If you did not watch Game 7 in the first-round matchup of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames, you missed one of the most memorable single-player performances in NHL history.
Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger was a madman all series long — posting the best save percentage of all of the goalies in the 16-team first round and single-handedly keeping the Dallas Stars alive against the Calgary Flames’ firepower.
Flashy dives. X-ray level vision to snap up shots through screens. And a calm demeanor despite only being 23 years old.
Look at this:
Oettinger had 64 saves in the overtime-extended Game 7 — with 50 of them coming during regulation. This as the Stars were getting outshot by a three-to-one margin at points in the game.
And that was the problem all series long for the Dallas Stars.
The Stars’ dim stars
I’m a firm believer that defense wins championships. The Stars almost beat the Alberta armada just purely on defense alone.
However, Dallas’ offense — well, lack thereof — was offensive to watch.
The only game in this series where it felt like the offense was clicking was Game 6, where you saw displays of speed and consistent pushes forward into the Calgary zone.
Roope Hintz made his appearance in Game 6, but an injury made him a scratch for Game 7. Miro Heiskanen was missing in action until Game 6 where he was clearly a difference maker.
But beyond that, the entire series for the Dallas Stars offense felt stodgy, rigid, deliberate, and ultimately ineffective.
This team should have more than enough fire power to have put more pressure on Calgary. Remember, despite Calgary outshooting Dallas by a three-to-one margin, the game was tied at 2 goals apiece. Dallas had two goals on 12 shots by the end of the second period while Calgary accomplished the same with more than 30 shots on goal.
Dallas’ top line of Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jason Robertson were the big guns on offense throughout the year. But, the second line composed a large part of the Stars’ “big three” during their 2020 finals appearance: Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and new addition Vladislav Namestnikov.
This series? Ghosts. Add in other past contributors like Denis Gurianov, Joel Kiviranta (who exploded onto the scene with Gurianov in the 2020 playoff), John Klingberg, and Heiskanen and it’s apparent the team has the pieces to succeed.
Watching the team play, it feels like exactly how TNT analyst put it, when he was commenting on Heiskanen’s lack of performance compared to his impressive play in Game 6: They are managing their effort.
There are many games where Klingberg and Heiskanen — considered to be two of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL — are just “blah”. The forwards have long lacked steady performance, but this year, it looked even more “blah”.
In the Calgary series, it was the same thing over and over again: dump the puck and prepare for to defend. But even when the Stars did try to make an offensive push, everything just looked disorganized. There was often a lack of speed — often due to that lack of organization.
The team for too long has relied on its goaltending to survive. Anton Khudobin was putting on his own strong performance during the 2020 playoffs when Ben Bishop was injured.
Oettinger’s performance in the Calgary series make Khudobin’s look merely pedestrian.
If you didn’t watch the game Sunday night, you missed the rise of a legend in Dallas.
For the Stars, it looks like the pieces are there to succeed, but it might unfortunately be time for a change in direction behind the bench.