The Dallas Stars wrap up their three-game homestand with a Saturday night matchup against the struggling San Jose Sharks.
Can Oettinger Regain His Home Ice Advantage
Jake Oettinger has had an excellent season. He is 26-13-1 with a .914 save percentage and 2.53 goals-against average. The 23-year-old Minnesota native is in just his second NHL season and the first of him as a true starter. However, after a tremendous first half of the year, he has seen his numbers dip a bit recently.
Since the start of March, he has been floating mostly below .900 and has allowed a goal here and there that he normally does not let by. Most recently, I have watched the New Jersey Devils score three on him in a disappointing loss, recording a .870 save percentage in the game.
With that being said, Oettinger has also risen to the occasion. Often, Daryl “Razor” Reaugh speaks on the broadcast about his ability to make that key save at that moment even if he has not had the best game overall. The maturity of the youngster and his work ethic have been something surrounding him throughout his first two seasons. For that reason, expect him to be at his best when his team needs him most in the final stretch of the regular season.
“We all love working with young players, Rick Bowness said.” Especially when he has such a good work ethic and character like Jake. He wants to get better, he’s a great worker and a great teammate. You know they want to get better and you know down the road, they are going to be a lot better.”
Stars Have No Time For Fatal Mistakes
The time for learning from your mistakes is over. With only eight games remaining on the 2021-22 regular-season schedule, Dallas simply cannot afford to make these huge mistakes anymore. Thursday’s matchup with the Minnesota Wild was a perfect example of the effect these can have on a game. First, it was Denis Guryanov losing his man in defensive zone coverage, followed by Alexander Radulov fumbling the puck at the blue line on the power play. Both plays resulted in clear breaks for Kevin Fiala and both ended up in the back of the net.
If the Stars are going to make the postseason, which they have put themselves in a fairly good position to do, they need to eliminate these fatal mistakes. It’s hockey, mistakes will happen, but they cannot be the mental and physical errors that lead to glorious scoring chances the other way. If they are, you better hope that Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood are up to the task because this team is not skilled enough to outscore their mistakes going forward.
Sharks Scouting Report
Yes, the San Jose Sharks are well out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, as we have discovered all season long with the Stars, there are no real bad teams in the NHL and anyone can beat anyone on any given night. The Sharks are 1-6-3 in their last 10 and are coming off a high-even 5-4 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite their poor record, head coach Bob Boughner believes his team has battled and pushed through loads of adversity all season long.
“Guys playing hard and being in the fight until middle of the season, I think we ran into about a month-and-a-half where we had seven, eight, nine veterans out of the lineup,” Boughner said. “If you’re behind the race after Christmas, you guys (the media) know this, it’s not a good sign statistically. We just couldn’t stay healthy. When we did, we battled, we played hard, we were in a lot of games.”
Timo Meier leads the Sharks with 72 points in 68 games, including 14 in his last 12 games. Oddly enough, one of the few games that he was held off the scoresheet was against Dallas back on April 2. Regardless of the overall team record and defensive play, James Reimer has had a pretty successful season, recording a .914 save percentage in 44 starts.
Reimer made 28 saves in the loss at Chicago on Thursday and will likely be in the net at Dallas on Saturday.
- Vladislav Namestnikov remains out nursing a lower-body injury that should keep him out until after the Canadian road trip next week
- Jake Oettinger will be back in the pipes after consecutive starts for Wedgewood
- The Stars did not skate this morning due to the NBA playoff game at the American Airlines Center so there will be no further updates until the team hits the ice for warmups
I Said It
“I think that’s two playoff-type games that in a regular season, that’s the closest you’re going to get, so I think we’ve rose to the occasion when we’ve met these games and that’s great,” said forward Tyler Seguin following the 3-2 overtime loss to the Wild. “I don’t think — as a team or as individuals — we can really just flip a switch going into the playoffs. You’ve got to be playing playoff hockey going in there. That’s why sometimes you see the lesser seeds come out and have upsets because they’re playing these games, fighting for our lives, so that’s positive.”
Sam Nestler is a credentialed 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 analyzes 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 Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast hereand give his latest article a read!