DALLAS — Is “Kersplat” a word?
That’s the sound the Dallas Stars made the second the puck dropped to start Game 6 against Las Vegas in the Western Conference Finals.
This wasn’t TCU versus Georgia in the national title game, but it’s on that thread.
By the end of the first period on Monday night, some fans booed. At least they didn’t throw food or beer bottles onto the ice, so progress was made in the category of fan behavior.
Early in the third period, those same fans, and their friends, were leaving.
Whatever inspiring vibes the Stars created in coming back from a 0-3 series deficit to force a Game 6 they wiped away with a first period so ugly they looked like a dog rolling on its back in hopes of a belly scratch.
In the most important game of the season, the Stars embarrassed themselves and played like they didn’t belong here.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights kicked around the Stars with three first period goals, en route to a 6-0 win.
The Golden Nuggets won the series 4-2, and advance to the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers.
The return of the Stars captain, Jamie Benn, to the lineup from his two-game suspension did less than nothing. If the player wore a Stars jersey, he didn’t do a thing other than be awful.
The last time an NHL team trailed 0-3 in the West Final to force a Game 6 was the Stars, in 2008 against Detroit. The Stars hosted the Red Wings in Game 6, and fell behind 3-0 in the first period.
Monday night was worse.
Unlike that 2008 series, when the Red Wings were considerably better than the Stars, this 2023 Western Conference Final should have been a glorified coin flip.
Monday night was sad.
Watching all of these loyal fans see their team get emasculated, and treated like they were some junior squad. To lose 6-0, at home, in a conference final elimination game is humiliating.
The Stars 3-0 first period deficit was not on goalie Jake Oettinger. The play in front of him was a mess, and repeatedly left him exposed.
Angry Stars could not even point to their favorite crash test dummy, defenseman Ryan Suter, and say it was him. It was everybody.
Benn was terrible; he was a minus-2 after the first period. Tyler Seguin was invisible the entire night, just as he was the entire series.
This series was not lost in Game 6, but Game 2.
The Stars should have won Game 2 in regulation, but Vegas tied it late and scored early in the first overtime after a major mistake by … his name rhymes with Flyin Cooter.
This series should have been tied at 2 after Game 4. This series should have gone to Game 7, with the home team winning.
Vegas had the most points in the Western Conference in the regular season, and should win the Stanley Cup.
The Stars are left to wonder when it’s going to be their turn to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1999.
This was the second time since 2020 they reached the Western Conference Final. In ‘20, they reached the Stanley Cup Final and lost in six games to Tampa.
The Stars are obviously good.
The Stars are obviously not good enough.
They’re fast, and not quite fast enough. They’re big, and not quite big enough.
The Stars cannot assume they are good enough as constructed to go on another run to the West Final again.
Between Roope Hintz, Oettinger, Miro Heiskanen, Jason Robertson and a few other players the Stars’ core is young, talented and will keep the team relevant for several more years.
After nearly beating Calgary by himself in the first round of the playoffs last season, Oettinger was immediately hailed as the Stars’ long term solution in net. He’s good. He’s also not Dominik Hasek 2.0.
Center Joe Pavelski is called ageless, but “age” is going to have its say. He’s 38. The Stars can’t expect him to maintain his young man’s level of productivity for much longer.
Benn had a wonderful rebound season, but how many more does he have? Tyler Seguin is on the books for $9.85 million through 2026-’27, and he looks increasingly like a third-line center.
To reach Game 6 of the conference final in the Stanley Cup playoff is an achievement in what was a good season, and entertaining postseason.
To lose that Game 6, at home, 6-0 is humiliating, and a kersplat of a finale.