The Dallas Stars begin their playoff journey in Game 1 against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night from Alberta.
Oettinger & Robertson’s First Crack
Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson have continued to silence the doubters in just their second season in the NHL. The 22-year-old Robertson became just the fourth Stars player since moving to Dallas to tally 40 goals in a season. Serving as a massive part of the dominant top line for the Stars, Robertson led the team in goals (41) and continued to get better as the season went along. The 2021 Calder Trophy finalist has shown up over and over when the spotlight and pressure got the biggest.
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“I think it is just confidence and getting more comfortable,” Robertson said. “Throughout my career, it took me a little bit to get going. Coming into this year, knowing that I was going to have a big role on this team was something that I focused on this summer. I have had two linemates that I have played with all year so it’s pretty comfortable.”
For Oettinger, his success is a bit less of a surprise. As soon as Dallas traded up to draft the Minnesota native, they knew that he was their future in the crease. His development was sped up a bit due to injuries and he and Robertson were both lucky enough to experience the entire 2020 bubble run firsthand.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said Oettinger, who’s about to embark on his first real playoff run. “This is what we work for all year. These are the types of games you want to play in.”
Oettinger finished the regular season with a 30-15-1 record with a .914 save percentage. He was called on to play nearly every game over a long stretch due to injuries and rose to the occasion. Even more impressively, each time he did not play his best, he responded the following game displaying his maturity on and off the ice.
“We have confidence in the skillsets he has, his athleticism, his compete, he’s mentally strong,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said. “When he has had some tough nights, he has bounced back, when he has played back-to-back games, he has played very well. This is all a learning experience for him and we are just going to help him get through it.”
Stars Truly Believe They Can Make a Run
As they did in 2020, this Dallas team has a real belief that they are a tough team to beat. As an underdog once again, they will be shoved aside arguably in any game throughout their entire playoff journey. For them, they simply focus on their own expectations and what is going on inside the dressing room, blocking out the outside noise.
“I really feel like our team is built for the playoffs,” John Klingberg said. “There’s a lot of expectations on our team, but the most expectations come from within our team, the players, coaches and staff. Yeah, maybe we’re underdogs, but we know what we can do. We have to go out there and show it.”
Related: Playoff Series Preview: Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames
Is this team hard to play against? They have shown extreme structure and suffocated teams at times throughout the season (Tampa Bay in April), but have struggled to do so on a consistent basis. If they can play with the intensity needed, they certainly have a shot to surprise some teams and people around the league.
“I wouldn’t want to play us,” Tyler Seguin said earlier in the year.
Flames Scouting Report
The Flames are coming into this series on a nice streak, with a lot of players scoring goals, and with arguably the best goaltender in the league. For them, the goal is to simply keep doing what they have been.
“The biggest thing is understanding it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Blake Coleman said. “You’ve got to keep your composure. Every game is a completely new game and you’ve got to be able to hit that reset button when you need to.”
The Flames will look to silence the Stars top line and get the better of the goaltending matchup, two huge storylines heading into this series. But again, with the pressure of being a Canadian team and being looked at as a top contender, they are looking to take things one game at a time and enjoy the fact that they are back playing home playoff games in front of a full arena.
“Just having the full 82-game season and not having the bubble, that allows you to feel good about yourself heading into the postseason,” said Flames veteran Milan Lucic. “Our main goal right now is focusing on Game 1. We did what we needed to do to get home ice, and we’re focused on that right now.”
- John Klingberg & Vladislav Namestnikov are expected to play after missing some practice time (Klingberg missed the final game of the regular season)
- Jake Oettinger will start in net in his first career playoff start
- Joel Hanley will likely slide in to the bottom pairing with Thomas Harley coming out of the lineup. Expect these two to bounce back and forth throughout the series.
He Said It
“This is why we play hockey,” Klingberg said of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.