Dallas Stars 2019-20 Rewind
It was an eventful season for the Stars. The opened by losing eight of nine, then won 14 of their next 16 games. In December, head coach Jim Montgomery was unexpectedly fired for “unprofessional conduct.” Interim head coach Rick Bowness steered the ship the rest of the way, but Dallas entered the March pause on a six-game losing streak.
Despite the ups and downs, the Stars’ points percentage put them fourth in the West and earned a spot in the Return to Play Round-Robin.
Dallas began the postseason losing four of their first six, and an injury to Ben Bishop opened the door for Anton Khudobin to step in. A comeback was on against Calgary in the First Round, then they ended up knocking out the favored Avalanche in seven games. During the Western Conference Final, they needed just five games to eliminate the Golden Knights. In the Stanley Cup Final, the Stars took Game 1 against the Lightning, but would ultimately drop three straight before falling in six games.
3 Most Interesting Dallas Stars
• Anton Khudobin: A great playoffs led to the netminder signing a three-year, $10M extension in October. After posting a .945 even strength save percentage in the regular season, he went .929 in the playoffs during the team’s run to the Cup Final. With seven back-to-backs this season, Khudobin will get plenty of rest as he shares the crease with Jake Oettinger until Bishop gets healthy. He’s shown since arriving in Dallas he can handle a split load, but he will certainly be the go-to starter and leaned upon heavily in meaningful games.
• Joel Kiviranta: He played only 11 games during the regular season but made his presence felt in the playoffs. The 24-year-old netted a hat trick, including the overtime winner, in Game 7 against the Avalanche, and followed up with two more goals in limited ice time. With Bowness a big admirer, Kiviranta will likely have an increased role in 2021. “He’s undaunted by anything out there,” Bowness said during the playoffs. “He’s not intimidated by one thing. He’s a great little competitor. Is it nice to see him get rewarded with goals? Yes. Are we surprised at that? Yes. Did we expect that kind of effort? Yeah, that’s what we saw when we played him earlier in the year.”
• Jamie Benn: The captain’s production has decrease in the last two season and with Seguin out for a while, he’ll need to find his old form. While Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz stepped up with 39 combined goals last season, Benn will get the spotlight if the goals are slow to come. (You wonder, even though he’s moved from CEO to chairman, will that prevent Jim Lites from speaking out again?) Only Detroit scored fewer goals (91) at even strength last season than Dallas (109). Benn and Seguin had 25 together at even strength, while Miro Heiskanen (8) and John Klingberg (4) led the way from the back. Dallas was a very strong defensive team last season. Will a mediocre offense prevent them from taking another step forward?
There is a new look to the Central Division this year with Tampa, Carolina, Columbus, Florida, and Detroit joining and Colorado, Minnesota, and St. Louis moving to the West, while Winnipeg plays in the North. The schedule makes banking points an important factor and there is no reason to think, despite the injuries to Seguin and Bishop, that the Stars cannot get back into the postseason. Bowness’ approach worked with a team that needed an injection of positivity. With more familiarity between the players and coach, that can only lead to more progress.
Khudobin regresses and throws the goaltending situation into flux, the offense struggles to find goals and even Seguin’s return isn’t enough to save them. A 56-game schedule doesn’t allow for much time for slumping, and with only four teams in each division making the postseason there’s not a lot of time to “find chemistry” or “figure things out,” something many teams use early season action to do.
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