DALLAS – Particularly insightful were the two bookends of the Stars’ 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
On the one hand you had a 37 year old striker Joe pavelski scoring his 399th and 400th regular season goals of his NHL career in 19 seconds in the first period – a rather special moment in a series that began in 2006.
On the other hand, you had a 22 year old keeper Jake oettinger withdrawn from the game and sent on concussion protocol in the second period, to return to stop 19 of 20 shots in the third period. It was, of course, a new experience for Oettinger.
Which goes to show that you have to be prepared for anything in this job.
“It’s part of being a pro, it’s all part of playing in this league,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said. “Whatever happens, you just have to adapt.”
The Stars have been riding a roller coaster for much of this season, alternating between incredible bouts of doubt and uplifting moments of confident fun. As they begin to pick up their pace, remembering the mercurial temper of the National Hockey League can actually be a calming thing.
Dallas has now won five of its last six games, including huge wins over attacking powers Edmonton and Colorado. He sits 9-7-2 and is back for a playoff berth with games in hand. The Avalanche (10-6-1) started Friday’s game with the league’s best scoring average at 4.06 goals per game and were on a six-game winning streak.
The Stars dominated the start of the game, taking a 2-0 lead over both Pavelski’s scorers, and then held on through a tough third period. In the end, they found a way to play that is reassuring in the sense that it really is a winning style of hockey.
Dallas sandwiched home wins over the Flyers, Red Wings, Blues, Oilers and Avalanche around a horrific 7-2 loss to Minnesota. While the lone loss appears to be an anomaly, it actually could have been a catalyst that helped create the great defensive performances.
“I don’t mean it was a wake-up call for us in Minnesota, but we were playing hockey pretty well. We had some good quality wins before this game and a tough night there, and the guys just answered. “Pavelski said.” You see these good teams where it gets everyone’s attention and they score a lot of goals and there was just a big engagement with the guys in the shooting lanes and the goalkeepers were good. It’s five guys that work well together, and the lines have settled in, and they have a little chemistry right now. The guys are working and that’s kind of the result. “
It’s a good result, that’s for sure. Oettinger has four of the wins and now has a 1.26 goals-against average and .959 save percentage for the season. It’s an incredible flip for a team that sat in the 20s in both categories before Oettinger was called up. The fact that the 22-year-old has been a rock in the net really helps create the opportunity to play “All-Star Hockey”.
“I think Jake’s confidence is really high,” said Jason robertson, who played in the AHL with Oettinger. “He called and everyone in the room trusts him, and I’m sure that gives him a lot of confidence.”
He needed that strong will in the third period. After a net collision prompted the NHL concussion punter to remove Oettinger from the game in the second period, he had to follow protocol and wait in the locker room for the thumbs-up to return. Once he did, he came under Avalanche fire, but he held on and credited his D for keeping away chances on the road.
“Obviously I wanted to go back and try to close the door on our team in third,” said Oettinger. “They did a great job blocking the game in the third period. When you have a lead on the ice at home before the third period, you have to close it, and we did a great job.
The previous five periods have been almost perfect in their defensive presence against some of the best offensive players in the league, so there is certainly a pattern the team can repeat. Plus, defense helps lead to more attacks.
Hintz had five goals and four assists in the 4-1-0 streak. Robertson has three goals and four assists during this span. Pavelski has three goals and two assists. The top line is again the top line, and now the opponents have to plan the game for it.
“Tonight they were doing really well,” Bowness said. “Again, Robo (Robertson) missed a lot of time at camp and Roope too, so they’re getting their chemistry back.”
Pavelski continues to be a leader on the line. The 1,103 regular-season veteran continues to play like he’s 20 years and older, and he’s an inspiration to everyone. When he was honored as the game’s first start for the historic 400th goal (he’s only the 10th US-born player to reach that mark), his 11-year-old son Nate joined him. on the bench.
This is something that aging well in this league gives you.
“It was awesome. It was special,” Pavelski said of the father-son moment. “He loves the game right now and knows what’s going on most nights in the NHL. He has his favorite players and it was pretty cool to see him there. We spent a lot of time playing in the backyard and getting on the ice. every now and then with his team, and it’s just fun to see these kids and how much they love the game. It’s a nice reminder some nights. “
Meanwhile, 14 members of the Robertson family were in town for Thanksgiving and attended the game. So while this is all work, there is also a strong support group surrounding each player. And while this family might be at home or in the dressing room, you have to find a way to weave it all together.
“I think it shows how well we played defensively,” Oettinger said when asked about wins over the Oilers and the Avalanche. “If you look at the scoring chances, I don’t think either team had a ton. Especially teams like this, it looks like they get a few freebies every game, they are so good. But we didn’t give any of that, and the guys did such a good job committing to the defense. I think, if you look back to two years ago, when we went to the final, we’re playing like this team right now, and we just have to keep that going. “
Because these lessons can really be very important.
This story has not been submitted to the National Hockey League or the Dallas Stars Hockey Club for approval.
Mike heika is a senior writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.