With the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs now underway, PHR makes its first foray into playoff series analysis with our 2023 Playoff Primers. Where does each team stand in their series, and what storylines could dominate on and off the ice? We begin our second-round coverage with the Western Conference matchup between the Dallas Stars and Seattle Kraken.
The Seattle fanbase waited a long time for a team to cheer for and the Seattle Kraken have given them something to cheer about in just their second season by knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champions in seven games. The Dallas Stars on the other hand were able to dispatch of the Minnesota Wild in just six games on the back of incredible goaltending from Jake Oettinger. Their second-round matchup will mark the first time the two teams have met in the playoffs.
What a difference a season makes. A year ago, Kraken general manager Ron Francis looked as though he’d butchered the expansion draft as Seattle finished near the bottom of the NHL standings. But, fast forward one year later and the Kraken have their first 100-point season, a playoff series victory, and the opportunity for more. For Dallas, they are just three years removed from a Stanley Cup finals appearance in which they lost in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the Stars do still have several of the core pieces from that 2020 team, they’ve added a lot of elite young talent to mix in with their older core pieces.
It’s hard to get excited for a series in which the two teams have never met in the playoffs before, but Dallas quietly had one of the most exciting series of the first round, and Seattle provided ample fireworks of their own. This series might not have the draw that some other series may have, but there will be plenty of star power on the ice for Dallas, while Seattle has one of the most balanced lineups in the entire NHL and can outwork almost any team.
Regular Season Performance
Dallas Stars: 51-22-9, 111 points, +43 goal differential
Seattle Kraken: 46-28-8, 100 points, +33 goal differential.
March 11, 2023: Dallas 4, Seattle 3 (OT)
March 13, 2023: Dallas 5, Seattle 2
March 21, 2023: Seattle 5, Dallas 4 (OT)
Dallas takes the season series 2-0-1
One might not think these teams would have much in the way of a rivalry, however for ten days in mid-March they saw a lot of each other. The teams played three times and developed a bit of hate in that time. While a lot has happened since then, there could be carryover.
The biggest storyline in this series will be the high-end skill of the Dallas Stars against the workmanlike attitude of the Seattle Kraken. Dallas has the offense and the goaltending to make a deep run in these playoffs and have much higher expectations than the Kraken, however Seattle has shown an incredible amount of heart this season and are playing with house money at this point. Sometimes the pressure can cause a team to wilt, and sometimes no pressure at all can make a team play fast and loose. It’ll be interesting to see it play out.
The Dallas Stars play with a ton of skill and a ton of speed, led by Jason Robertson, they can put the puck in your net in several ways and can push the pace, or slow down the game if they need to grind out a win. They still possess Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and a few other players from the 2020 run to the finals that know how to get the job done in the playoffs. They have the confidence in their group and their goalie to get it done. Seattle on the other can also play with a lot of pace, they come at you in waves, line after line can contribute on the offensive end. Every line can score, but they don’t have the gamebreakers that Dallas has.
On the backend, both teams have strong blue lines that can help generate offense. Seattle has the size advantage with a couple of towering forces that can crash and bang and clear the front of the net, but Dallas may possess the strength advantage with a physically imposing lineup in which every man in the unit is over six foot. Dallas has the most elite puck mover in Miro Heiskanen, but this year’s version of Vince Dunn isn’t far off, and Seattle has a better collection of point producers and a deeper unit of six. While the Stars defense can do it all, Seattle’s defense can all do it. Coach Dave Hakstol has somehow managed to spread his defensive minutes about as evenly as you will ever see for a defensive unit. I would give the advantage to Seattle in this area as they seem to find an extra gear late in games and have a good track record of shutting the door on their opponents.
In goal, Dallas boasts one of the best goaltenders in the world in Jake Oettinger. His playoff resume is short, but it is strong. He was dominant in the first round, and should he play at that level in this series, Dallas will be tough to beat. Regular season numbers would tell us that Oettinger gives Dallas a huge advantage over Seattle in net, but in round one Seattle received elite goaltending as well. Philipp Grubauer finally gave Seattle the goaltending they thought they were getting when they signed the former Avalanche goalie to a six year $35.4MM contract in 2021. The German netminder hasn’t been able to sustain much success over his two years with the Kraken, but if he can build on his impressive stretch of play in round one, Seattle will have a punchers chance to advance.
Anytime an elite goaltender is involved in a series it is always difficult to bet against them. Jake Oettinger has proven himself to be one of the best in the world and so far, has shown an ability to rise to the occasion when the games mean the most. If he can steal a game or two in this series, it will give Dallas a sizeable advantage and could be the difference in the series.
The other element that comes into play is experience. Dallas has a ton of players who have been here before, and while Seattle has some veterans with Stanley Cup playoff experience, it isn’t on the same level. This small detail could be the difference maker for the Stars if they can draw on that experience and find that extra push.
The prediction: Dallas win in seven games.