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The Stars Are Burning Out

11:01 AM EDT on May 24, 2023

DALLAS, TEXAS - MAY 23: in Game Three of the Western Conference Final of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 23, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

I am professionally allergic to predictions. Not just because if I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn't tell you saps and would go get rich betting instead, but because the unknowability of sports is the whole appeal of it. The uncertainty is fundamental and the entirety of the drama is in the finding out. There are a million moving parts that go into a game, and to pretend to be able to read all those tea leaves is akin to playing god. All that being said: The Dallas Stars are done. Toast. Kaput. Finis.

Sure, they're merely down 3-0 to the Golden Knights after Tuesday's stinker, and sure, 0-3 comebacks are a little less implausible in hockey than in other sports. But I've watched enough hockey in my day to know when a team is more frustrated than it is capable, and that mismatch is the biggest one in this series right now. The Stars had every opportunity to come out at home and play hard and smart and hope for just a little luck to finally go their way to make this a competitive series; they did precisely none of that. "I'm not sure you could script it much worse," Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said of his team's start. The Stars lasted exactly 71 seconds into the game before their failure to clear the zone and losing board battles combined to spot the Knights an early and permanent lead.

And then things got ugly.

Jamie Benn tried to turn Mark Stone's head into a fine paste, a baffling decision for anyone but especially for a damn captain, who's ostensibly supposed to preach or at least model accountability. (Even Jacob Trouba has a line, man.) I guess sometimes the Stars at night are not so bright, deep in the heart of Texas.

Stars players didn't sound like they begrudged Benn his unforced error, but he cost them—he justly got a five-minute major and a game misconduct, with potential supplemental discipline still pending. He didn't talk to reporters after the game.

Vegas took advantage of the lengthy power play, with Ivan Barbashev converting and William Carrier making it a 3-0 game just over a minute later. That was it for Jake Oettinger, who made all of two saves on five shots faced. Oettinger hasn't exactly been lights-out this postseason and, after appearing in 78 of 98 games so far this year, may be starting to feel a bit fatigued.

Scott Wedgewood wasn't bad in relief, but the Stars' offense was nowhere to be found, and anyway when you're turning to Scott Wedgewood with your backs against the wall, you may be in trouble. Vegas would add a fourth goal in the second period, and Max Domi would try and fail to goad Nicolas Hague into a momentum-swinging scrap. The resulting penalty on Domi, however, did goad Stars fans into littering the ice with garbage.

The officials sent both teams to their dressing rooms with 21.6 seconds left in the second, and the remainder of the period was completed after the intermission to give the crowd time to cool down. It didn't really work: Adin Hill, upon returning to the ice, was pelted with a bag of popcorn.

Hill, in what was frankly a pretty sick burn, said, "I guess everything was hitting me tonight." He recorded his first career playoff shutout.

So here we are. There's down 3-0, and there's down 3-0, and Dallas is most definitely the latter. Maybe they have it in them to grab a game (likely without Benn, which may be a net positive at this point), but the juice to take four straight? Nah. The Stars are juiceless.

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