the Cup to the St. Louis Blues — who, much like the Stars, had a coaching change mid-season and still won it all. (More on that in a second.)
2. What’s up, coach? The Stars’ promising, young second-year head coach Jim Montgomery was unexpectedly fired “due to unprofessional conduct” just two months into the season, and his dismissal was later revealed to be related to alcohol abuse. Assistant head coach Rick Bowness reluctantly took over interim duties, making him just the third person in NHL history to have coached in five separate decades. The Stars publicly now say they would like Bowness to return in his role next season, but no word if the man they call “Bones” is interested. LOL. Crazy, huh?
3. From horseshit to hot shit. Stars owner — and noted environmentalist! — Tom Gaglardi purchased the team out of bankruptcy in 2011, re-branded the club into its Victory Green™ colorway and has spent all the way up to the salary cap since taking over operations. But, by 2018, Gaglardi’s displeasure with the return on his investment — and lack of critical media coverage of his team — came to a head. Using then-CEO Jim Lites as the messenger, Gaglardi publicly called out the team, specifically his highest-profile players in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Did calling the players out work? Tough to say for sure — but, two years later, look at all this “horseshit” now!
We’re not done yet 😏 pic.twitter.com/HB8SGz3BIb
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 15, 2020
4. Miro is our hero. Back in 2018, all of 47 seconds into Miro Heiskanen’s NHL career, we knew we wanted to sign him for life. Now, just one season later, he’s arguably the best defenseman in the Western Conference. The young Finn currently sits fourth in NHL playoff scoring with 22 points, but his play is about more than just impressive statistics. His casual defensive dominance over the opposition’s forecheck and high hockey IQ can turn any disastrous sequence in the Stars’ own end into a scoring opportunity up the ice on a dime. Send in invisible ink: He’s already the best all-around defenseman in Stars history.
5. The Stars have a super secret game plan. It’s real simple, but it seems to be working out for the bois!
From the @DallasStars locker room after their Game 7 win, via QUEST FOR THE STANLEY CUP on ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/OPLyZRMkNR
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) September 10, 2020
6. This team has a post-modernist approach to goals. The Dallas Stars are the first team in 52 years to reach the Stanley Cup Final with a negative postseason goal differential (-2). This means that they’ve been scored on more times than they’ve actually scored on their opponents this postseason. It’s fine: How many times do we have to tell you people that goals are a social construct!
7. This team remains super Hitchcockian. Former Stanley Cup-winning Stars coach Ken Hitchcock had an immensely successful run in Dallas from 1996 through 2001 — the halcyon days of the franchise. His second swim through Dallas back in 2017-2018 didn’t go so well, as the Stars suffered a historic eight-game losing streak in the final month of his run, thus killing the team’s hopes of a postseason appearance and leading to Hithcock’s “retirement.” Now, while it’s easy to dismiss that season as a complete failure, we can’t help but reflect on how much of this Stanley Cup Final team looks like the result of Hitch’s influence. Tyler Seguin’s two-way play, aggressive set plays off the face-off, highly effective neutral zone traps and stifling shut-down penalty kills are all Hitch trademarks. Say what you will about that “lost season,” but the Stars have definitely benefited from the transition it started that season from them being the league’s best offense to its best defense.
8. Overall, the Stars are generally managing. Stars General Manager Jim Nill was recently among the final three candidates for the NHL’s 2020 GM of the Year award, losing out to Lou Lamoriello, the former GM of the Stars’ 2000 Cup rivals, the New Jersey Devils. (He’s also the current GM of the New York Islanders, hmm.) Anyway, Stars fans like to criticize Nill for his free agent-signing busts Martin Hanzal and Jiri Hudler, but the guy deserves massive credit for scoring hits with his signings of Anton Khudobin and Alexander Randulov while developing Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz. That’s an easy net positive.
9. Goonies never say die, and neither do the Dallas Stars. The mainstream media would have you believe that the Stars have morphed into comeback kids over the course of their 2020 Stanley Cup run, but this mentality isn’t anything new for this club, which has been rallying from deficits all year long.
10. Our rookie Russian’s got a rocket. The Stars’ 23-year-old rookie forward Denis Gurianov guaranteed the team’s trip to the Cup Final when he absolutely blasted a one-timer past the Golden Knights during overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. The shot was clocked at 110 miles per hour. Did you read that figure? We said 110 miles per hour. That’s insane. Like, seriously: WTF?
“THEY WIN THE SERIES, THEY WIN THE WEST AND THE DALLAS STARS ARE HEADED TO THE STANLEY CUP FINAL!”@ChoctawCasinos | #GoStars pic.twitter.com/WJwmr3o8qR
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 15, 2020
11. You better, you bettor, you bet. So, here’s a fun fact: Since the Stars’ Game 6 victory over the Calgary Flames in the opening round of the playoffs — that’s two whole rounds ago — the degenerate bookies in Las Vegas have taken the opposition to win in every single Stars game. Dallas has, of course, defied the odds makers by posting an 8-4 record against the line. We’re pretty sure this also gives us the over and doubles our parlay, but we also don’t really understand gambling lingo.
12. Finnish the job. Ever since Jere Lehtinen made his NHL debut for the Stars back in 1995, Dallas has become a sort of “Finland South” here across the pond. Currently, the Stars employ four Finnish skaters on the roster — Heiskanen, Roope Hintz, Esa Lindell and Joel “F*cking” Kirivanta — and all four have been critical to the Stars’ success this postseason. Did you know it’s also in large part through Lehtinen’s recommendation that the Stars acquired the young gun-slinging Kirivanta, who scored a hat trick and the series-clinching overtime goal for the Stars in their second-round match-up against the Colorado Avalanche? How cool! Lehtinen is still giving the Stars assists all these years later!
Remember the name, folks. #GoStars #NHLfi pic.twitter.com/oHbgSOwxdq
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) September 5, 2020
13. “They haven’t played a team like us.” I mean, if Captain Jamie Benn says it, then it must be true.
Keep moving forward. Keep moving together.#GoStars pic.twitter.com/KaW0dsKy74
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 16, 2020
14. O Captain! My Captain! Speaking of Benn: We, along with many others, have been hyper-critical of his performance over the last few seasons. Between a double hip surgery, a big payday, disinterested play and casual turnovers, it sure looked like the former Art Ross winner was starting to erode into a part-time player for the team. But, much like he did in the playoffs against the Predators last year, Benn’s been flashing the same kind of all-out effort in these playoffs that he did during his gold medal-winning performance in the 2014 Sochi Olympics for Team Canada. When on his game and hungry, Benn is the living embodiment of a prototypical power forward — and, right now, the dude is in full beast-mode! You love to see it!
Cap is FEELING IT 🔥#GoStars pic.twitter.com/sS2CJHC6di
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 15, 2020
15. Victory Green™ duds are exclusively worn by studs. This is just a fact. If you’re still rocking a Jason Arnott jersey from the lamented Mooterus era, it’s well past time to upgrade.
16. The mainstream media loves to slag on the Stars, but we do not buy into their fake news. It only took the Stars five games to dismantle the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final, but the headlines disregarded the Stars’s dominance in favor of a narrative about Vegas imploding. This, of course, is not the first time the Stars have been slighted by the press. If you’ll recall, we forced the New York Times into correcting the falsehoods perpetrated against our team back in 2016!
17. We have Dobby, and they do not. All the way back in March, we here at Central Track named Anton Khudobin our NHL Hitz Most Valuable Player of the Year — and he continues to be the team’s most important player in September. Not bad for a backup netminder who went from zero postseason experience to a 12-6 record so far! His brilliance over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final was the stuff of legend, y’all. Dude posted an absurd .950% save percentage, stopping 153 of the 161 shots sent his way by the favorites to win the Stanley Cup! We want to be Dobby when we grow up!
WHAT HE SAID! 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/qLP69lqUHi
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) September 15, 2020
18. Tyler Seguin is due. The Dallas Stars have managed to make it a long way without their best forward actually playing like their best forward. Seguin’s mysterious wrist/leg/thorax injury is one of the worst-kept secrets in the bubble, but don’t despair — the Stars’ top centerman has shown greater speed, puck-handling and shooting ability as the postseason has progressed. By all accounts, Ol’ Seggy is due to make a greater offensive impact on the game in the Final. While he’s found ways to contribute to this playoff run even if not on the scoreboard — he deserves kudos his dogged back-checking and shot-blocking efforts — the team will certainly need the former Stanley Cup champion to spearhead the offensive charge in the Cup Final. But at least he’s playing physically in the meantime: While Seguin totaled just 18 hits through two rounds in last season’s postseason, he’s logged 57 in this year’s run. Here’s hoping his shots start hitting the twine in the back of the net next.
19. When it comes to the NHL, every other team can puck off. If you don’t know, now you know.
20. Any way but loose. OK, so, listen: It’s been a hell of a journey through the postseason, and credit the Stars for adapting to the challenge at hand and punching their ticket to the Cup Final. In Round One, Dallas found its sea legs after a woeful round-robin by taking care of business against a potent (if one-dimensional) Calgary Flames squad. Round Two saw the Stars transform into an offensive juggernaut against the heavily favored Nathan Mackinnon-led Colorado Avalanche. Most recently, Round Three saw the Stars settle into their boa constrictor best against the Cup-favorite Vegas Golden Knights. Point being? This team is adaptable! Whatever the Stanley Cup Final has to bring, Dallas is ready.
* * * * *
Welp, the bandwagon is nearly full as we barrel towards the Stanley Cup horizon.
If this is your first rodeo: Welcome and enjoy!
If you’ve crawled through the trenches of the Glen Gulutzan and Marc Crawford years with us, then we tip our hats to you. It’s been ugly, it’s been wild and it’s been trill, but we’re not going home!
It’s “Rock Em Sock Em” time for Your Dallas Stars, folks. Let’s do it!
Flip it. Stick it. See ya later, bye. — LehtMoJoe
Cover photo via the Dallas Stars’ Twitter.