The wheels fell off for the Dallas Stars in February. A record of 2-5-3 is all they could muster in a shortened month after a winter storm in Dallas postponed four home games. Stars fans want to get out of February as soon as possible, ending with a 5-0 shutout by the Tampa Bay Lightning. They exit with a seventh place position in the division, and are fighting several problems with injuries. They have 17 games in March, which will be dismal if they don’t get out of the February funk. However, some players stood out above the rest. A mix of rookies and a veteran make up the top 3 Stars players in February.
#3: Jason Robertson
Born just one month after the Stars won the 1999 Stanley Cup, Jason Robertson is proving himself a valuable newcomer to the Stars roster (from “Despite his critics, Stars rookie Jason Robertson is finding ways to contribute at the NHL level,” Dallas Morning News, February 12, 2021). He recorded six points in his first 11 games this season. Not bad for someone on his 14th career game. The 21-year-old from Acadia, California, is perhaps one of the few players in NHL history to say he scored his first career NHL goal off his butt.
In the Feb. 7 game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Miro Heiskanen fired a wrist shot that Blackhawks goaltender Malcolm Subban tried to glove. The puck careened off his trapper, deflected off Robertson’s backside, and trickled across the goal line. That was the first of two goals in his career. Robertson is showing great stride in his young career and this season will be a chance for him to break out as a young star.
#2: Jake Oettinger
Jake Oettinger knew that he would see lots of playing time with starting goaltender Ben Bishop’s injury. He saw more minutes than Anton Khudobin did for the month. At 326:10, Oettinger held up to the task despite a 1-1-3 record. He gave them opportunities to win games, boasting a 2.39 goals against average and a .914 save percentage over the month.
He gave Khudobin lots of rest, some of which came from an off-ice incident that held him out for a game. Oettinger shows maturity in the net despite some losses that were not entirely his fault. He is calm under pressure after stopping a shooting gallery of 35 shots on goal in multiple games. The third-string goalie proved himself more valuable than a tertiary option this month.
#1: Joe Pavelski
Grizzled veteran Joe Pavelski proved that his hot start in January wasn’t a fluke. He maintained his scoring prowess throughout February, recording 10 points in 10 games. Pavelski is the leading scorer and the rock the team needs. He is already halfway to 20 goals this season despite only being 16 games in. Denis Gurianov was the only Stars player to score 20 goals last season, taking 64 games.
Pavelski leads the way in the much-improved goals department. The Stars average 2.88 goals for per game, a significant increase from the 2.58 last season. Pavelski is proving himself a valuable asset and now the organization may want to protect him in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft.
Honorable Mention: The Fighters, Points-Per-Gamers, and the Fans
Jamie Benn, John Klingberg, and Jamie Oleksiak dropped the gloves this month. Klingberg got a rare fighting major after going toe-to-toe with Patric Hörnqvist. These fighting majors prove that this is a physical team when need be. Alexander Radulov only played two games before injury trouble. He still scored five points, averaging 2.5 points per game. Maybe the team could have secured more wins had he been in the lineup. The Stars need him back quickly.
The unprecedented winter storm descended Texas into mayhem, canceling four Stars games in the process. The fans get an honorable mention for what they’ve been through on top of the COVID-19 pandemic. With 12 home games in March, expect a raucous crowd at the American Airlines Center as fans are welcomed back after a short absence.
The March Forward
March is a make-or-break month for the Stars. They play every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday in a strenuous 17 games. Twelve home games are enough to get this train back on the tracks. Their main goal should be winning nine at home and two on the road with an overtime loss. Getting 23 out of 34 points will get them back into the playoff race. Anything less than a 17-10-5 record after March means they will struggle to qualify for the playoffs. Four of these home games are against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who the Stars played for the first time on Feb. 27.
They must find their winning ways again or the conversation will shift from division title hopes to no playoff appearance. Their main problem is injuries and Tyler Seguin is still another month away from his return. They will not get any more help in the injury department, so they will need to count on willpower alone. March will be their true test.