Heading into the mandatory COVID-19 break, the Dallas Stars have won two straight games. While they were not perfect, they should serve as important stepping stones on the way to finding their full game confidence. Since the league will be on pause for a few days, it seemed like the perfect time to look at who is hot and who is not for Dallas, heading into the break.
Stars: Who Is Hot
Top Line- Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, & Jason Robertson “RoboRooSki”
To put it simply, the top line has been dominant for the Stars all season long. Since Robertson returned from an early injury, the trio has accounted for nearly 60% of all the teams’ offense. Joe Pavelski has been on a consistent tear since the end of the 2019-20 season and currently has 27 points in 29 games this year. Jason Robertson has been excellent since his injury, recording 25 points in 23 games. Roope Hintz took some time to recover from his offseason surgery, tallying zero goals in the teams’ first 10 games. Since then, however, he has been arguably their best player with 20 points in his last 16 games.
Not only does this line provide offense often but they do it early as well. Earlier in the year, they helped the Stars break an NHL record for the first team to score within the first 75 seconds of a game in four consecutive games. The top line scored all four of those goals. While they have been more dominant on home ice, similar to the Stars as a whole, they have found a way to produce every night, and in every arena, despite the opponents’ best efforts to shut them down.
This year, the captain was looking to piggyback off of an excellent finish to the 2020-21 season. While he finished the season with 35 points in 52 games, most of his offense came in the second half of the year following his move to center. Early this year, Rick Bowness struggled to find the perfect spot for him as he bounced from line to line and from center to left-wing. Eventually, the coaching staff realized that he is a far more dominant player when he is at the center position.
Since then, he has been more consistent, more noticeable, and has made all of his linemates, more effective within their own game. Currently, Benn has 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) in 29 games but there is a visible difference in his game on a nightly basis. Recently, he was reunited with his buddy, Tyler Seguin, and the two had immediate chemistry once again.
Braden Holtby & Jake Oettinger
The goalie duo has been the best position for the Stars all season long. Braden Holtby has been dominant all season while Jake Oettinger has excelled since being called up in November. Holtby currently holds a 5-7-1 record, 2.24 goals-against average, and .922 save percentage, while Oettinger stands at 7-2-0, with a 2.24 goals-against average and an identical .922 save percentage.
These numbers rank them near the top of the league as they have helped Dallas return closer to its expected defensive game. With the recent departure of both Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, it will be their crease for the foreseeable future. If the recently turned 23-year-old and experienced veteran can continue their dominance, there is nothing that Dallas can’t do going forward.
Stars: Who Is Not
Usual Scorers: Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Joel Kiviranta, & Denis Gurianov
This group is easily lumped together because they have gone through the same struggles all season long. Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov have both been a bit slow out of the gates following their recent surgeries while Denis Gurianov and Joel Kiviranta have never really gotten off the ground.
Through the first 29 games, Seguin has 12 points and just three goals in the last 16 games, Radulov has only one goal which came early on, Gurianov has shown glimpses of his potential but still has only 10 points, and Kiviranta is still in search of his first goal. Seguin and Radulov have played well in their overall game and continue to show their determination and resiliency as they block shots, win faceoffs, and go hard into the corners to win pucks. At the same time, however, they seem stuck offensively.
Hopefully, the recent goal from Seguin can help him out of the mud because the Stars desperately need more from this group altogether.
John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen & Esa Lindell
Speaking of still searching for their first goals, John Klingberg and Esa Lindell went through that for the first two months of the season. Luckily. That all changed within two games as Klingberg finally scored the overtime winner against the Chicago Blackhawks and Lindell scored a shorthanded goal against the Minnesota Wild.
Still, those two have struggled offensively all season long. Klingberg has only tallied 14 points in 24 games while Lindell has just six points in 29 games, While this is far more alarming for a dynamic offensive player like Klingberg, the numbers are also disappointing for Lindell, who is more than capable of providing offense from the backend.
For Miro Heiskanen, it has been a weird season. He started off on fire, racking up 12 points in his first 12 games. Since then, however, he has only recorded six points over his last 16 games, including seven straight without a point. His goal scoring has completely dried up as his goal on Monday marked his first in 17 games. While he has still been solid defensively, he simply has not been the game-changer that Stars’ fans have grown accustomed to. Similar to the other players on this part of the list, Dallas desperately needs him to find his best game, and quickly.
For now, the Stars, like the rest of the NHL, will take their mandatory break and try to hit the ground running on Dec. 27. Perhaps the break will be exactly what is needed for some of their key players to find their game. Perhaps, it will have exactly the opposite effect and put more players behind the 8-ball. Only time will tell but Stars’ fans remain hopeful that a visit from Kris Kringle is just the good luck charm they needed.
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!