Chris Tanev: The Key to Dallas Stars’ Defense Against Edmonton Oilers’ Rush Offense

Chris Tanev The Key to Dallas Stars' Defense Against Edmonton Oilers' Rush Offense

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The Edmonton Oilers are set to compete in the Western Conference Final for the second time in three years. To reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2006, they must overcome the Dallas Stars, who eliminated the NHL’s two most recent champions.

The Stars’ defense stifled the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, who had averaged 5.6 goals per game in the first round against the Winnipeg Jets. Specifically, Dallas thwarted the Avalanche’s rush attacks, their most potent weapon. The Oilers, who scored six rush goals in seven second-round games against the Vancouver Canucks, present a similar challenge.

“For me, it was shutting down their rush,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer told reporters recently. The Avalanche were the league’s top rush team all year. It wasn’t perfect, but we defended the rush well on the nights we won and did it enough to win the series.”

DeBoer will likely emphasize the same strategies against the swift Oilers, meaning Connor McDavid can expect to face rush-stopping defenseman Chris Tanev frequently in the coming weeks.

In the previous round, Tanev played alongside Nathan MacKinnon for 69:14 at 5-on-5. The Stars outscored the Avalanche 3-1 and limited them to six rush scoring chances in those minutes. MacKinnon, who led the league with 122 rush chances in all situations during the regular season (1.49 per game), had four in the second round.

The Stars also did not allow a 5-on-5 goal in the 46:43 when Tanev was matched up against Vegas Golden Knights No. 1 centre Jack Eichel in the first round.

“We want to close, squash, and kill plays, and he’s perfect for that with his feet, mobility, mindset, and aggressive approach,” DeBoer told “He’s been a great system fit.”

Puck management will be crucial for the Oilers, who have surrendered a league-worst seven goals within five seconds of a turnover at 5-on-5 in the playoffs. The Stars, in contrast, have scored five such goals.

Defense is not the Stars’ only strength. They have 16 skaters who have scored in the post-season, the most among the remaining teams. Dallas also has a clear advantage in net, where Jake Oettinger has saved 1.66 goals above expected per 60 minutes. (Stuart Skinner, whom the Oilers benched for two games in the previous series, has allowed an extra 7.18 goals per 60 in the playoffs.)

It’s the conference finals. You’re going to have to play a great team, and they certainly are,” McDavid told reporters. “They’re deep, with four lines, six defensemen, and a great goaltender. It will be a great test.”

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