Jason Dickinson

Dallas Stars in good place despite season finish

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DALLAS (AP) — Goaltender Ben Bishop talked somberly about the end of the season. Defenseman John Klingberg described his emotions as pretty empty.

After a double-overtime loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals, it was hard for the Dallas Stars to reflect on just how far they had come in coach Jim Montgomery’s first season and the positive effect it should have moving on to next season.

”Yeah, I’m sure it can,” top-line center Tyler Seguin said, though the sting was still fresh after a 2-1 loss in St. Louis.

Bishop had a career-high 52 saves Tuesday night before a puck that ricocheted off the post and the back of his mask fell into the crease and was knocked into the net. That was right after captain Jamie Benn‘s wraparound attempt that came oh-so-close to being a series-clinching goal for the Stars.

”I know a lot of people wrote us off when it was the All-Star break, and we grew, and we overcame a lot of adversity. So there’s a lot to like,” Montgomery said. ”I think that next year we’re going to be able to start in a real good place because there’s going to be a lot of familiarity starting next year.”

The Stars will still have Bishop, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy that goes to the NHL’s top goalie, along with Seguin, Benn and Klingberg. There are several young standouts as well, including 19-year-old defenseman Miro Heiskanen and fast-skating 22-year-old forward Roope Hintz.

Heiskanen and Hintz will no longer be NHL rookies next season, and neither will their coach. Montgomery led the University of Denver to an NCAA championship in 2017 and also was part of a title as a college player.

Montgomery was the third coach in three seasons for the Stars, following grizzled and veterans Ken Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff with their differing philosophies.

There were plenty of adjustments and acquaintances to be made with another new coach, and things didn’t always go smoothly at first.

Right after Christmas, long-time team executive Jim Lites profanely ripped high-priced forwards Seguin and Benn about their play. Then in January, Montgomery called out his team over a ”culture of mediocrity.”

All those feelings have certainly changed after a season that unexpectedly stretched into May, when their 95th game was the longest of the season at 3 hours, 49 minutes. They went to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, when they also lost to the Blues in Game 7 of a second-round series.

”I appreciate how much we grew together as a group, and the effort and sacrifice that they put together,” Montgomery said. ”We’re only going to be better because of this playoff run. That’s for sure, we are. The valuable experience that some of our young players got in their first year, and some of the guys that hadn’t been to the playoffs … It’s a good building block for next year.”

SEGUIN STAYING

Seguin, a five-time All-Star at 27, would have been an unrestricted free agent this summer if he hadn’t signed a $78.8 million, eight-year contract extension last September. That deal through 2026-27 starts next season. He was not named to the All-Star Game for the first time since 2014, but Seguin still matched his career high with 47 assists and his 80 points were the most since 84 in his Dallas debut. He had four goals and seven assists in the playoffs.

STAYING SECOND

The Stars acquired forward Mats Zuccarello on Feb. 23 from the New York Rangers for a conditional second-round draft pick in this year’s draft. That would have become a first-round pick had Dallas beaten St. Louis and made it to the Western Conference finals. That deal also included a conditional third-round pick in the 2020 draft. That could still become a first-rounder if Zuccarello, a 31-year-old center who is about to become an unrestricted free agent, re-signs with the Stars. Zuccarello had four goals and seven assists in 13 playoff games.

IMPRESSIVE DEBUTS

Before a goal and an assist in his first NHL playoff game, Heiskanen had four game-winning goals while playing all 82 regular season games. He led NHL rookie defensemen with 12 goals and 23 minutes per game, and also had 21 assists. Hintz had five goals and 16 blocked shots while playing 16 minutes a game in the playoffs. Montgomery called him the best forward in the finale.

”He’s going to be a great player for us for a long time,” Montgomery said.

FREE AGENCY

Veteran forward Jason Spezza and defensemen Ben Lovejoy, Roman Polak, and Marc Methot join Zuccarello as potential unrestricted free agents. Forwards Mattias Janmark, Brett Ritchie and Jason Dickinson, will be restricted free agents, along with defenseman Esa Lindell.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Should Stars bring back Zuccarello?

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Not all trade deadline acquisitions are created equal. Some work out, some not so much.

Now that the Dallas Stars have been eliminated by the St. Louis Blues in the second round, we can analyze how the Mats Zuccarello trade ended up working out for them.

Zuccarello’s tenure with the Stars didn’t get off to a great start, as he suffered a broken arm in his first game with his new team. The injury kept him out of the lineup for 17 games. He came back for one game at the beginning of April, but they decided to rest him in the final two games of the regular season.

Right from the start of the playoffs, the 31-year-old seemed to fit in perfectly on Dallas’ second line. He managed to score three goals in the first four games of their first-round series against the Nashville Predators. Secondary scoring has always been an issue for the Stars but Zuccarello, Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson helped take some of the pressure off the top line of Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin.

The veteran didn’t score in the first six games of the series against the Blues, but he added seven assists during that stretch. He also chipped in with the Stars’ only goal in Game 7.

In 13 postseason games, he had four goals and 11 points. Not too shabby for a guy who had never been traded before.

Now the Stars have to analyze whether or not it’s worth it for them to re-sign him before he hits the market on July 1st.

The trade with the New York Rangers included two conditional draft picks. One was a 2019 second-round pick, the other a 2020 third-rounder. Had the Stars made it to the Western Conference Final, the second-rounder would’ve turned into a first-rounder. If Zuccarello re-signs with Dallas, that third-round pick turns into a first-rounder.

Stars general manager Jim Nill has to decide if Zuccarello is worth a first and second-round pick. So on one hand, he’s a great fit and would probably love to be in continue his playing career in Dallas. But on the other hand, is handing over that kind of draft compensation smart business?

Of course, opting to replace Zuccarello with a trade acquisition or a  free agent could be risky too. Nill could commit big term or dollars to someone else, but he won’t know how he fits in with the rest of the team until the season starts. With Zuccarello, management already knows that’s he fits in, which means the risk diminishes significantly.

Nill helped get the Stars back into the playoffs this year, but he’ll need to get them to another level in 2019-20. Making the right or wrong decision on Zuccarello could be the difference between taking a big step forward or backwards for this group.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Should Isles turn to Greiss in Game 4?

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Well, this is it for the New York Islanders. They’re officially in must-win territory heading into Game 4 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream) against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.

Now that their backs are against the wall, head coach Barry Trotz admits that changes could be coming to the lineup tonight. That’s normal considering the predicament they’re in right now. But the interesting twist here, is that Trotz said he’s considering tweaks “at all positions,” including between the pipes.

So, the team that’s scored three goals in the first three games of their series is thinking about swapping out a goaltender who has allowed six goals. Changing goaltenders isn’t necessarily based of performance either, though. It could just be a way to get his players’ attention, but it’s probably not the right way to go about it. Nothing against Thomas Greiss, but Robin Lehner deserves to stay in the net with the season on the line.

The biggest issue for the Islanders, is that they simply can’t find the back of the net. No team is good enough defensively to score three goals in three games and have a series lead. No one. Trotz should take a page for Stars head coach Jim Montgomery’s book and make the necessary changes to his forward lines.

Ahead of Game 4, Montgomery decided to move Roope Hintz to the top line with Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, and Tyler Seguin dropped down to the second line with Mats Zuccarello and Jason Dickinson. The result? Every one of those players showed up and made a difference in a crucial game.

That’s what Trotz has to do.

 [NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

He has to figure out a way to get his team’s attention by mixing up lines. Is it time to break up the best fourth line in hockey? How do you get Anders Lee going? Mathew Barzal has just one goal in three games. If he doesn’t get going, there’s no way they can come back to win this series. Where has Jordan Eberle gone? He scored in every game in the first round, but he hasn’t found the back of the net against Carolina.

Trotz isn’t exactly in an enviable position given how quiet this offense has been. But we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he came in to New York and turned this team into a 100-point squad in short order. That’s not to say that you have to believe the Isles are coming back in this series, but you can’t bury them yet.

“There’s 23 teams that would love to be playing (tonight), and they’re not,” Trotz said, per NHL.com. “You get an opportunity. You can’t look back. You can’t correct what’s already done; you can only correct what’s right in front of you. (Tonight’s) a chance to start correcting it in the right way. Focus on that. It’s always a great opportunity. You’re still alive.”

MORE: Hurricanes aiming to close out Islanders as quick as possible

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Wraparound: Stars elevating their game at perfect time

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

The Dallas Stars’ season was on the line heading into Game 4 against the St. Louis Blues. At that time, they were down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and another loss on home ice would’ve put them in an extremely difficult spot. Instead of cracking under the pressure, the Stars came out with an incredible effort.

When a coach makes a mistake, he gets all the blame. But when he makes the right call, you have to tip your cap to him. Jim Montgomery decided to swap his top two centers in Game 4, as Roope Hintz played with Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn, while Tyler Seguin moved to a line with Mats Zuccarello and Jason Dickinson.

“It’s one of those things where when it happens it looks great, but if nothing happens (in Game 4), then nobody even says anything about it,” Dickinson said after the win. “I think what it comes down to is personally guys elevating their game. If it took shaking up the lines to get guys to do that, then that’s a great move by the coach.”

Dickinson and Hintz both scored, and Seguin, Radulov and Zuccarello each had two assists in Dallas’ 4-2 victory.

Now, this series turns into a best-of-three with two of the games potentially coming in St. Louis. Can the Blues bounce back tonight? (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN)

“They were possessing pucks down low against us, which gave us issues and kind of wore us down where we didn’t find our game in our offensive structure until later on,” Ryan O’Reilly said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “And it was too late.

“That happens. (There are) adjustments we’ve got to make. We’re disappointed in ourselves. That wasn’t the game we wanted. But it’s a best-out-of-3 now and we’re confident we’ll turn it around.”

Jordan Binnington also has to find a way to keep his emotions in check. The Blues netminder lost his cool after Benn poked him in the pads. Binnington went after Benn, then slashed Stars goalie Ben Bishop on his way off the ice. Sure, the Blues were already down 4-1 at that point, but he has to keep his head on straight if his team is going to move on to the Western Conference Final.
TODAY’S SCHEDULE: 
Game 4: New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes (Hurricanes lead 3-0): Can the Hurricanes do the unthinkable? They’ll have an opportunity to sweep the Islanders in Raleigh tonight. Even the most optimistic fan in Carolina couldn’t have imagined that this is the way the series was going to play out. The ‘Canes have overcome a lot of injuries, including one to starting netminder Petr Mrazek. The Isles have only scored three goals in the first three games of this series. That will have to change if they’re going to send it back to Brooklyn. (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream)
THURSDAY’S SCORES
Bruins 4, Blue Jackets 2
Avalanche 3, Sharks 0

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Playoff Buzzer: Hurricanes keep rolling; Stars get even

Getty
  • The Carolina Hurricanes are one win away from reaching their first Eastern Conference Final since the 2008-09 season.
  • Curtis McElhinney makes some history and Justin Faulk scores a highlight reel goal.
  • The Dallas Stars get even against the St. Louis Blues.

Carolina Hurricanes 5, New York Islanders 2 (CAR leads series 3-0)

The Carolina Hurricanes just keep right on rolling. Thanks to their 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night they are now just one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference Final and continue to write one of the most amazing stories of the 2018-19 season. Justin Williams wanted to see his team play better in Game 3, and they responded with their most complete effort of the series while Williams himself scored the game-winning goal mid-way through the third period.

Dallas Stars 4, St. Louis Blues 2 (Series Tied 2-2)

This game had some pretty intense moments and you can sense the tension rising in what is now a best-of-three series. The Stars were able to get even in their Round 2 matchup against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night by jumping all over them early and holding off a late push in the third period. Roope Hintz continued to score goals, Tyler Seguin and Mats Zuccarello both had a pair of points, and John Klingberg scored a beauty of a goal on the rush for what would go on to be the game-winning goal.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes. What a postseason he is having. Slavin added two more assists on Wednesday night to give him a league-leading 12, and also displayed more outstanding defensive zone play without the puck on his stick. He is a workhorse on the Hurricanes’ blue line and was at his best in this game.

2. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars. After falling behind early in the first period the Stars stormed back with four consecutive goals, with Seguin picking up the primary assist on Jason Dickinson‘s game-tying goal and John Klingberg’s game-winning goal. The play to set up Klingberg was one of the two pretty goals the Stars scored off the rush on Wednesday night.

3. Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes. Teravainen has become a star for the Hurricanes over the past couple of seasons and one of their go-to offensive players. He made another big contribution on Wednesday night, scoring two goals to give him five this postseason. He opened the scoring early in the first period when he scored right along the goal line, and then added an empty-net goal late in the third period to help put the game away.

Highlights of the Night

This looked to be a sure goal for the Islanders, but Curtis McElhinney had other ideas. Probably the best of his 28 saves on the night.

Just an incredible play by Justin Faulk to fly out of the penalty box, catch the puck in mid-air, quickly drop it to the ice, and then finish the breakaway with a slick move to beat Robin Lehner for a go-ahead goal in the second period.

The future of the Stars’ defense is in good hands with John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen patrolling the blue line for the foreseeable future. The veteran, Klingberg, scored a beauty of a goal on Wednesday night when he took this perfect pass from Tyler Seguin to beat Jordan Binnington with a perfectly placed shot.

Factoids

  • With his fifth goal of the playoffs on Wednesday night Roope Hintz now has the most goals in a single playoff run for a Stars rookie since the 1993-94 season. [NHL PR]
  • Curtis McElhinny is the oldest goalie in NHL history to win his first Stanley Cup Playoffs start. [Sportsnet Stats]
  • Tyler Seguin has set a career-high for most points in a single playoff year. [NHL PR]
  • The Carolina Hurricanes are now 4-0 at home this postseason and have outscored their opponents by a 17-5 margin [Tom Gulitti]
  • Klingberg’s goal was his second-game winner of the postseason, tying a Stars franchise record for a defender. [NHL PR]

Thursday’s Schedule

Game 4: Boston Bruins at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN (CBJ leads series 2-1) (Live Stream)
Game 4: San Jose Sharks at Colorado Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET, NBCSN (SJ leads series 2-1) (Live Stream)

 

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.