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As Joe Pavelski’s career may be coming to an end, stars lament a missed opportunity

EDMONTON — Tyler Seguin’s voice has been captured. Wyatt Johnston’s eyes filled with tears. Pete DeBoer’s face fell.

Getting so close to the Stanley Cup Final and failing was excruciating. The feeling of having failed Joe Pavelski was somehow worse.

“Don’t ask about Joe,” Seguin said with a sad laugh as he gushed a little.

If Sunday night’s 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals was the final game of Pavelski’s career — and that seemed like a real possibility given the way his teammates spoke about him afterward — it will. difficult to swallow. Pavelski had a playoff series to forget, with just one goal and three assists in 19 games. The man with 1,068 career points in the regular season and 143 more in the playoffs didn’t register a single one in the Oilers series.

But his impact on the Stars over the past five seasons has been immeasurable.

“Since day one, since he’s been here, he’s been everything to our group – on the ice, off the ice, at all of our golf games,” Seguin said. “He made it all better. He’s just an amazing person to have here.

DeBoer called it “the absolute privilege of my coaching career to coach a guy like that.” Captain Jamie Benn called him “the all-time teammate.” And Johnston, who at 21 is barely half Pavelski’s age (the veteran turns 40 next month), was in tears talking about the man whose family he has lived with since entering the NHL .

“I can’t thank him and his family enough for what they did for me,” Johnston said.


Joe Pavelski didn’t record a single point in the Stars’ playoff series against the Oilers. (Leila Devlin/Getty Images)

It was another near miss in a storied career for Pavelski. He reached the Stanley Cup Final twice, once with the San Jose Sharks in 2016 and once with the Stars in the 2020 bubble here in Edmonton, but his teams were constantly in contention. You don’t play in 201 career playoff games by accident.

And Pavelski isn’t the only veteran who lost a golden opportunity to win his first championship. Ryan Suter is 39 years old, Benn is 34 years old and Matt Duchene is 33 years old. There will certainly be more opportunities for these latter three, as the Stars are built for the present and the future. But this was the best team in the Western Conference, a team that checked every box with its talent, its depth, its structure, its blue line, its goaltending. This was supposed to be their year.

But an 0-for-14 performance on the power play, coupled with four power play goals allowed in Games 5 and 6, condemned them to another offseason of simulations. The Stars outshot the Oilers 35-10 in Game 6, the highest shot differential and fewest shots ever allowed in a series-clinching loss. Until the very end, as they bombarded Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner with shots in a frenzied six-on-five, they believed they would somehow win the game, the series and the Stanley Cup.

“Hockey is hard, you know?” said Séguin. “It takes a lot to make everything go well. You must have this opportunity. We had this opportunity. We went through a gantlet and beat some really good teams (Vegas and Colorado) and knew we had something special. Lost to a team we thought we could beat, and sometimes it’s the playoffs. Sometimes it’s a rebound, a goal, a save. That’s why we all love it. That’s why it’s the hardest damn trophy in the world to win.

Johnston, in only his second postseason, has years of opportunities ahead of him. And even though the Stars start shedding some veterans through attrition and free agency, he thinks the team is well prepared for future runs.

“A lot of really good guys who have a lot of hockey ahead of them,” Johnston said. “And even our older guys have a lot of really good hockey ahead of them. It’s hard to look forward right now and look beyond (tonight), but it’s really exciting.

Seguin was all raw emotion following the loss, a mix of appreciation and devastation. Hockey is like that.

“There’s a lot of emotion right now, a lot of disappointment, but boy, (we) had a lot of fun too,” he said. “We had a lot of fun in those big moments, the guys working, and the ups and downs. I love that. So it was great. … Unfortunately, you have to lose a lot to win in this league. I don’t know why it’s like that, but (you have to) learn some lessons, keep this taste and prepare for next year.

(Top photo of Joe Pavelski and Connor McDavid: Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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