When the Stars stumbled out of the gate to start the season, it was assumed that they would be better once Jason Robertson returned from a shoulder injury.
But no one could have predicted the immediate and absolute impact the second-year forward would have had on the Stars’ sudden turnaround.
Since he entered the lineup in the seventh game of the season, Robertson has been one of the best players in the NHL. He has 17 points in 15 games since Oct. 27, ranking 10th in the league in points per 60 minutes (all strengths). Dallas is 9-4-2 with Robertson in the lineup. He carries a five-game point streak into Monday’s game against Arizona and is a key component of the top line with Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski.
Most recently, Robertson scored two goals during the Stars’ 3-2 win over Columbus on Thursday night.
“You always kind of knew with those two young guys in him and Roope, how much skill they have,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. “Kind of been hiding them in Dallas in training camps and always seeing it and knowing they’re coming. The world gets to see, so that line is fun to watch.”
Robertson-Hintz-Pavelski has been the team’s catalyst for offense.
It has scored in the game’s opening 75 seconds in the last four games, becoming the first team (and line) in league history to do that. In each of the Stars’ last seven wins, either Robertson, Hintz or Pavelski have scored the game-winning goal.
After Robertson scored twice against the Blue Jackets, Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpää was asked what it was like to defend Robertson in practice.
“I would say hard,” Hakanpää said. “I guess that whole line is pretty hard. You see them coming on during practice and you’re like, ‘Oh boy.’ No, it’s hard. He’s got a great shot and he’s pretty smooth, does those little moves here and there. You’ve got to be on your game if you want to get the puck away from that line.”
Robertson, 22, carries himself as a second-year player might. He’s sometimes giddy during press conferences when talking about the game, even saying that Pavelski “dipsy-doodled that one guy” on Thursday. His face during goal celebrations exhibits youthful exuberance.
But the Calder Trophy runner-up from a season ago has shown that his breakout season last year was not a fluke.
“Just being more confident,” Robertson said. “I know I said that last year, but just holding on to more pucks and just knowing where everyone is on the ice.”
His effective play offensively has also led to more trust from Stars coach Rick Bowness. He was on the ice Thursday night protecting a one-goal lead when Columbus pulled its goaltender, and nearly finished his hat trick in the process.
That’s not a foreign situation for Robertson this season. Among Stars forwards, Robertson averages the third-most time on ice this season when the opponent pulls their goalie. No Dallas forward has played more per game with a one-goal lead than Robertson has.
“I’m confident in myself to make reads and do what they show on video,” Robertson said. “Even though I’m not one of the premier defensive guys, but I pay attention to the video and pay attention to what to do. I’m just glad I could be able to do that and help the team win.”
Pavelski’s streak: With two assists on Thursday night, Pavelski now has four straight multi-point games. He became the first player 37 or older with multiple points in four straight games since Cliff Ronning in 2003-04.
Pavelski also became the fifth player this season to have such a streak, joining Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Nazem Kadri and John Tavares.
“The experience shows in so many different ways,” Bowness said. “[His second assist Thursday was] one of them. His confidence with the puck, his ability to get free around the net. He’s not the biggest guy, but he knows how to angle himself. It’s one thing to get there, but there’s a timing involved, that’s a hockey sense that you really can’t teach.”
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