Stars’ appearance in Western Conference Finals is their first since 2008

Natalie McLaren, Eyes on Owls Section Editor

It only takes one to make a difference. For the Dallas Stars, it took a single game to seal the deal. Amid COVID-19, the National Hockey League’s traditional way of running things has seen some drastic changes. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of the Stars’ gameplay. The NHL Playoff season is known for some of the best hockey of all time. Since the 2008 Semi-Final vs. the San Jose Sharks, the opportunity to play in a Western Conference Final has slipped through Dallas’ fingertips. But not this time.


The Stars’ clinched an epic victory over the Colorado Avalanche in a back-breaking Game 7 on Friday, September 4th. The last and final game of the Round Two playoff series, this was the Stars’ last chance to prove themselves worthy of a Western Conference Final. After all, only the best of the best advance. With double the number of penalty minutes and less than adequate shots on goal, the Stars’ fate seemed sealed as they entered the third period down 2-3. After one goal added to the queue for each team in period three, the Avalanche rubbed their self-claimed victory in when they scored goal four with 3:40 remaining in the period. But Dallas would not accept that goal as a finisher for them. Because ten seconds later, with 3:30 remaining in period 3, Rookie Joel Kiviranta put the puck in the net for the second time in Game 7 to tie the score 4-4. But this wasn’t how the Dallas Stars closed out the series’ final meeting. They still had one more goal to go. And this goal would take place in overtime.


Overtime is where some of the tensest moments in hockey take place. But very few competitions are tenser than winning a ticket to the Western Conference Final. Sometimes, the tension can rob some of their focus during an important game or point. But this was not the case for Dallas. After a grueling seven minutes of overtime, Kiviranta decided that he didn’t want to wait any longer. He got his hat trick by hauling the puck at Avalanche goalie Pavel Francouz. Kiviranta is the first since Wayne Gretzky in 1993 to score a hat trick in Game 7. Rick Bowness, coach of the Dallas Stars, is ready to put Kiviranta on the lineup for the Western Conference final. “I’m not the smartest guy in the world. But there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be in our lineup in the next game,”… “I’ll talk to him … and let him know that, yeah, you’re playing next game.”


Team Captain of the Dallas Stars Jamie Benn has never reached a Western Conference final before in all his years with the Stars. “We were in the exact same situation last year and came out on the wrong end of it,” Benn said. “It’s nice to get that win and move on.”


To add a cherry on top, Dallas has gotten a skating start into this next Western Conference final, taking their first victory over the Vegas Golden Knights 1-0 Sunday, September 6th. Defensemen and Alternate Captain John Klingberg got the only goal of the game, making his third goal overall in the playoffs. While Dallas’ lineup did most of the dirty work, the number of shots blocked by the Stars was what kept them afloat. Dallas Stars Goalie Anton Khudobin had his first-ever career shutout in a playoff game, the Stars’ twitter feed coming up with the nickname, “Great wall of Dobby” after his remarkable 25 saves in this first game. “It’s always goes to your career record,” said Khudobin, who entered this year without a postseason start on that record. “At the same time, most of it, I’m happy with the win.” Coach Rick Bowness admits to the impeccable play by the Stars in the post-game interview with the press. “We were skating, we were on top of them, we were creating a lot of offense from good play, good defensive structure all over the ice,” Bowness said. “That’s Dallas Stars’ hockey.”


Confidence is on the rise for the Dallas Stars as they hustle into the rest of the series. The scores of these past two games promising, Stars fans have high hopes for what’s to come. Who knows? Maybe the Stanley Cup could be next.


*puck drop*