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5 Thoughts on Stars-Capitals
Robertson and Kiviranta scored, Oettinger stops 'em all
The Dallas Stars defeated the Washington Capitals 2-0 on Thursday with goals by Jason Robertson and Joel Kiviranta.
It was a bounceback game for Dallas, which was looking for a response after a rough back-to-back earlier in the week against the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins.
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Here are my thoughts.
1. It’s easy to heap accolades on Jake Oettinger, dating back to the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Calgary Flames, the Stars goalie has been one of the best in the world at his position.
On Thursday, however, Oettinger didn’t look like one of the best goalies on the planet. He looked a bit sloppier, he wasn’t as crisp or controlled in his motions, and there were more scrambly moments than we’ve grown accustomed to with Oettinger.
Yet he still stopped 27 of 27 shots.
If that’s Oettinger’s definition of an off night, well, many of us would love to still be 100 percent effective on our worst days at work.
His time in the NHL may be over, but Anton Khudobin’s fingerprints were on this performance by Oettinger. Throughout his goalie tutelage in Dallas, Oettinger studied and stole ideologies from a trio of veterans in Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, and Khudobin.
Bishop and Holtby offered more of the technical insight, but Khudobin’s ability to battle, his ability to find the energy and rally a team, it’s something that Oettinger has told me in the past he greatly respected about the goalie he backed up during a run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.
And when Oettinger needed to battle, needed to scramble on a night when his technique wasn’t there, he was Khudobin-esque in his performance. It’s not the path to consistent success for Oettinger, Friday’s practice will probably be an important one with goalie coach Jeff Reese, but it’s a desperate club in the bag that Oettinger is proving he can rely on when needed.
2. Nils Lundkvist had been a Plan B for Jim Nill during the 2021-22 season.
The Stars and Rangers had trade talks during that season, nothing came off it, but Nill had already recognized the right-handed defenseman as a potential fill-in if the Stars weren’t able to get things tied down with John Klingberg.
When the Stars couldn’t come to a deal with Klingberg, they eventually circled back to the Rangers and Nill parted with a highly-coveted first-round pick to make a deal for the defenseman.
And Lundkvist was brought in to be a future top-pair defender, someone who would grow into that role. But injuries can alter timelines and Miro Heiskanen’s injury, which caused him to miss a second consecutive game, opened a window of opportunity for Lundqvist to play a larger opportunity.
Lundqvist was on the ice for 20 minutes, and 38 seconds, the third most on the team after Esa Lindell (22:44) and Ryan Suter (22:19).
When Lundqvist was on the ice the Stars lost the overall possession battle, he had a CorsiFor of 44.83 percent at even strength, but it was a measure of quality over quantity in both zones.
3. Darcy Kuemper had no chance on Jason Robertson’s first-period goal.
Look at this traffic.
And then look at this tip by Robertson.
It’s fairly obvious why this puck ended up in the net, but there are two additional notes I wanted to bring up.
The tip by Robertson is the overly-cliched “goal-scorer’s goal.” It’s the type of tip that physically isn’t difficult, but being in the right spot like that, upwards of 40 times per season, is a piece of hockey IQ that’s hard to teach.
On the goalie side of things, it’s the type of screen situation that leads to some goalies playing deeper in their crease with traffic in front of the net. It’s good to be aggressive, but some goalies — and Henrik Lundqvist really pioneered this — started playing deeper in the crease to have the extra half-second to react on tips through traffic like this.
4. Joel Kiviranta’s early season is a fascinating statistical case study.
On Thursday, he scored his third goal of the season, completing a steal and finish while shorthanded to make it 2-0.
Through eight games, still a small sample size admittedly, Kiviranta has multiple shots in four games and he’s scored in three of those. That would, in theory, make him a volume shooter.
But Kiviranta has also done his most offensive damage in games he’s gotten the least amount of ice time.
Against Washington, Kiviranta had 10:35 of ice time. In the other games where Kiviranta has scored, he’s had 9:59 and 11:02 in time on ice, respectively. In games where he hasn’t scored, he’s flirted with 13 to 14 minutes of ice time.
I wouldn’t read too much into any of this, but it’s interesting.
5. Some other thoughts and notes:
As I wrote about in D Magazine on Thursday, Wyatt Johnston is going to stick around in Dallas after nine games. In fact, he’s likely going to be on the NHL roster for the entirety of the season. He was good, again, on Thursday and nearly scored on the power play in the third period.
Ty Dellandrea was great, particularly on the penalty kill.
Denis Gurianov looked better, he nearly scored in the first period when he hit the crossbar. He’s responding well to being scratched. From a Stars perspective, here’s hoping he breaks the scoreless skid and catapults his confidence.