The Dallas Stars were an offensive juggernaut against the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference semifinals. In Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights, they showed they could still defend with the best of them.
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The bad injury news for the Lightning: Coach Jon Cooper ruled star Steven Stamkos out for the conference finals. He has yet to appear in the postseason after suffering a lower-body injury during the Phase 3 training camp. The better injury news for the Lightning: Nikita Kucherov will be available for Game 1 after leaving Game 5 against the Boston Bruins after taking a stick to the face.
Fun fact: The Islanders are averaging more goals per game (3.38) than the Lightning (3.00) this postseason. They’re also the best defensive team remaining, with 1.94 goals against per game. “The Islanders are pretty renowned for their defensive structure and play, but we’ve been pretty battle-tested ourselves having to go against Columbus and Boston,” said Cooper. Read the full series preview.
Bet of the day
Lightning over 2.5 goals (-140). Yes, the Islanders are the stingiest team left in the playoffs (1.94 goals per game). But the Lightning have hit three or more goals in seven of their 10 playoff-round games against two very stingy defensive teams.
About last night …
Goalie Anton Khudobin made 25 saves in the Stars’ Game 1 shutout vs. the Golden Knights. John Klingberg had the game’s only goal at 2:36 of the first period. It was the kind of defensive effort more associated with the Stars’ regular season than their postseason, where they’ve averaged 3.31 goals per game. The Stars were the NHL’s second-best defensive team when the season was paused in March. “That’s Dallas Stars hockey. We were skating. We were on top of them. We were creating a lot of offense from good defensive structure all over the ice. That’s how we play,” said Stars coach Rick Bowness. Full recap.
Question of the day: What happened to the Golden Knights?
This was not Vegas Golden Knights hockey. They generated just 12 shots in the first two periods of the game (25 overall) and were out-possessed badly in those periods, getting only 46.9% of the shot attempts for the game at 5-on-5.
The Knights were just off their game. Part of that was fatigue catching up with them, although Dallas played three games in four days as well. Another factor: The Stars are a better defensive team than the clubs the Knights had faced in the playoffs (Chicago and Vancouver). Dallas was also physical against Vegas, perhaps feeling a bit more comfortable in taking their shots, with Ryan Reaves suspended for Game 1.
But overall, the Knights just didn’t bring the same effort that’s expected of them. Consider this: This was the fourth time in 16 games Vegas had scored less than two goals. In the previous three games, it was because the opposing goaltender stopped over 40 shots on goal.
“We got what we deserved. We didn’t play hard enough for long enough tonight,” said Vegas coach Peter DeBoer. “They make you work for your offense. If you’re not willing to work for that offense, they’re not going to hand it to you. That was the case tonight.”
“Dobby” made 25 saves for his first NHL postseason shutout. The Stars were great in front of him for two periods, and he closed the deal with 13 saves in the third period.
Dallas has made an effort to get its defensemen more involved in the offense in the postseason. Klingberg stepped up and scored the game’s only goal.
Since that horror show first game in the round robin, Fleury has a .943 save percentage in his three starts against the Blackhawks, Canucks and now the Stars, going 2-1 in those games. “That game is a lot more out of reach if it’s not for Flower in the first two periods. It’s the truth. We didn’t play well,” said Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt.
Quote of the day
“I like to have fun with the guys. I like to just enjoy the practices, enjoy the games. Even if I’m not playing, I try to help them. I can bring them water or orange juice or whatever during the intermissions. That’s normal with me. I don’t know. I just try to be helpful. If I’m not playing, of course I’m thinking about it. But I don’t want to be a cancer in the room.” — Stars goalie Anton Khudobin, on why he’s so well-liked by his teammates.
Social post of the day
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) September 7, 2020
As usual, Fleury has the pranks.
NHL Awards update
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba was the 2019-20 recipient of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who exhibits “leadership on and off the ice, and who has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.” It carries a $25,000 donation from the National Hockey League Foundation to benefit a charity or charities of his choice.
Dumba co-founded the Hockey Diversity Alliance, and gave a powerful speech on the ice at the start of the Western Conference qualification round about police brutality and eradicating systemic racism. He spearheaded the Rebuild Minnesota initiative to assist Minneapolis businesses impacted by riots in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
Up next: The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy — given “to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey” — will be handed out on Monday. The finalists are Dallas Stars defenseman Stephen Johns, Philadelphia Flyers center Oskar Lindblom and Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan.