DALLAS – England are running out of superlatives before Jason Robertson stops scoring. Robertson’s scoring rampage started this season as exemplary, rose to impressive heights, graduated to prodigious form and now sits on outright comedy.
“Sometimes you just sit back a little bit and laugh at how good he is,” said Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger. “It’s special. He’ll do it green and white for a long time. I’m glad he didn’t do that to me. It’s special.”
Less than two weeks ago, Robertson’s brilliance was in the course of Dallas records as he chased Dave Gagner’s consecutive match-point streak and hot starts to seasons for Jimmy Bean, Tyler Seguin, and Mike Modano. After the Stars beat the Ducks 5-0 on Thursday night, Robertson kept company with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Alexander Ovechkin, Joe Niwendyk and Uston Matthews. These are the names of NHL players who have scored at least 80 goals in 152 games, the Robertson brothers are part of after their hat-trick led him to the 80-goal mark in his 152nd game.
“You kind of get used to it and you have to sit down and think about it after you know how special what you’re watching is,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “He’s unbelievable. He makes it look easy and it’s one of the hardest things to do, score in this league, at this level. Incredible running.”
Robertson’s magic over that stretch reached new heights on Thursday. It’s not every day that a goalkeeper, particularly one who has recently been scratched by an illness, is locked out, and the first question that comes up after a game is about anything but his performance. It’s not often that a superstar defense makes three assists but doesn’t make the cut required for players required for postgame interviews.
Oettinger and Miro Heiskanen were great, but the spotlight was shone brighter on a fellow 2017 draft pick who slipped into the second round because there were questions about whether his skate would hold up in the NHL. Five years later, he seems to be doing just fine.
Robertson’s numbers are the reason he became an early favorite for the Hart Trophy, an honor no other All-Star player has ever received. Makes sense. Statistics is a required component of evaluation, particularly among the best of the best. But Robertson’s stat sheet doesn’t automatically fill in on game days, nor is it the only thing that makes him special.
After his hat-trick, Robertson was quick to scatter his tally and exclaimed, “The people you don’t see on the scoresheet, the one who checks the goalkeepers.” He seems really uninterested in discussing his prowess without giving credit to the work of his buddies, Rob Hintz and Joe Pavelski. Individual awards were not part of Robertson’s checklist. He was called upon to help the Stars win on a nightly basis, something he’s done since his rookie year, and further integrated into a 41-goal drive as a sophomore, he’s now soared to new heights as the 23-year-old Hart’s nominee.
“In the last two years, construction has been going on,” Pavelsky said. “He scores goals in many different ways. He takes them to the net, gets rebounds, and has that knack for scoring from distance and finding lanes and putting the puck in good areas. He gets in, on top of that. He’s been impressive.”
Robertson’s hat trick
Credited to Robertson’s consistency, he was leading the NHL in scoring for the next week through Thursday and was doing so without a triple-double on his resume. This is no longer the case.
Robertson’s first goal came early, but he had his chance sooner. Earlier in the turnaround that ended with his first goal, Robertson fired a shot after a brilliant two-man sequence with Hintze. After Robertson missed, Hintze attempted to set up Pavelski in front of the net immediately.
A few seconds later, Hintz went down the ice with the puck and ended up along the boards behind the net. In recognition of Robertson’s ability to score in various ways, he simply won the puck battle and got the puck into the crease, bouncing off a duck player into the net
Robertson’s second goal was what he was talking about after the game, crediting a really good screen by Hintz for allowing him to score. But even with the screen, Robertson picked the perfect spot to shoot the puck to slot home in a power play.
Robertson’s third goal also came on the power play. Like the second, it took a bit of patience moving an Anaheim penalty with some passing on top. Then, it was that “knack for scoring from a distance” that Pavelski spoke of that brought the rain of hats onto the ice.
Close Jake Oettinger
Thursday night was an important showing for Oettinger. 891 save percentage, well below the lofty standards he set himself in October with a save percentage of 952. On top of that, he was scratched late in St. Louis on Monday due to an illness. He recovered from that quickly and was on the ice for practice on Wednesday and optional morning skating Thursday.
The Ducks aren’t a good team, but the Stars needed Oettinger to come up early as they continued their tradition of getting a penalty in the opening minutes of the game. This was not the worst thing for Oettinger.
“It’s kind of nice to get a few shots in early,” Oettinger said. “For me it’s always bad when we control play and there aren’t a lot of shots. For me, to be able to get some shots early felt like I was back in the game. I didn’t know how I was going to feel based on the last few days. The guys did a great job. Good in front of me. I didn’t have to do much.”
Oettinger always has the most active role. He would rather play in a hostile road environment than the comforts of a home arena because he becomes the villain. Taking the shots early helped him get into a groove, something he’d been keeping up all night.
John Kellenberg is absent
Thursday was supposed to be a big homecoming for the American Airlines Center as John Klinburg will return to the spot he called the first eight years of his career before signing with Anaheim last summer. The stars had a presentation ready to honor Klingberg but he wasn’t even on the trip as he continued to recover from a lower body injury that had kept him out since last week.
Klingberg is having a tough year with the Ducks, but they are a struggling team overall. He is still a candidate to be transferred by the trade deadline, which is March 3. If he’s still in Anaheim, the Ducks will visit Dallas on February 6, which will then be his homecoming. If Benn doesn’t miss a game between now and then, it will also be the Stars captain’s 1,000th NHL game.
3G (Robertson) – 2a (Hintz) – 1 a (Pavelsky)
March – hatched – 1 a Follow Favorite
The son of – 1g (Johnston) – Delandria
1 a (Kiveranta) – Glinding – Guryanov
Sutter – 3a Follow Favorite
Lindell – 1 a Follow Favorite
Hanley – 1 a Favorite
1,000 percent savings Follow Favorite
The following are three unrecorded plays marked.
Robertson’s best play
After the game, DeBoer was asked about his favorite Robertson play in the game. DeBoer did not choose from any of the three goals. Instead, he signaled a game early in the second half as Robertson coolly skated the puck through the offensive zone and put White-Johnston on the doorstep.
Robertson leads the NHL in scoring, but it is the entirety of his game that dominates opponents. In a 30-second stretch of uninterrupted play, you’ll see Robertson shoot as he dips forward on a deep bounce, then slip a perfect pass to Hintze shortly after for a good look, then have another chance of his own. Only on a large scale.
When there are conversations about talented players getting things together and playing a consistent game that goes beyond just one or two flashes of skill, that’s a prime example of what that looks like. Robertson had a hat-trick, but felt he could have scored more goals. I felt that way most nights this season.
At the end of the first period, Simon Benoit ran a hard legal hit on 19-year-old Johnston along the boards. Before he could get off the ice, he was greeted by a crowd of star players defending their fellow rookie. Mason Marchment ended up being the one who was fully involved in the fight.
“I had no problem with the penalty kick,” Debor said. “Somebody ran White, and our group stuck together in those situations all year, and it was a different person every time. One night she (Hakkanpa) was doing it, she was (marching), it was Jimmy Benn. That element of team toughness is good. … There are good penalties and bad penalties. That’s a good penalty for us to get tonight.”
(Photo: Jason Robertson celebrates after his third goal of the game Thursday: Jerome Miron/USA Today)