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Hey Heika: Will goaltending experience give Stars edge in Round 2? senior staff writer Mike Heika answers Twitter questions from fans in his latest mailbag

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Throughout the season, we have asked for your questions on Twitter with the hashtag #HeyHeika, and then we have answered your questions and assembled the results here on the Dallas Stars official website.

Today, we present our first playoff edition of #HeyHeika, as we get ready for the second round against the Blues:

It seemed that both teams seemed to lose their footing and fall without contact more often on the ice than I can remember. Did the players make any comments about that or was it just due to the fast-paced playing style that both tried to emulate? -- @JoeyHercules

Mike Heika: Nobody commented on it, but I can ask to see if it was an issue. I know the Stars are trying to play at a much faster pace, and that's one of the reasons we see so many icings. The NHL has become a counter-attack league, and teams like to wheel around pretty quick, so that could contribute. I'll ask to see if the players are having any issues.


Is Zuccarello worth losing a first-round pick over? That's even if he wants to sign back. He is an outstanding beaut on the ice, don't get me wrong. But there will be a lot of "Top 6 Forwards" available in the offseason. Possibility to make room for a more expensive player? -- @BMATramble

Heika: It's a question that will need more time to be answered. If he continues to look this good, then you have to ponder whether any other free agent would be a fit like this. If he doesn't, the debate can start.

If the Stars re-sign Mats Zuccarello, the third-round pick they gave up in 2020 becomes a first-round pick. That is a pretty good price to pay, and if Zuccarello wants a longer term (five years?) and top dollar ($6 million?), then adding all of that up with the first-round pick could become a steep price when you consider he will turn 32 in September. So there still is more information to gather.

He might be so good, it's not even a topic of debate. We need more time on this.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm4: Zuccarello nets Stars' third PPG


Can the Stars negotiate a contract with Zuc and have him sign with another team and then trade a third or something for him to get around the New York Rangers' first-round compensation? The team picks up a free pick for not doing anything, Stars save their one -- @chrishomstad

Heika: No, you can't do that. Jim Nill, the agreeing GM who would potentially make that kind of deal, and Zuccarello's agent would all be torched by the rest of the league if they tried to cheat like that. They would have difficulty making any other deals going forward.

Nill made this trade, and he will have to stand by the details that he agreed to.


At the start of the year, people were saying at least two second-line forwards would be needed to truly compete. With the recent play of Hintz and Dickinson, do the Stars no longer need to look for forward help in the offseason? -- @CsBeau

Heika: I actually have an interesting theory on this. The maturation of Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson give you two great options in the top six going forward, and the possible signing of Mats Zuccarello gives you another, so I think the Stars might be out of the free-agent forward market this summer.

With the potential departure of a couple of forwards in free agency, I wonder if the Stars should study a new way of doing things.

Dallas has some steady young minor-leaguers who want to fight for an NHL roster spot in Denis Gurianov, Joel L'Esperance, Adam Mascherin and Nick Caamano -- as well as a couple of AHL veterans in Justin Dowling and Michael Mersch. The Stars also have some younger forwards in Jason Robertson and Tye Felhaber, who might be able to challenge at the NHL level more quickly than anticipated.

So why not leave a spot or two open on the NHL roster? Why not hold that carrot out to these players and then test them at the NHL level if they deserve it? With most of the players not requiring waivers, you could send them back and forth freely, sort of the way they have done with Dickinson and Hintz in the past.

Sometimes, riding the Cedar Park train back and forth can actually help development. Then, if you feel the need, you can always add a veteran at the trade deadline.

It just seems like the trend is having your team develop and be playing its best hockey at the end of the season, and this plan could fit with that philosophy.

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm5: Dickinson pots great pass from Hintz


What do you think of the playoff format? Three No. 1 seeds out so far! -- @CraigSutila

Heika: I don't like the playoff format, but I'm not sure it's responsible for all of the upsets. I do think the old school way of doing things where the No. 1 seed gets the eighth seed and then gets the next-lowest seed available if it advances is more fair. But the top 16 or so teams are divided by about $3.5 million in cap space, so there is more parity than ever.

First and fifth place in the Central Division was divided by 10 points. The Capitals and the Hurricanes were divided by five. This league is very close, and it has always been a sport where the goalie can change everything.

I do want the format to be changed, but I think playoff upsets are here to stay because of all of the parity.


Considering Esa Lindell's great season and playoffs, do you think the Stars will make a great effort to re-sign him? -- @scbaan

Heika: I thought Lindell (who is on the last year of his contract at $2.2 million and can become a restricted free agent in the summer) might be a $4 million player before the season, but he's looking like a guy who might get closer to $5.5 million now.

He had good-but-not-great offensive numbers at 11 goals and 21 assists for 32 points, but he was 14th among all defensemen in time on ice at 24:20, and that will likely bring up names like Colton Parayko ($5.5 million cap hit) and Hampus Lindholm ($5.25 million).

Video: PHI@DAL: Lindell goes between the legs on deflection


Do you get to celebrate during the game in the press box or do you have to keep it quiet/professional for the other team reps? I don't think I could contain myself after an OT winner like we just saw! -- @HafFrazier

Heika: No, I'm just a regular member of the media. It is a little different than when I was at the Dallas Morning News, but not that much.

I will say that even there, I did not see my job as a person who had to hold the organization accountable or point out everything that was negative, so nothing has really changed in that regard. I've always seen myself as an extension of the fans, asking the questions you would like asked and trying to understand what happened and why. much weight do you place on goaltending experience with the Stars facing a rookie goaltender in St. Louis? -- @CraugSutila

Heika: I like Jordan Binnington, and we've seen in the past that players like Matt Murray or Martin Jones can step up with little playoff experience. You definitely have to give the edge to Ben Bishop because he's playing so well and he does have experience. But Binnington is 25, coming off a regular season in which he went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 GAA and .927 save percentage.

He just beat the talented Winnipeg Jets in the first round, so I think he's pretty confident in his play right now.

Video: DAL@STL: Benn redirects a shot past Binnington


How much money will we have to shell out to Hintz if he keeps his game up? -- @hxnk7676

Heika: Roope Hintz has another year on his entry-level contract, so they don't have to worry until next summer. His offensive numbers haven't been huge yet (58 GP, nine goals, 13 assists, 22 points), and that is where forwards seem to have the most leverage in contract discussions.

That said, he should get the opportunity to do much more next season.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm4: Hintz opens scoring with PPG


A Winter Classic question. Curious to know if Rick Bowness during his CHL days in the 1970s, while visiting State Fair Coliseum for a game versus the Dallas Blackhawks, if he looked over at the Cotton Bowl and thought, "I'll be a coach for a Dallas team there" -- @KevinJerpi

Heika: I'll ask going forward. I believe Jim Nill also played in the Coliseum, so I think there will be some fun stories of hockey in Dallas that will make for intriguing discussions as we get ready for New Year's Day.


What makes the 2019 playoff matchup with the Blues different than the 2016 playoff matchup? Expecting a different result? -- @sabrethemoment

Heika: Pretty much everything. The coaches, the goalies, many of the key players have changed. As much as players like Jamie Benn and John Klingberg return, Tyler Seguin wasn't even in the lineup back then. St. Louis has a similar defense, but it has lost Backes and Stastny and Brouwer and has shuffled the forward group, so this is a whole new series.

I think the Stars have come a long way this season, so it will be intriguing how the players and coached handle this challenge.


Faksa's "shutdown" line looked dangerous offensively at times, and cashed in as many goals as the Preds' top line. What will be the keys for them to have success against the Blues' top line? -- @JL_Intramural

Heika: The key for Radek Faksa and his linemates is always to keep the other team off the scoring sheet. They do that by working hard, skating fast and disrupting play. If they can add a goal or two, it's gravy (yes, that's a Faksa reference).

I think with the top line, the Hintz line, and players like Spezza and Cogliano offering plenty of scoring chances, the real job for Faksa is simply to play great defense and wear down the opposition's top line. That said, if they can be the best line on the ice like they were Monday, I'm sure everyone will take it.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm4: Cogliano buries rebound to pad lead


Monty sees who best fits in depending on how the series is going, so Val, Spezza, Janmark (if healthy), Dowling, Ritchie -- right now against the Blues, who is your better fourth-line option? -- @StarsPotter214

Heika: It's tough to read on a game-by-game basis, but it sure seems like Spezza and Dowling have earned their places in the lineup. The guess is that the last forward spot comes down to Janmark or Pitlick. If Janmark is healthy, the guess is he goes back in.

You are right, a new series with new match-ups allows the coaching staff to ponder more significant changes, but they seem pretty happy with the forward group as constructed. I don't think they will make a move until the Blues force it.


What are the odds for Bish to win the Vezina? -- @Leisure_Arch

Heika: I think it's 50-50 between him and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

It's an interesting debate because Bishop played in only 46 of 82 games and had 27 wins, which ranked 13th in the league, while Vasilevskiy had 39 wins, which led the league. That said, Bishop's GAA and save percentage were much better.

It will be a toss-up for the GMs, who are the voters for this award.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm6: Bishop denies Sissons on breakaway


Would like your take on the top elements of the Blues turnaround since January, and how the Stars will adjust in this next series to continue our success against them -- @KBnTejas

Heika: I think the coaching change was huge. Craig Berube came in and shook things up, and it really made a big difference. I also think the move to goalie Jordan Binnington, who went 24-5-1 in his first real crack at NHL play, was a huge factor. I thought in the summer that GM Doug Armstrong made some great moves in acquiring Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon, so I think the core of the team was solid and they just needed a tweak here or there.

This is a good team, and the Stars will have to play even better in the next round if they want to advance.


Is the Stars PK actually as good as it seems or was Nashville's power play just that abhorrent? How do we match up against the Blues in that sense? -- @jacbmartin

Heika: A little of both. The Predators were worst in the NHL during the regular season on the power play, so they are what they are. But Dallas was fifth during the regular season on the penalty kill, so they are actually this good.

Rick Bowness is a great coach, and he has coached up the PK. He also has some very good specialists in Ben Lovejoy, Roman Polak, and Blake Comeau, along with overall great players in Esa Lindell and Radek Faksa. The Blues were good during the regular season (10th at 21.1 percent) and better in the playoffs (fifth at 26.3 percent), so they will be a much bigger challenge.


With regards to Ben Bishop: In the upcoming series, will he be better than Binnington? Will he win the Vazina? How will St. Louis fans treat him? -- @Paulbradb

Heika: Only time will tell on the first two. On the last, I think the fans there will razz him a great deal and he will love it.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm6: Bishop discusses Game 6 victory


Do you think No. 3 being left off Norris Trophy consideration has fueled his play? He has played with an aggression not seen before. Or do you think its just a chance to play in the playoffs? -- @HanieBrian

Heika: Not at all. He missed 18 games, so that always hurts your chances at awards, and he was not up to his regular standard during the regular season.

You can make the argument that both Lindell and Heiskanen were better than John Klingberg this season. But the thing I like most about Klingberg is his drive and attitude are intense. He is not the heaviest player at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, but he demands a lot out of himself and he is a huge factor in demanding the most out of his team.

He is a guy who has worked his way up, despite switching from forward to defense at age 13, despite being one of the skinniest defensemen in the league. He has made himself into a Norris Trophy candidate in previous seasons because of his skill and his mental toughness.

He wants this playoff success -- he has worked hard to get this opportunity, and he wants to make the most of it.

Have a question for a future Hey Heika mailbag? Tweet it to @MikeHeika and use #HeyHeika.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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