With three away games and four home games left in their regular season, the Dallas Stars are looking to make their final push to clinch a highly-coveted playoff spot. Since the beginning of April, they’ve won five and lost four. Consistency still seems to be their kryptonite but the Stars have been surging, maintaining their place as the second wild card seed and hanging on to every chance they have to make the playoffs. So far, everything seems to be working in their favour, but the Western Conference is still highly competitive.
If the team keeps this up, they could have a very achievable path to playoff entry. They can’t control what other teams do, especially the Nashville Predators, who they are neck-in-neck with, and the Vegas Golden Knights, who are nipping at their heels for a playoff chance. Now the top wild card spot is within reach, and the Stars are set up nicely with their next few games.
There’s no doubt that the top line of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski will be reliable if the Stars manage to clinch a playoff spot. They’re all leading the team in points (Pavelski is leading with 74), and have been a dynamic, offensive unit that has paced the Stars and kept them in the race. But besides a top line that has produced results since the start of the 2021-22 season, there are other x-factors that will determine how the next few games play out and help them in their pursuit to replay their 2019-20 Stanley Cup run.
The start of the 2021-22 season was a slow one for Jamie Benn. However, the captain has been an effective player in the last few weeks, putting up 46 points in 75 games and playing an offensive game on his line. He’s been a big body out on the ice and an aggressive forward on the power play unit, not to mention that he has more points at home than on the road, which will amplify the Stars’ home-ice advantage. He currently has 29 points at home and 17 on the road.
While all eyes have mostly fallen on the Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski line, Benn will still play an important role in the Stars’ playoff push. He will need to keep putting up points and remaining hungry on the power play. He hasn’t necessarily been a point-per-game player this season but now isn’t the time to slow down.
Much like Benn, Tyler Seguin was another player that had a slow start to the season. He had an excuse though, recovering from his hip injury over the summer, but the forward seemed frustrated with his own game until around December. After that, he began to score, put up more points and look healthier than ever on the ice. Now he’s sitting with 46 points on 23 goals and 23 assists.
His success in the postseason rests on him staying consistent. He’s been putting up nearly a point-per-game, slightly better than his linemate Benn, but his home record isn’t necessarily better than his road record (he has 22 points at home and 24 on the road). The surge he had in his scoring needs to continue creating chances near the net. Plus he needs to be reliable when it comes to the Stars’ offensive game, which will be vital in their playoff pursuit.
Jason Robertson is only in his second season in the NHL, but he already has 36 goals, which is tied for the second-best total from a Stars player in the past five seasons. There are only seven games left for the forward to produce as many more points as he can. His role on the top line may often be overshadowed by his prominent linemates, but his performance has been nothing to scoff at, according to his teammates.
His goal-scoring abilities are top notch. His ability to slow plays down and having that big opportunity, but being able to slow it down, judge it all in that split-second is what makes him a gifted goal scorer and he’s consistent with it.Stars forward Tyler Seguin
According to head coach Rick Bowness, a lot of people may not realize the impact that the young first-liner has on the league, or the impact he’ll have on the Stars’ postseason pursuit.
“They don’t see him enough,” he said. “They don’t realize what a natural goal scorer he is. Those pucks are going in, he knows where to put a puck on a goalie. He has the timing, he has the sense. He’s just a natural goal scorer. We’ve watched him long enough to know that. People that don’t know him just haven’t watched us play enough.”
His natural goal-scoring will be key in the Stars’ continued playoff push and his team can trust him to get the job done when it’s down to the wire. He shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with 70 points logged in 67 games played.
Jake Oettinger has been the go-to goaltender in these past months, and the young star has shown up big for the Stars. In the absence of Braden Holtby, who’s on long-term injured reserve with a lower-body injury, the netminder has had to step up and be a strong presence in the crease as the team fights to stay in the playoff race. The thing is, he has shown up in a big way, growing from a scrambling newcomer to a reliable professional. He currently has a .915 save percentage and in their recent game against the San Jose Sharks, it seems that he has returned to form in net, making some crucial saves.
The team and fans will be looking to the netminder to be solid between the pipes. Holtby is week-to-week with no guaranteed date of return so for now, Oettinger is the one to hold down the fort.
The Stars have made quite the comeback in the second half of the season and how they play these next few games will impact how they play in the postseason. But Bowness and the rest of the team aren’t ready to give up just yet.
Even in their losses, the Stars have looked like a playoff team. In their game against the Minnesota Wild on Apr. 14, despite losing in overtime, Bowness called it like he saw it: playoff hockey. They’re fighting in each game, no matter the outcome. It seems cliche, but it seems that time will only tell for the Stars. Will they be able to stay consistent and log some wins in the last games of the regular season? Will they be able to clinch that top wild card spot and snag a playoff berth?
They are the Stars after all — anything can happen.
Raylene Lung is a journalist based in Ottawa and has a Masters of Journalism from Carleton University. She has previously written for The Victory Press, The Hockey News, Canadian Geographic and most recently worked at CBC Edmonton. She still reads magazines religiously and loves women’s hockey. When she isn’t writing, she is riding her horse. She currently covers the Dallas Stars for The Hockey Writers.