NHL.com is looking ahead to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers by examining five of the biggest questions facing each of the 24 remaining teams. Today, we look at the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas Stars were 37-24-8 (.594 points percentage) and will enter the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as one of the top four teams in the Western Conference. They will play a round-robin against the St. Louis Blues (42-19-10, .662), Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, .657) and Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, .606) to determine seeding in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The West qualifiers will start Aug. 1 at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Here are 5 key questions facing the Stars:
1. Will the pause help them?
Dallas went 1-7-1 in its first nine games this season and 0-4-2 in its final six before the season was paused on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. In between, the Stars went 36-13-5 and had the highest points percentage in the League (.713). So perhaps the time off will help the Stars, who have 11 players at least 30 years old on their roster and appeared to be fading down the stretch. Their 0-4-2 streak was their longest stretch of the season without a win, and in their final four games they scored three goals and were shut out twice.
2. Will they score enough?
Though the Stars are one of the hardest teams to score against -- they were second in the League at 2.52 goals against per game -- they ranked 26th in scoring at 2.58 goals per game. Rookie forward Denis Gurianov led Dallas with 20 goals; the Arizona Coyotes and Nashville Predators are the only other teams in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers with one 20-goal scorer. Center Tyler Seguin, who had 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) in 69 games, was the only Stars player to score at least 40 points. Every other NHL team had at least two players with 40 points this season.
Video: DAL@STL: Seguin redirects shot to kick off scoring
3. Will Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz have expanded roles?
Gurianov led the Stars in goals despite ranking 11th among their forwards in average ice time per game (12:59). Hintz tied with Jamie Benn for second on Dallas with 19 goals despite ranking eighth among its forwards in average ice time per game (14:45). Getting the two 23-year-olds on the ice more often could boost the offense.
4. What impact will Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry have?
Neither 35-year-old forward produced during the regular season at the level the Stars had hoped after signing each as an unrestricted free agent July 1. Pavelski had 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 67 games, his fewest in a full NHL season since he was a rookie with the San Jose Sharks in 2006-07, and Perry had 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 57 games. However, their Stanley Cup Playoff experience increases their value now. Pavelski has 100 points (48 goals, 52 assists) in 134 postseason games and in 2016 reached the Stanley Cup Final with the Sharks, who lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Perry has 89 points (36 goals, 53 assists) in 118 playoff games and won the Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Video: CHI@DAL: Pavelski pots opening goal at the doorstep
5. What is the goalie plan?
With Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, the Stars have one of the best sets of goalies in the NHL, and it's likely each will see action during the round-robin to get them ready for the Western Conference First Round. After that, Bishop, who went 21-16-4 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .920 save percentage, will likely start Game 1. But if Bishop can't find his rhythm quickly after the long layoff, coach Rick Bowness has the luxury of being able to turn to Khudobin, who went 16-8-4 with a 2.22 GAA and led the NHL with a.930 save percentage (minimum 20 games).