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playoffs

5 Reasons: Why Stars were eliminated

Lack of scoring, special-teams struggles sealed Dallas' fate

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com correspondent

The Dallas Stars' first Game 7 at American Airlines Center against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday didn't go well. The Blues won 6-1 to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001.

Dallas, the regular season Western Conference and Central Division champions, had various issues during the seven-game second-round series.

Here are 5 reasons the Stars were eliminated:

1. QUESTIONABLE GOALTENDING

Coach Lindy Ruff stuck with his two-goalie tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi in the playoffs like in the regular season, but neither was strong in the postseason.

Lehtonen saw the bulk of the work, playing 11 games (10 starts) compared to Niemi's five (three starts), but Lehtonen was pulled twice against the Blues, including in Game 7 after allowing three goals on eight shots in the first period. Lehtonen was 6-3 with a 2.81 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in the postseason. Niemi was 1-3-0 with a 3.29 GAA and .865 SV%.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm3: Brouwer beats defense to net goal

"We have world-class goalies," Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said after Game 7. "It's not like they're letting in tons of bad goals; it's breakdowns, all kinds of things."

2. NOT-SO-SPECIAL TEAMS

Special teams were a big factor in the Stars' undoing against St. Louis. Dallas had the NHL's fourth-best power play during the regular season at 22.1 percent. However, against the Blues, that unit was limited to 10 percent (2-for-20).

The Stars penalty kill was also a solid group during the regular season, killing 82.3 percent of opposing power plays, ranking 10th in the League. But against the Blues, Dallas killed 16 of 22 power plays (72.7 percent).

"Special teams are big in the playoffs," Stars center Jason Spezza said. "They score a power-play goal to start the game and we don't. It's a factor in the outcome of the game."

3. OFFENSE STUCK IN NEUTRAL

Dallas led the NHL with 265 goals during the regular season, averaging 3.23 goals per game.
In the Western Conference First Round against the Minnesota Wild, the Stars scored 21 goals, averaging 3.5 goals per game in six games. Dallas scored 14 goals in seven games (2.0 goals per game) in the second round against St. Louis, a precipitous drop for such a potent offense.

Several key offensive players saw their production decline against the Blues. Stars captain Jamie Benn had 10 points against the Wild, but five against St. Louis, including four games with no points.

Video: DALST, Gm3: Elliott extends pad to rob Benn in front

Spezza, who had nine points against the Wild, had four against the Blues. Patrick Sharp, one of Dallas' key offseason additions, went from four points against Minnesota to two against St. Louis.

"We didn't capitalize, we didn't finish," Sharp said after Game 7. "We had opportunities that we didn't come away with much production."

4. SEGUIN'S ABSENCE FELT

One possible reason for the Stars' offensive struggles is that forward Tyler Seguin, second on the team with 73 points in the regular season, didn't play against St. Louis. Seguin, who missed the final 10 games of the regular season and Game 1 against the Wild with a cut to his Achilles, wasn't available in the second round against the Blues because of an undisclosed injury sustained in Game 2 against Minnesota on April 16.

When Seguin is on the top line alongside Benn and Sharp as the center or even on the wing with Cody Eakin centering that line, he is a threat to score and to find open teammates. Without his presence, the Blues had one fewer player to focus on and the vaunted Dallas attack misfired in Seguin's absence.

Ruff was asked after Game 7 if he could disclose Seguin's injury but declined.

"No, we'll do that on cleanout day or whatever, but right now is not the time to get into [that]," he said.

5. VERY LITTLE HOMECOOKING

Dallas was 28-11-2 this season at American Airlines Center and the Stars went 2-1 at home against the Wild in the first round. However, in the second round, Dallas went 1-3 against St. Louis at home and was outscored 15-7.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Blues advance to WCF with 6-1 win

That tough run at home culminated in a 6-1 loss in Game 7.

"It's a huge disappointment," Ruff said after Game 7. "We had good energy, but it's a tough way to end [our season]. It's not our team."

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