While other teams are finishing out the season preparing for playoff hockey, the Dallas Stars are essentially playing playoff hockey in regulation. The Stars continue to fight with the Nashville Predators and the Vegas Golden Knights for the two Wild Card spots.
The Stars are currently tied with the Predators at 89 points for the first and second Wild Card spots, with the Golden Knights trailing by two points. Dallas and Nashville have identical records at 42-27-5, both with one game in hand over Vegas.
Dallas Starts Essentially Earning Playoff Wins in Regulation
Three Big Points in Two Games
In Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Dallas Stars picked up a massive win against the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. The Lightning, who have already clinched a playoff spot, gave the Stars their biggest taste of playoff hockey of the season. Although every win against the Lightning is sweet, due to the history, beating a team of that caliber was the confidence boost the team, coaching staff, and even fans needed going into this last stretch of games where every point counts.
Despite the outcome of the game against the Minnesota Wild and only getting one point out of the two, the Stars played playoff-level hockey for the second regulation game in a row. For a team that is as notoriously streaky as the Dallas Stars, consistent high-level hockey is a good sign of life in the last couple of weeks of regulation.
Wedgewood or Wedgewall?
Scott Wedgewood was traded to the Dallas Stars from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a 2023 conditional fourth-round pick. In his time in Arizona, Wedgewood went 10-12-2 with a goals-against-average of 3.16. Since being traded to Dallas, Wedgewood is 3-0-2, which includes a stolen win from the Carolina Hurricanes on March 24th where he faced 47 shots on goal, saving 44 in a 4-3 overtime win.
Wedgewood recorded his fifth career shutout against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 1-0 win on Tuesday, saving 25 out of 25 shots on goal. With a save percentage of .916% in the last five games, Wedgewood is proving himself to be a strong backup goalie going into a playoff run. Both of his losses come in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Minnesota Wild. Last night’s loss to the Wild, even though grabbing a point, was ostensibly frustrating, because “we out-played them in all three periods,” per head coach Rick Bowness.
Extra Hockey Decisions
In both of Wedgewood’s over-time losses, they have had forwards Radek Faksa, Luke Glendening, and defenseman Miro Heiskanen on the ice to start the 3v3 hockey. The Stars head coach explains that he puts Faksa out there in hopes of winning the face-off and then getting some other guys on the ice to carry it into the offensive zone and create some chances.
The Stars are 10-3 in overtime, not including shootouts. But, in all three losses, Faksa has been on the starting line. Faksa taking the faceoffs in these situations is a head-scratcher, due to the fact that he is only the third-highest in faceoff win percentage at 54.59%. Tyler Seguin comes in second at 55.51% and Glendening, who was also on the starting line, is at an impressive 59.03%. In the loss to the Wild, Faksa lost the faceoff and the Stars never gain possession of the puck, allowing Frederick Gaudreau to score the game-winning goal.
Struggling to Get Minutes
Twenty-two-year-old center, Jacob Peterson, only played 5:29 against the Wild, which surprisingly is not a career-low for the Dallas Stars forward. In Peterson’s rookie season, while dealing with constantly being healthy scratched has 12 goals recorded in 61 games, which is the sixth-highest on the roster. In goals scored per sixty minutes on 5v5, Peterson sits at 1.20, only behind Roope Hintz, who is at 1.38, and above Jason Robertson who is at 1.17.
This statistic is puzzling when you consider how little the Stars forward is playing; Peterson has averaged just 9:23 in six games for the month of April. This is the next to last lowest time on ice average; the only player that has less time on ice than Peterson is Joel Kiviranta.
Peterson, who has a hockey I.Q. beyond his age, sat out fifteen straight minutes during the game against the Wild. In Peterson’s first shift after the large break, he made an incredible pass that gave Alexander Radulov a huge scoring opportunity, which he could not capitalize on.
The Stars have eight games left in regulation, one of which is against the Vegas Golden Knights, who trail them by two points and could be considered the most important game of the year. One wrong move or missed point could potentially knock the Stars out of the playoff running. They have one more home game against the San Jose Sharks in this homestand, before a three-game road trip.