Stars most to blame for Western Conference Finals loss to Oilers

The Dallas Stars thought this might be their year to return to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Stars lost in the Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 in the COVID-19 bubble, but haven’t been back since. The Stars were favored over the Oilers this season after clinching the top seed in the West, but they couldn’t overcome the star power of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. It was the second straight season the Stars lost in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights in 2023. The Stars ran out of steam after two tough series wins to come to this. point, but there are a few more players to blame for the loss.

The Stars took a 2-1 series lead thanks to strong defensive play and disciplined hockey that kept the Oilers off the power play. They jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 4 and it looked like the Oilers were about to be the subject of this article. However, the Oilers scored five unanswered goals in that game, setting the table for back-to-back wins in Games 5 and 6 to eliminate the Stars.

The Oilers had a near-perfect performance in Game 5, but needed a little luck and a stellar outing from Stuart Skinner in Game 6 to get the job done. The Stars took three shots and possessed the puck for 75 percent of the game, but the Oilers held on for the 2-1 victory. Let’s look at the stars most guilty of this loss.

Jake Oettinger fails to beat Stuart Skinner

Dallas Stars players are seen on the bench during the third period of Game Six of the Western Conference Finals of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place.
© Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The Stars were confident in many games going into the Western Conference Finals. Chris Tanev shut down Nathan MacKinnon and Jack Eichel in the previous two series, making him likely to perform well against Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. The Stars also had better depth up front on paper, which failed them. The most confident matchup for the Stars had to be with the goaltenders. The Oilers pulled Skinner for two games from their previous series in favor of Calvin Pickard, who started the season in the AHL. The Oilers returned to Skinner, but tried to temper their expectations for the young goaltender.

Oettinger has started the streak well with three straight games with pounding save percentages at .921, .966 and .933. The Oilers threw plenty of shots at Oettinger, but he was on hand to give the Stars a 2-1 series lead. He couldn’t continue as he allowed nine goals on 64 shots over the last three games. You can look to the lack of scoring to help him, as the Stars had just four goals in those three games, but fans will have no choice but to look to Game 6 as a reason to blame Oettinger.

The only expectation you can have from a starting goalkeeper is that he beats the goalkeeper in the opposing net. Stuart Skinner was up to the task in Game 6, stopping 33 of 34 shots. However, Oettinger faced just ten shots, stopping just eight. The Stars will be fine with Oettinger, but his performance to close out this series will leave a sour taste in some mouths.

Matt Duchene is silent

The Stars hoped to lean on their outstanding depth to lead them to a Stanley Cup championship. There were different times throughout the season when players like Tyler Seguin and Matt Duchene were on the third line for this team. It would be hard for any team to match them if this continued. Duchene has had a slow start to the postseason, but it looks like he could come around after finishing the Colorado streak with a goal and two assists in the last four games.

Duchene’s production against the Oilers’ third line would be a factor in the Stars winning this series. However, there was no production for Nashville’s offseason acquisition. Duchene’s signing has been a positive for the Stars all season, but when the chips are down, he’s gone, posting zero points and a -2 rating in his six games. The Stars signed Duchene to a one-year deal, and it will be interesting to see if his poor play in this series carries the Stars forward into the offseason.

Joe Pavelski’s career may be coming to an end

It’s unfortunate to blame the 39-year-old, but Pavelski’s production in the regular season should have led to more success in the playoffs. The veteran had 67 points in the regular season, coming in as one of the top forwards for the Stars. However, his postseason production dipped significantly, with just one goal and three assists. He hit rock bottom during the Western Conference Finals as he had zero points and a -4 rating.

Unfortunately, Pavelski’s career could end without a Stanley Cup championship. He’s been on a lot of good teams in San Jose and now Dallas, but his teams have always come up short. There’s no guarantee that Pavelski’s career is over, but the general feeling of the postgame interviews after Game 6 was that he won’t be back.

The Stars will take this loss in the Western Conference Finals as a team, but these three players seem to be the biggest culprits.