The Dallas Stars can still score. They are now deeper and more balanced going into the NHL playoffs

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — There was a time not long ago when the Dallas Stars were far too dependent on their top line.

With a trio of 70-point scorers skating together two seasons ago, the Stars didn't even get out of the first round of the playoffs. That came after being the only one of 16 playoff teams to allow more goals than they scored during the regular season.

Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz remained top scorers last year but got more help as Dallas made it to the Western Conference Final, and the scoring is now even deeper and more balanced. The Central Division champion Stars have a franchise-record and NHL-high eight 20-goal scorers, and a ninth player with more than 50 points.

“Depth is one of the keys,” the 39-year-old Pavelski said.

“You look at all of our numbers and we're all almost identical, which is pretty cool,” said Matt Duchene, a veteran newcomer to the group this season. “It’s kind of the next-man-up mentality where you just kind of roll the lines over and one night, one line’s going to have a big night, and the next night someone else ... and when we get two going, it’s really scary."

The increase in balanced scoring coincides with Pete DeBoer's two seasons as coach of the Stars since the departure of Rick Bowness, who took them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. After scoring 285 goals last season, the Stars now have 296 through Tuesday —the most since the franchise moved to Dallas before the 1993-94 season.

“The two times I’ve been to the finals and lost, it was because the depth of the other team was better than ours,” said DeBoer, who coached in the final with New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016. “There's not many teams you can put our lineup up against up front where that’s going to be the case. So that's a great option to have, and that's really the strength of this team. We've got to make sure we utilize that.”

Robertson is the leading scorer with 80 points (29 goals, 51 assists) and still on the top line with Pavelski (67 points, 27 goals) and Hintz (65 points, 30 goals). Wyatt Johnston, the 20-year-old already finishing his second full season, has a team-best 32 goals to go with his 33 assists.

With every line contributing, the Stars have been able to manage ice time while prepping for what they hope is an even longer postseason run than last year, when they lost at home to eventual Cup champion Las Vegas in Game 6 of the West final. They finish this regular season at home Wednesday night.

“The nice thing is you're not physically exhausted at all at this time of year because our minutes are lower than a lot of other teams,” said Duchene, who has 64 points (25 goals) while playing under 17 minutes a game, well below his career average. “If you're able to still produce and contribute offensively as a forward group, that doesn't really matter how much you're playing. We're fresh and ready to go."

The 24-year-old Robertson at almost 18 1/2 minutes a game is getting the most ice time among Dallas forwards. Jamie Benn, the 34-year-old captain, still has 60 points (21 goals) in just over 15 minutes a game, his lowest average ice time since his rookie season 14 years ago and coming primarily on a third line with Johnston and 21-year-old Logan Stankoven.

Six-time All-Star Tyler Seguin (25 goals) and Mason Marchment (21 goals), usually with Duchene on the second line, are the other 20-goal scorers. Defenseman Miro Heiskanen has nine goals and 45 assists. Seguin is the only player on the roster with a Stanley Cup title, though that came during his rookie season with Boston in 2010-11.

“Everyone here has sacrificed. We talked about that sacrifice from day one at camp. To play on a contender, you’re going to have to check your ego at the door and and make some sacrifices personally,” DeBoer said. “We’ve had zero issue with that. Every guy’s lined up to take their turn to sacrifice for the greater good. And that’s why we’ve got the record we’ve got.”



Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press