Stars Continue to Surge Into Playoff Picture

The Dallas Stars are on a hot streak. Since the All-Star break, they have gone 9-2-1, holding the second-best points percentage (.789) in the league over that time. With the surge, Dallas has jumped into the playoff picture, scrambling the top of the Western Conference as we near the trade deadline. 

Stars Getting Hot At The Right Time

Winners in 9 of their last 12 games and four straight, the Stars seem to have found their game at just the right time. At the beginning of February, Dallas looked up at a heavy Central Division schedule, including eight straight against divisional opponents, and a mostly road dominant month of March to follow. Over that time, they won nearly every game, gaining points against opponents ahead of them in the standings and finding new hope. As of today, the Stars sit in the first wild card and are tied with the Minnesota Wild for the third seed in the Central Division. 

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“That’s a good sign of where we are right now,” Bowness said of the six-game point streak (5-0-1). “That’s a good bunch, they’ve come together really well. We’re happy with where we are, but we haven’t done anything yet.” 

The end of that quote is likely the most important part. The Stars just got a front-row seat to how quickly things can change in the NHL. If they were able to go on a streak like this, other teams have that capability as well. On the flip side, Dallas could also slip into a losing streak like the Wild are in right now and find themselves back on the outside of the playoff picture. With 2 weeks until the trade deadline, it is vital that they keep finding success and not take their foot off the gas. 

Oettinger & Robertson Are Driving The Bus 

Jake Oettinger has been spectacular over this winning streak for Dallas. After having an inconsistent first half of the season, the 23-year-old has found his footing and more. Over his last 10 Starts, the Lakeville, MN native has gone 8-1-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average, and a .936 save percentage. 

Related: Stars Jake Oettinger Has Earned Full Trust of coaching Staff 

“It’s a lot, but it’s also fun,” Bowness said. “It’s all part of the experience and you’ve got to go through it at least once. This is a great time for him, and he’s earned the right to be here. His character, he’s a real pro, a mature, mature kid.”

Jake Oettinger Dallas Stars
Jake Oettinger, Dallas Stars (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Fellow 2017 draftee Jason Robertson has also found a new level of success recently. After a highly productive start to the season, the second-year winger tallied back-to-back hat tricks over the last two games. On top of that, he played in his 100th career game on Friday and scored his 100th career point on Sunday. His stats rank him among the elite, currently 9th in points over the first 100 games among active players. 

Related: Stars Heiskanen & Oettinger Make 2017 Draft Class Best in Team History

With six goals over the weekend, Robertson now has 54 points (29G, 25A) in 45 games for the Stars. He is second only to linemate Joe Pavelski (59 points) while his third linemate Roope Hintz (47 points) sits just behind him for the top three in Dallas scoring. His six-goal performance was also recognized by the league as Robertson was named the First Star of the Week. 

“He’s pretty incredible, he’s going to have quite a career, that guy,” Stars goalie Braden Holtby said after a 4-3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets. “He’s one of those guys, and there’s very few of them. They get the puck and their heart rate just slows down. It’s a pretty rare talent, the poise he has. It’s fun to watch.”

Stars Getting Secondary Scoring & Penalty Kill Success

On top of the excellent goaltending and dynamic top line, Dallas is getting something they have been desperately searching for, secondary scoring. A hot topic all season long, the depth scoring has been lacking as the top line produced nearly 50% of the team’s offense. Now, that has finally changed. 

“We just need that secondary scoring,” Bowness said. “When we’re going good, we’re getting that secondary scoring. The defense had some great looks, and we need the defense to score.”

Tyler Seguin was moved back to center and has tallied 19 points over his last 21 games. His linemates Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov have also found more success, producing at a much higher clip than they were early in the season. 

Tyler Seguin Dallas Stars
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Below them, the bottom six have started to produce as well. Michael Raffl recorded his first multi-goal game since 2016, Luke Glendening scored a huge goal against Los Angeles, and the fourth line has seen established chemistry between Alexander Radulov, Joel Kiviranta, and Jacob Peterson. 

“I think it comes down to honest work for us,” Raffl said. “Try to be first on pucks and be painful to play against. Be first on pucks, be strong on the forecheck and have the third guy above so nothing is ever easy for them. We can play against any line, and it’s been a lot of fun. [Faksa] was very good the last three games.”

Dallas Penalty Kill is Elite

Another huge factor in the recent success has been the Stars penalty kill. After struggling for much of the season and sitting near the middle of the pack in ranking, the penalty kill has re-found the success we have grown accustomed to over the past two years. 

Since Jan. 30, the Stars have allowed four power-play goals on 39 chances. During that span, they have allowed 3.55 goals per 60 minutes of shorthanded time, the second-best mark in the league. Many of them coming at crucial times. 

Stars Continue Finding Ways to Win 

Over this successful stretch, the Stars have found just about every which way to win. They have blown out elite teams, won in a shootout after both teams went scoreless the entire game, made big comebacks, asked their goaltender to be elite, and gotten two hat tricks from Robertson. It does not seem to matter the situation or the score, Dallas is a team right now that believes they can find a win, no matter what. 

“Even though we were down 3-1, we were very confident in the way we were playing,” Bowness said after the Stars comeback win against LA. “We were controlling play and getting tons of chances, so we just had to stay with the program. You play the right way and do those things and we got rewarded tonight.”

You hear the old cliche “good teams find a way” often in the NHL. It is the elite teams that consistently win and play their best despite their opponent. Lately, Dallas has taken that in stride. They have picked up wins and points against heavy divisional rivals and beaten most of the teams below them, resulting in their recent jump into a playoff spot. 

“I’d rather see us in the eighth spot than ninth or 10th,” said Stars coach Rick Bowness. “We’re not that far out of third. That’s your next step, to get in and stay in. It’s there, and you’ve got to go get it.”

Stars Have Regained Their Swagger

Along with the wins, the Stars have brought back something that was certainly missed lately. Over the last month or so, Dallas has regained the swagger that brought them within two wins of the Stanley Cup in 2020 (we’re not going home). The belief that they could overcome anything, come together, and win. It was one of my favorite parts of that Stars team and is something that I believe is needed to make a deep run in the playoffs. Right now, the Stars have it, and you can feel it every day around the rink.

“Stay in the fight, stay in the battle, and let’s keep pushing,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. 

The Stars wrap up their current road trip in Nashville on Tuesday before returning home to host the New York Rangers on Saturday. The remainder of March will not get any easier, as Dallas plays eight of their next 11 games on the road. However, if they can get through this stretch in a decent spot, they have a home-heavy April that could propel them into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And if we are all being honest, wouldn’t that be nice? 

“Until we see that ‘X’ beside our name in the playoffs, we just gotta keep pushing,” Bowness said. 

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