The Stars and Bruins failed to make it past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. What lies next for these two franchises?
With the National Hockey League regular season and the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the rear-view mirror, it is a good time to look at a couple of clubs that were eliminated and see exactly why their season ended.
In this edition of NHL Postseason dissection, we look at one club that pushed one of the Western Conference favourites to overtime of Game 7 and a perennial Eastern Conference power whose window may be on the verge of closing.
What went right?
The reason for the Stars success was finding youngsters who they could pass the torch to, with the veterans that led them to the Cup Final two years ago beginning to decline. After entering the season with three goaltenders potentially fighting for jobs, Dallas found their future goaltender in Jake Oettinger, who took over as the #1 after injuries to Anton Khudobin and Braden Holtby and posted a .954 save percentage in the first-round loss to Calgary.
Youngsters Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson combined with the ageless Joe Pavelski to form one of the best top lines in hockey, while Miro Heiskanen has taken over from John Klingberg as the club’s top blueliner.
What went wrong?
Dallas veterans who led them to an improbable run in 2020 are clearly showing signs of decline. Tyler Seguin missed all but three games in 2021 due to injury and scored just 49 points last season, team captain Jamie Benn scored just 18 goals, aging Alex Radulov just four goals, and Khudobin suffered a hip injury that required season-ending surgery. Of even more concern are youngsters Radek Faksa and Denis Gurianov not developing as expected.
What will they do?
Changes have already begun in Dallas, as head coach Rick Bowness announced he would be stepping down on Friday. Big names like Barry Trotz have been rumoured to be under consideration. GM Jim Nill has $17.5 million in cap space to work with this summer, but has Oettinger (RFA), Robertson (RFA), and Hintz (one year left on a bridge deal) to re-sign. Those deals likely prevent the Stars from bringing back Klingberg, who they toyed with trading at the deadline, and buying out big-money contracts like Benn or Seguin will do little to open up the room.
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What went right?
The choice to replace veteran Tuukka Rask (who attempted to return after off-season hip surgery) with a tandem of free agent Linus Ullmark and rookie Jeremy Swayman gave the Bruins stability between the pipes, while the Perfection Line of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron maintained their dominance. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy posted a career-high 56 points, and Jake DeBrusk had 25 goals in spite of being involved in trade rumours throughout the season.
What went wrong?
Boston GM Don Sweeney did not have a great deal of luck replacing the offence of David Krejci up the middle, other than re-upping Taylor Hall on a four-year deal. The free-agent signings of Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek, and Nick Foligno had only limited success, and the development of youngsters Trent Frederic, Jakub Zboril, and Jack Studnicka has been slow. The Bruins played well at home in their first-round series vs. Carolina, winning all three games at TD Garden, but could not muster a winning effort in Raleigh, losing to the Hurricanes in seven games.
What will they do?
Everything this summer revolves around whether Bergeron chooses to hang them up after 18 seasons or sign on for another year or two. The Bruins are not prepared for the future Hall of Famer to leave the scene, and if he does, they will not find an adequate replacement. The free-agent market is thin on centers other than Nazem Kadri and Claude Giroux, which means that Sweeney would have to overpay to sign them or make a trade to upgrade up the middle.
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