Seguin, Radulov returns could make Stars under the radar contender

Dallas Stars
Tom Pennington, Getty Images

Dallas Stars fans will get a welcome sight on Thursday night when Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov will be back in the lineup together on the team’s top line.

They are slated to skate alongside Jamie Benn in their season opening game against the New York Rangers, reuniting one of the league’s best lines for the first time since the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Their return is a big reason why the Stars might be an under the radar contender for the 2021-22 season.

After making consecutive deep playoff runs in 2019 and 2020, the Stars took a major step backwards this past season and missed the playoffs entirely. The absence of Seguin and Radulov, the two best offensive players on the team, were a major reason why.

Injuries limited Radulov to just 11 games, while Seguin played in only three (the last three games of the season). They never played a single game together. In the 42 games the Stars played without both they were just 16-15-11, which comes out to about an 83-point pace over an 82-game season. Not very good. Also about what you would expect for a team that is playing without two thirds of its top-line and by far its two best offensive players. That had a devastating effect on a Stars team that still did a lot of things right last season.

Defensively, the Stars were one of the absolute best teams in the league during 5-on-5 play finishing in the top-five in shot attempts against per 60 minutes (48.6; third), expected goals against per 60 minutes (1.84; second), scoring chances against per 60 minutes (21.5, second), high-danger scoring chances against per 60 minutes (8.29; third) and goals against per 60 minutes (2.02; fifth). Shutting teams down at that level usually makes you a Stanley Cup contender and had the Stars sitting with teams like the New York Islanders, Colorado Avalanche, and Boston Bruins. With Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg still leading that blue line, and now adding Ryan Suter to it, they should still be one of the toughest teams in the league to generate chances against.

[Related: Dallas Stars 2021-22 NHL Season Preview]

There were two things that held them back a year ago: An inability to score goals at even-strength, and the fact they had an absurd, almost unbelievably bad record in games that went beyond regulation going 6-14 in overtime and shootout games. The 14 overtime/shootout losses is a ridiculous number on its own. Since the NHL went to the three-point game format during the 2005-06 season there have only been 43 teams that lost that many overtime/shootout games in a single season. Nobody lost more than 18. All but one of those teams reached those numbers in a full 82-game season (the 2019-20 Columbus Blue Jackets lost 15 such games in 70 games). The Stars reached that number in a 56-game season. That means a quarter of their games (literally 25 percent) ended with them losing in overtime or a shootout. It almost defies all reasonable logic.

There has to be an element of bad luck to be that bad in those situations. That bad luck can include the fact your two best offensive playmakers — players who, theoretically, would excel in 3-on-3 and shootout situations — were not available almost all season. If the Stars simply go .500 in those overtime games they make the playoffs. That also does not even get into the seven one-goal games they lost in regulation due to a lack of offense.

Seguin and Radulov are so important to the Stars’ offense that they are still two of the top-three scorers on the team since the start of the 2018-19 season even though both missed nearly an entire season of games during that stretch. And other than Benn, there is not another forward on the team that has even been close to them. Now the Stars are getting them back to go with an outstanding defense and deep goaltending position that includes Anton Khudobin, Braden Holtby, Ben Bishop, and Jake Oettinger.

With their defense and goaltending the Stars do not need huge offensive numbers to contend. They just need to be a little better than they were a year ago. The returns of Seguin and Radulov to go with Jason Robertson coming off of his monster rookie season, Roope Hintz‘s breakout, Joe Pavelski‘s continued excellence, and Denis Gurianov‘s potential they should be able to achieve that and get back to the playoffs. The past two times they were there with this group they were a double overtime in Game 7 away from the Western Conference Final and then in the Stanley Cup Final. Not a team to take lightly this season.


Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.