Stars Nation staffers pick their favorite moments of the Dallas Stars regular season.
April Marble: Anton Khudobin’s 49-save shutout
There are maybe five games in my life where I watched it all play out — whether in person or on tv — and thought about it for the next month. This is one of them.
At that moment, the Stars were just in a rough place. There was the dreaded Jim Lites’ incident, many players were getting hurt, and it seemed like it was the beginning of the end for this team. Enter the Dark Knight of the moment — Anton Khudobin.
In a game where the Stars were doomed to lose to the Nashville Predators, this guy come in and said “NO” to every shot thrown at him and was probably the #1 performance from him this season — I would argue it was the best single-game goaltending performance of the regular season. Period.
Every save just seemed to make my heart stop and was a complete turnaround moment for this team. This was the moment everyone realized “Holy [expletive deleted], they’ve got good goaltending!” and bought into Khudobin as a critical member of the team — finally.
Craig Nakagai: Dallas 2-1 Overtime Victory Against Washington Capitals
You learn the character and ability of a team when they lose their Captain. The Dallas Stars had every reason to lay down and lose to the Washington Capitals after Jamie Benn went down due to an injury from a highly questionable hit by New Jersey Devils’ Miles Wood. It was not the prettiest of games and was definitely a grind out, slugfest that saw Anton Khudobin stand tall throughout the game only allowing one goal on a tricky shot where he was screened. Despite that goal, Khudobin denied Chandler Stephenson on a breakaway attempt which allowed the Stars to make it to overtime.
Tyler Seguin played the hero in heart-stopping overtime which featured so many huge saves by Khudobin, which allowed for Seguin to do what he does best: score clutch goals. This was one of those games where I felt the Stars were going to make the playoffs. It made me feel that sense of hope that the team was going to do something special this season, to be determined still, but the ability of the team to respond to adversity gave fans some hope for the season.
Kari Wheeler: The Trade That Saved The Season
Where were you when you saw that New York Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello was traded to Dallas? I remember I was at a very boring retirement party at some fancy schmancy restaurant. I was sitting at a table, having awkward small talk with people I didn’t even know. Then my phone lit up, I looked down and saw a text from a fellow Stars fan that said: “We got Zuccarello!” At that moment, not only was my night saved because I left the uninteresting conversations going on around me out of pure excitement, but because I knew the Stars’ season was saved.
After some research and seeing/hearing how incredible he was with the Rangers, I was much more hyped… then February 24th happened. Zuccarello made his Stars debut in Chicago and not only got his first assist in the first period, but he also scored his first goal as a Star in the second period. After witnessing all of that, I think we all felt extremely blessed to have Zuccarello – until late in the second period, when he blocked a shot and broke his arm.
Even though Dallas won that game 4-3, my hype was gone as it was announced that Zucc would be out for four weeks. It felt like the longest four weeks of constantly asking “when will Zucc be back?!” But at last, he made a surprise return in the Stars vs. Flyers game which they won 6-2.
Personally, not only do I think Zuccarello brought whole new energy to the team and how they play, but I also think it brought a whole new positive and hopeful energy to the Stars fanbase. Honestly, if you asked Stars fans, the majority would reply that the first thing that comes to mind when you say the name “Mats Zuccarello” is “the Stars’ Savior”.
Abi Hamilton: Jamie Benn’s Return From Injury… With a Hat Trick!
It was obvious to everyone with eyes that Jamie Benn did not want to sit out in the slog of the season with an upper-body injury. After Big Benn skated for only two shifts in Chicago before remaining out the rest of the game, the coaches and staff thought it would be best for Benn to sit out a few games and recover. Although resistant to leave his team at a dire time, Benn listened and sat out for two games.
The team proved fine without him but as we’ve seen, Benn is a captain that leads by example and is a big part of his team. After what happened at the end of December (i.e. The Incident™) and the whispers from around the league, it’s understandable that Benn wanted to go out there and destroy it on the ice. He made his comeback on March 2nd, 2019 and threw pedal to the floor. Benn snagged a hat trick, the first for the team since April 7th, 2018. He had only three registered shots on goal in the game and all three went into the net.
It was a booming return for the Captain, and his team couldn’t have been happier to have him back. The Stars won 4-1 against the Blues that night – a big win considering they were just about entering the thicket of the playoff race. After the Captain’s return, the Stars went 10-5-2 alongside 44 goals for and 32 goals against. It was a glowing win that left everyone and their mother relieved.
This game and Jamie’s return, to me, felt like the win that every Stars fan needed. After a year of trials and tests, on and off the ice, this game was a high that continued on in the remainder of the regular season. The Captain was back, living up to the Big Benn legend, and the team was on a tear with the destination of their first playoffs run in three seasons.
Adrienne Tyler: Miro Heiskanen, the Dallas Stars’ All-Star Representative
Some people love it, some people hate it, but every hockey fan ends up watching the All-Star game every year. Admit it: it’s fun, you get to see some of the top players in the league in a more relaxed environment, and it’s probably the only time of the season where they all seem to get along quite well. The Dallas Stars had some very low lows during the first half of the season, leaving a big question mark over the names of last season’s All-Stars: Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg.
What many people weren’t counting on, was the Stars’ not-so-secret Finnish weapon: Miro Heiskanen.
The NHL announced the 2019 All-Star rosters on January 2nd, and Heiskanen was the chosen one to represent the Dallas Stars. At the time of the announcement, he was tied for seventh among all NHL rookies, ranked second amongst rookie defensemen with 17 points (seven goals, ten assists), and eighth among all NHL defensemen.
“It’s the hype, it will pass”, some said. Ah, well, wrong. Heiskanen finished the regular season ranked second among rookie defensemen with 33 points (first place belongs to Buffalo’s Rasmus Dhalin but he didn’t make it to the All-Star. Bye).
The beauty of this moment from regular season was not only that our youngling made it to the All-Star, but that this made the haters and doubters go “uhm… maybe we should pay closer attention to this kid. Dahlin? Who?”. Yeah, you should totally keep an eye on Heiskanen.
What were your favorite moments of the season?
Featured image: Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News