Before the season pause last year, we wrote about future franchise goalie Jake Oettinger and how it seemed the young netminder was becoming the Stars goaltending position’s de-facto future.
Oettinger was part of the taxi squad in the play-offs and backed up Anton Khudobin when it became clear that Ben Bishop was unfit to take his place in the net. However, the assumption was that the young goalie – who had an excellent first season with the Texas Stars – would start this year in the AHL.
The start of the 2021 season changed everything, with the news that Ben Bishop would be out for a significant part of the season following knee surgery. Oettinger would be expected to back-up Khudobin. Conventional wisdom will tell you that it takes time for a goalie to learn their craft in pro-hockey – stepping into NHL is difficult for a young Goaltender.
Oettinger, who turned 22 in December, is the youngest Goalie currently active in the NHL.
Based on his performances early in this season, you would never know it.
Having come into two games in the play-offs in relief, Oettinger got his first start for the Stars in the 7-3 walloping of the Red Wings on January 28th. There aren’t many people who will argue that the Red Wings are a good team right now, but despite looking a little nervous initially, Oettinger produced a solid performance.
His third start (and first defeat), against the Chicago Blackhawks, came perhaps a little unexpectedly after the veteran Khudobin was scratched for sleeping in and turning up late to practice.
However, Oettinger gave the Stars every chance to win, stopping 33 of 35 shots on goal. Including a spectacular toe-save on a breakaway by Patrick Kane, that even with Kane now perhaps past his prime, no Goaltender would want to face.
Watch as the ? sprawls across its natural habitat to deny Patrick Kane of a goal#GoStars pic.twitter.com/IsAGsDBC4S
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) February 8, 2021
Oettinger’s 0.940 save percentage (per naturalstattrick.com) might turn out to be unsustainable as the season continues given the demanding schedule, already made worse by numerous covid postponements, and the restrictive nature of divisional play.
Playing each of the 7 teams in the Central Division 8 times will likely lead to the opposition getting a bit more of a read on the rookie goaltender.
Nevertheless, the future looks bright for the former first-round pick and the future of the Stars net.
Featured Image: Matthew Pearce/Getty Images