The NHL playoffs haven’t had the most amount of drama so far. There’s only been two overtime games in the eight series combined, and not too many more that have been all that close or in doubt in the closing minutes of the third period. Some scores have been blown up by multiple empty-net goals, but what there have been is goals. Lots of them. And chances too.
And before we go any further, we should state that we all owe the Dallas Stars a debt of gratitude, because the fact that a team this short-handed got into the playoffs ahead of the Las Vegas Golden Knights truly is a gift of hilarity we shouldn’t ever lose appreciation for. The Stars had a negative goal difference on the season. They aren’t good, and yet they kept the most expensive team in the league home for the spring. There are good things in this world, people.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a thing:
Total goals in each playoff series
- Panthers-Capitals: 19
- Leafs-Lightning: 20
- Hurricanes-Bruins: 19
- Rangers-Penguins: 25
- Avalanche-Predators: 22
- Wild-Blues: 18
- Oilers-Kings: 23
The Calgary Flames and Stars? They’ve managed nine.
This isn’t down to goaltending either, at least not solely goaltending. Only in last night’s Game 3 did either team finally crack 30 shots or over 50 attempts on net at even-strength in any of the three games so far. And you can be sure Stars coach Rick Bowness was sick that it got to that point, though happy that the Stars pulled out a win in a game they were slightly outplayed in.
It’s hard to get too upset at what Dallas is trying, because they’re hopelessly outgunned by the Flames. Calgary features four 35+ goal scorers and three 40+ goal scorers. The Stars have two and one of each, respectively. The Flames have two to three lines they can likely count on to get a goal and create chances, whereas the Stars are dependent on Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski being able to drag his loose collection of bones near the net to tip something home or bang in a rebound (which he can still do effectively, somehow).
So the Flames are going to see a lot of trap-hockey, a lot of dump-ins, and they’ll have to work through the slog to even and then win this series. It might help if Matthew Tkachuk were more concerned with getting shots on net and scoring than fighting John Klingberg for reasons only known to him. God knows his father could use the cardio from celebrating a goal from his son.
And while we can’t blame Dallas for their approach, we can fear what will result from them winning the series, and the same goes for the Caps and Panthers, another series that features a high-scoring team trailing 2-1 to a team trying to gum up the works. The Caps come with more star-power than the Stars, but they’re not trying to run with the Panthers either.
The Flames and Cats eating it in the first round would only make more GMs around the league gun-shy about building higher-octane offenses to win, and cop out at the much easier exit ramp of building “heavy” teams. It’s always easier to find players who can block shots and play along the boards than it is to find a third-liner who is fast and can get you 15-20 goals. There are Pat Maroons everywhere. There aren’t that many Blake Colemans.
But the Stars are still here. Which means we have to watch more games where nothing happens, the neutral zone looks like it’s filled with legos, and intermissions filled with analysts glorifying blocked shots and hits 80 feet from the play as some sort of turning point (everyone blocks shots now. This isn’t the 80s when equipment meant any blocked shot meant flirting with death).
Let’s just hope they politely move to the side before too long.