The Dallas Stars were eliminated from contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2018 when the Nashville Predators defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Saturday.
Dallas (22-18-14) will finish fifth in the eight-team Discover Central Division. The Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Predators clinched playoff berths in the division.
The Stars had gone to the playoffs the past two seasons. Last season, they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
The Stars are the first team to fail to return to the playoffs after reaching the Cup Final since the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014-15 season.
Here's a look at what happened in 2020-21 for the Stars, and why things could be better in 2021-22.
Potential unrestricted free agents: Andrew Cogliano, F; Blake Comeau, F; Tanner Kero, F; Justin Dowling, F; Jamie Oleksiak, D; Sami Vatanen, D; Mark Pysyk, D; Stephen Johns, D; Taylor Fedun, D; Landon Bow, G.
Potential restricted free agents: Jason Dickinson, F; Joel Kiviranta, F; Rhett Gardner, F; Nicholas Caamano, F; Miro Heiskanen, D
Potential 2021 Draft picks: 7
What went wrong
Goalie Ben Bishop did not play this season after having surgery on his right knee Oct. 21. Forward Tyler Seguin made his season debut Monday after having hip surgery Nov. 2. Forward Alexander Radulov played 11 games, none since March 18, before having surgery to repair a core muscle injury in April. Forward Roope Hintz has scored 43 points (15 goals, 28 assists) in 41 games, but a nagging lower-body injury has made him a game-time decision most of the season. And there was a COVID-19 outbreak that delayed the start of their season.
The Stars have 14 overtime/shootout losses, the most in the NHL this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets are second with 12. Dallas is 5-14 in games that went past regulation, including 2-6 in shootouts. That's a lot of points left on the table.
The Stars have scored 37 goals in the first period this season, tied with the Anaheim Ducks for third fewest behind the Predators and Buffalo Sabres (34 each).
Reasons for optimism
The forward has been outstanding, scoring 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists) in 49 games, second among NHL rookies to Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov (51 points; 27 goals, 24 assists in 54 games). Robertson is also second on the Stars behind forward Joe Pavelski (50 points; 24 goals, 26 assists in 54 games). The future looks bright for the 21-year-old.
Bishop is expected to be ready to start next season, but in his absence the Stars received solid play from goalies Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger. Khudobin is 12-10-7 with a 2.49 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and three shutouts in 31 games, all starts. Oettinger is 10-8-7 with a 2.30 GAA, .914 save percentage and one shutout in 28 games (23 starts).
Productive power play
The Stars are seventh on the power play (23.4 percent). Pavelski leads them with 21 power-play points, including 13 goals. Hintz is second with 18 power-play points and defenseman John Klingberg is third with 16.