The Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars played a fast-paced, high-scoring, entertaining series in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Both the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars came into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs looking to do something they were unable to do in 2019: advance to the Conference Final. After both clubs fell in second round Games 7 last season, a matchup against one another meant one would definitely move on.
Early in the series, it seemed almost certain that it would be Dallas that advanced after the Stars took a commanding 3-1 series lead. However, two consecutive wins by the Avalanche forced the teams into a winner-take-all Game 7, just like the ones each played last spring.
Even in a full seven game marathon, extra time was needed to determine a winner, and when it was all said and done, it was the Dallas Stars that overcame their 2019 demons. With this thrilling series now in the books, here are three takeaways from the matchup.
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The Stars actually can score
When the season began in October, I thought that the offseason moves by Dallas to bring in players like Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski would help them score goals and propel them to a championship. That was not the case in the regular season.
The Stars scored only 180 goals in 69 games prior to the stoppage, and key forwards were underachieving. Even in the round robin games, Dallas only mustered five goals in three contests. However, the team found its groove offensively for the first time in two years in the late stages of its series against the Flames.
With 14 goals in the final three games against Calgary, the Stars established a pace that would help them rack up 28 goals against the Avalanche. It’s what the offense has been searching for for years, and it is good to know that that scoring touching actually still exists.
Nathan MacKinnon is a top three player in the NHL
This postseason gave me a close look at Nathan MacKinnon, and it gave him an opportunity to really shine. He posted an unbelievable 25 points (nine goals and 16 assists) in 14 games. That total leads all other playoff participants by four points.
Not only did he show up night in and night out on the score sheet, but the way he plays enables him to dominate the flow of games. His speed makes him difficult to keep up with, his hands make him hard to stop, and his size is impossible to matchup with.
At 25 years old, he will be a dominant force in the NHL for years to come, and he deserves to be in the conversation with players like Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. People out west that see MacKinnon several times each season already knew how good he was, and now so does everyone else.
The Stars have the potential to win the Stanley Cup
As I have mentioned before, the Dallas Stars were my pick to win the Stanley Cup way back in October. I loved the stout defense they boasted, as well as the potential for the offense to be unleashed in 2019-20.
While the offense did not do that for much of the season, it did when it needed to the most. It is imperative that that continue as the Stars take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final.
Vegas is capable of scoring in large quantities, but the Stars have the defense to slow down the Golden Knights, as well as the ability to keep up with them offensively, just like in the Colorado series. If Dallas plays to its potential at both ends of the ice, it will be a dangerous team the rest of the way.
Alexander Radulov must continue to contribute on offense, while players like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin need to get going and do their part. At the other end, Anton Khudobin must continue to play at an elite level and also get help from stud defensemen like Miro Heiskanen and others.
There was a time I believed that all of the things I have mentioned here were possible, and after watching the Stars overcome the Avalanche, I have actually seen it happen. If it turns out to not be a fluke, the Stars could be your 2020 Stanley Cup Champions.
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Both teams fought hard in this second round series, and both deserved to move on. As it stands, the Stars are the teams that will be doing so and playing to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.