Just when it seemed that the Dallas Stars’ Stanley Cup dreams were all but dead, consecutive comeback wins against the Vegas Golden Knights have made things interesting in the Western Conference Final.
The Stars are the fifth team in NHL history to force a Game 6 in the penultimate round of the postseason after falling behind 3-0. (The previous four, including the 2008 Stars, failed to pull off the reverse sweep.)
Jason Robertson has led the charge, scoring three of Dallas’ seven goals over the past two games and five of 12 in the series. This comes after he entered the conference final on an eight-game goal drought — his longest of the season. (His slump-busting goal in Game 1 also ended a 17-game stretch without an even-strength goal that started during the final week of the regular season.)
“He just had some bad luck around the net, and now he’s back,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer told reporters recently. “And he’s a streaky scorer. I mean, he can score every night here for the rest of the playoffs. He’s that type of player.”
Robertson, who finished seventh in the NHL with 46 goals during the regular season, scored twice in 13 first- and second-round games. The primary reason for his uncharacteristic slump was a dip in shots on net from the inner slot, where he scored more than 40 per cent of his goals (19 of 46).
Robertson averaged 0.31 inner-slot shots per game in all situations over the first two rounds — down from 0.66 per game in the regular season. His overall accuracy from the slot dropped from 58.5 per cent to 46.3 per cent over the first two rounds against the Minnesota Wild and Seattle Kraken, who blocked a combined 12 of Robertson’s 41 shot attempts. (He shot wide on 10 others.)
In five games against the Golden Knights, Robertson has more inner-slot shots on net (six) than he had in Rounds 1 and 2 combined (four). Unsurprisingly, Robertson has scored on four of those shots.
“I play on too good of a line (with) too good of players to not create chances and opportunities and create bounces,” Robertson told reporters after Game 4.
Dallas’ depth has shined in the past two games without captain Jamie Benn (suspension) and forward Evgenii Dadonov (lower-body injury). But the Stars will only go as far as Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski will take them. The top line has been outscored 4-3 by the Golden Knights at 5-on-5, but that can change in an instant now that Robertson is on a roll.
All five of Robertson’s goals against the Golden Knights have either tied the score or put the Stars ahead. A couple more clutch performances could help Dallas do the unimaginable.
“When (Robertson) gets hot, he’s capable of scoring every night,” DeBoer told reporters. “He looks like he’s feeling it right now so we want to keep him that way.”
All stats via Sportlogiq