NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes. Hurricanes-Stars coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
To put things mildly, this has been a turbulent season for the Dallas Stars.
From being hit hard by COVID to lacking Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop to truly odd weather disruptions, a lot hasn’t gone right for the Stars in 2020-21. Good thing 36-year-old Joe Pavelski‘s playing a lot like a 26-year-old Joe Pavelski.
(Heck, both “versions” of Joe Pavelski reached the 20-goal mark.)
Pavelski’s been huge for the Stars — on both ends of the ice
Indeed, you really only need to glance at the simplest of all stats to see that Pavelski’s enjoying a surprisingly strong season for the Stars.
Through 47 games, Pavelski’s scored 20 goals and 43 points, leading the Stars in both categories. As much Calder Trophy buzz as Jason Robertson receives, and as exciting as Roope Hintz has been when he’s healthy enough to play, Pavelski’s crucial to that high-level line.
Earlier this month, fellow Stars veteran Andrew Cogliano described Pavelski as a “special player,” and it’s about more than putting up those goals and assists.
[HURRICANES-STARS COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]
Stars rookie Robertson identified that mix of scoring and smaller details.
“I always try to look for him. I know he is a shooter and I know he’s scored a lot of goals in this league, so I respect that and I kind of want to get the puck to him,” Robertson said, via The Athletic’s Saad Yousuf (sub. required). “At the same time, he sees the ice really well so whenever you give him the puck, you try to get open as well because he always has his head up and is ready to make plays. He is a very skilled player, and he is a great linemate.”
For a team as defensive-minded as the Stars can be, Pavelski fits like a glove. Consider that his all-around impact is almost off Evolving Hockey’s RAPM charts this season:
You don’t need to qualify Joe Pavelski’s strong impact as “great for a 36-year-old.” Take a look at some of the company he shares on this
Yeah, that’s extremely impressive.
The Hurricanes and other Central teams … might want to avoid the Stars
As of Monday, Dallas and Nashville seem slated for a close race for the Central Division’s final playoff spot.
While the Predators boast some features of team with playoff upset potential — particularly in goalie Juuse Saros — it’s difficult to shake the notion that the Hurricanes and other Central Division teams would be better off vs. Nashville rather than drawing the Stars.
To some extent, the Hurricanes and other top Central Division teams may want to avoid the Stars by the same logic that people shouldn’t be too worried about the Lightning. Much like the Lightning with Nikita Kucherov, the Stars expect Tyler Seguin to return in time for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There’s more than that, though.
For one thing, the Stars have been rolling lately, going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. Sure, they’ve been mopping up against teams like the Red Wings and Blue Jackets, but the Stars are hanging in their despite a trying physical schedule.
There’s also a sense that the Stars are starting to receive some of the bounces they lacked before. This is a Stars team with strong underlying numbers, whereas the Predators have been leaning hard on goaltending lately.
And, of course, this is a Stars team that made it all the way to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, with Pavelski finally finding his footing. This Dallas squad is far from guaranteed a playoff spot, but if the Stars make it, they could give the Hurricanes and other Central Division leaders absolute fits.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.