The Dallas Stars did two things Sunday in Minnesota:
1. They hung on to beat the Wild, 5-4, and advance to the second round of the playoffs.
This was the encouraging thing.
2. They got outscored 4-1 in the third period, coming oh-so-close to blowing the 4-0 lead that they’d managed to build in the first 40 minutes.
This was the worrying thing.
All things considered, it was a very Dallas Stars way to close out a series. The Stars led the NHL in offense during the regular season, but finished 19th in goals-against. Because of that, many wondered how they’d fare in the playoffs, where that old cliche about defense winning championships is repeated for good reason.
Next up for the Stars? The punishing St. Louis Blues — one of the best defensive teams in the league, with a gang of heavy hitters, not to mention the assassin that is Vladimir Tarasenko.
No disrespect to the Wild, but this will be a much tougher test for the Stars.
Dallas winger Patrick Sharp won three Stanley Cups in his time with the Blackhawks. He knows what it took for that team to keep winning deep into the postseason.
“We won in Chicago because we protected our net well and we limited chances for the other team,” Sharp told PHT in December.
“I know there were some big-time forwards and defensemen there that got a lot credit for scoring goals, but we knew the identity of the team was defense-first, and that’s what we’re preaching in here as well.
“We’ve got some world-class players that can put the puck in the net, but when we have success, it’s playing well away from the puck, it’s protecting our goaltender and playing from the back end out.”
The Stars did, at times, play well defensively in the first round. They shut out the Wild in the first game, then won the next, 2-1.
Granted, they surrendered 16 goals over the next four games, but the bottom line is that they won the series, and they deserved to win the series.
Scoring goals and winning hockey games. It’s what the Stars have been doing all year.
We’ll see now what they can do against the Blues.
Goals against of past six Stanley Cup champs
2014-15 Blackhawks (2nd, 2.27)
2013-14 Kings (1st, 2.05)
2012-13 Blackhawks (1st, 2.02)
2011-12 Kings (2nd, 2.07)
2010-11 Bruins (2nd, 2.30)
2009-10 Blackhawks (6th, 2.48)