The Dallas Stars are trying to win their first National Hockey League championship since 1999, when they beat the Buffalo Sabres for the Stanley Cup.
Dallas is one of four teams still alive in the NHL playoffs, along with the Vegas Golden Knights, Florida Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes. The Stars currently trail Vegas in their semifinal series.
Taylor Baird, managing editor for Defending Big D and Dallas correspondent for NHL.com, spoke to the Texas Standard about the Stars’ season. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: First, is it a surprise that all the four finalists for the Stanley Cup come from sunny – not icy – places?
Taylor Baird: No, the sport of hockey has been growing in the South quite a bit over the past decade. And I think as you see more success in those teams, they’re built right. And what I mean is they draft well, they get free agents because of the sunny climes and the lack of the Canadian media that players have to contend with. And a lot of players find these areas to be great places to have a family and play the game they love.
Well, what’s made the Dallas Stars so successful this season?
They have a good mix of veteran leadership and experience, as well as the kind of swagger of the younger guys like a Wyatt Johnston or Jake Oettinger. It’s really kind of their coming out party of this blended team of perfect balance between lines – good defense, good goaltending. They have a lot of strengths.
But apparently not enough to overcome the challenge from the Vegas team, at least in these first two games of the series. Why have they had such trouble?
You know, it’s really interesting because it’s an issue that happened in the regular season that has bled over. All season long, Dallas went something like 8 and 14 once the game got past regulation, which is not a great record, and I don’t know if it’s like they just want to get their feet under them and kind of wade into the game instead of attacking it. And so that’s kind of been the issue at the start of periods, at the start of games and then at the start of overtimes and Vegas has just capitalized.
Is Vegas known to be an especially good team? I mean, clearly they’ve had a good season this year.
They are a very strong team. I think the question for them coming into the postseason was their goaltending. They have three different goaltenders. I think they’ve actually been through five or six of them throughout the season. They’ve had a lot of injuries and the guy that they have starting in net right now, Adin Hill, he’s not a number one starter. He’s not the guy. Unlike Dallas, who have Jake Oettinger. But they’re built very strong. They have very strong four lines that they can roll evenly, scoring depth on each of them and a very good structure in place to limit your chances.
You know, I can tell you know this game very well. By any chance have you ever played it yourself?
I have not, actually. Didn’t get into hockey until I moved to Dallas. I went to a Stars game on a blind date and I fell in love.
That’s a amazing. For those watching, if you’re watching the game tonight – and of course, stakes are high, certainly for Dallas – what do you look for? What would you tell someone who wants to tune in and kind of pick up on the excitement?
So I think the thing that you look for when you know Dallas is really firing on all cylinders is that they’re physically engaged in the game. They throw big hits, they are tenacious on the puck. And then the trick to watching it, if you can’t be there in person, is to follow the players. Don’t try to follow the tiny little puck on the screen, follow where all the people are going, and then you’ll eventually kind of pick up where the puck movement is coming in.
You know, these kinds of deep playoff runs clearly don’t come around every year for every fan, so it’s pretty exciting for folks in Dallas. What’s it been like for the Stars to take it this far this year? Can you tell?
You know, it’s really fascinating because Dallas was in the Stanley Cup final just three years ago. And I think it’s really easy to overlook that because it happened in the bubble during COVID. So the excitement, that deep playoff run, you couldn’t feel it because you weren’t out and about. You didn’t see the the flags on the cars and the green hats and the jerseys and the “let’s go Stars” and the Stars chants and anthems at other sporting events like FC Dallas or the Texas Rangers. But you can feel it. It’s very palpable in the city right now and it’s just so fantastic to watch the guys on ice get the support that they deserve.