The saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” often rings so true- and that is especially the case for the Dallas Stars in 2021.
A calendar year delayed by the first onset of the COVID-19 pandemic again has been mired by the ugly effect of the virus and postponed the last five games of the Stars’ 2021-22 season.
Amazingly, an entire season fit within the first five months of the calendar. There has been absolutely nothing regular about the last three seasons for any National Hockey League team, but that’s especially the case for the Stars- who have played a ton of hockey over the past 15 months.
2020 started with loads of promise for the team in hosting the Winter Classic- yes, that was LAST calendar year, unbelievably- and 2021 brought optimism as well, with the team coming off of a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final in the September NHL bubble. This year, at the time of their brief COVID-pause, the team sits 15-12-2 and looking to jumpstart another playoff run.
Here’s a look at some of the best and worst of this calendar year.
High: Emergence of Youth
No doubt, the stunning rise of Jason Robertson captivated the NHL in Dallas’ brief 56-campaign in 2021. Dallas’ 2017 2nd-round pick scored 17 goals in just 51 games on the way to a runner-up finish in Calder Trophy voting. But beyond that, goalie Jake Oettinger showed Stars fans there’s much more to be excited as well. Dallas’ first-round pick from that same ’17 draft took the reigns of the Stars’ future in net with both his play this season and last. Roope Hintz also has emerged as a goal-scoring machine when healthy. All three are under age 25. There’s a lot to be excited about with this trio.
Low: A team can lose this much in overtime??
Dallas came darn close setting an NHL record for ineptitude in overtime in just 56 games last year, losing in a shootout or overtime a whopping 14 times (!!!). This was likely a result of the injuries and fatigue that came as a result the team’s deep run to the Stanley Cup Final in September 2020, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating for Stars fans- who could count on one hand how many times their team emerged with a min in the extra session.
High: Tying a franchise record with seven straight wins
One of the more recent entries in this list, Dallas’ streak from late November to early December turns out to be the thing saving this season- and likely Rick Bowness’ job. The Stars righted the ship with unexpected wins over St. Louis, Colorado, and Edmonton in late November before losing late to Vegas on the road a few days into the final month in the year. The streak was buoyed by several home wins, a testament to Dallas’ success at the American Airlines Center this year- the Stars’ mark of 11-3-1 on home ice is top ten in the NHL and third in the Western Conference.
Low: Missing the playoffs for the first time in three seasons
After coming a game within the Western Conference Final in 2019, which, in hindsight, a likely run to the 2019 final- the Stars broke through in 2020, but hit a wall late in the 2021 season. Despite the injuries, COVID setbacks, and a prolonged break due to unprecedented DFW ice storms- the Stars stayed in it until the last week of the season, ultimately being eliminated in a nail-biting overtime (go figure) loss to Nashville on the road in late April. That marked the team’s first missed postseason since its 2018 collapse.
High: Tyler Seguin’s inspiring recovery
Tyler Seguin’s reputation precedes him from his youthful days in Boston, but he quieted any doubt with an incredible recovery from a variety of injuries suffered in a gutty performance in the 2020 Cup Final. Seguin took to Instagram to share his story, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch.
Low: Stars say goodbye to two stalwarts in net
Another recent entry on this list, mid-December was tough on the hearts of Stars fans- as fan-favorite goalies Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin both left the team in different ways. Bishop was forced to retire due to a litany of injuries after attempting a rehab stint at Dallas’ American Hockey League affiliate, while Khudobin became the odd-man out after getting outplayed by Braden Holtby and Oettinger. There’s still a chance Khudobin returns to the Stars roster this year, but not seeing either face on the roster marked the end to perhaps the franchise’s most solid seasons in net.
High: Power Play Joe
Over the past three years, Joe Pavelski has captured the hearts of Stars fans and ran with them. After nearly setting records for an American in the NHL postseason on Dallas’ 2020 run, Pavelski dominated in the 56-game 2021 and paced the league in power play goals with 13. He’s still playing well this year- the last of his contract- and at age 37, continues to defy father time and add value at the NHL level.
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