Updating the Stars Goalie Situation

DALLAS, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 16: Jake Oettinger #29 of the Dallas Stars blocks a shot on goal against Filip Zadina #11 of the Detroit Red Wings in the third period at American Airlines Center on November 16, 2021 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Heading into the 2020-21 season, the Dallas Stars had a goalie controversy on their hands. Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger were locked in as a tandem last year, but the Stars signed Braden Holtby in the offseason. Ben Bishop actively tried to get back on the ice after rehabbing knee injuries. My post in late November outlined how messy the Stars’ goalie situation was with the possibility of four goalies on the roster. Now, three weeks later, the Stars have worked their way out of a goalie controversy and are swiftly climbing the standings in the Central Divison. So, let’s update the Stars goalie situation.

Recap of Events

At the beginning of this season, the Stars struggled, but goaltending was the least of their problems. The offense couldn’t buy a goal, and the Stars were overall inconsistent in their play. Holtby and Khudobin went down with injuries just as the offense turned things around. Oettinger was called up from the American Hockey League and has been dominant since his first game on November 20th. Khudobin spent time on and off the injured list, posting a 3.73 goals-against average through six starts this season.

Holtby has a 2.39 GAA but is only 5-6-1 through 13 stars in goal. Stars coach Rick Bowness immediately trusted Holtby as the de facto starter to begin the year. Posting a .950 save percentage through his first four games, Holtby played well enough to beat out Khudobin for the starting job.

Unfortunately, injuries forced the Stars’ hand. They needed to bring up Oettinger at the cost of losing Holtby or Khudobin. Oettinger has posted an incredible 1.52 GAA with a .951 save percentage. When the struggling Khudobin became healthy, his 3.73 GAA wasn’t good enough to keep him in the NHL.

Bishop attempted a return when he felt healthy enough. He came off the Long-term injured reserve in mid-November, and the Stars sent him to the AHL to get some games under his belt. In his first live game action in 15 months, Bishop let in eight goals on 34 shots. He then held a press conference on Tuesday announcing his retirement.

“When (the doctor) went in there, he realized the cartilage was wearing away, and it was basically bone to bone,” Bishop detailed at an emotional press conference. “I was feeling a lot of pain trying to come back.”

Moving Forward

Bishop will no longer be an option for the Stars in goal. He was a pivotal member of the 2019-20 team that lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Khudobin, who was also on that team, can make his way back if Holtby or Oettinger are ever injured.

So, for now, the starting duties belong to Oettinger and Holtby. Bowness and general manager Jim Nill have been very cautious with overusing Oettinger. Nill and Bowness don’t want to burn the 22-year-old out, and he will split time evenly with Holtby. This wasn’t the plan to start the season, but the Stars have won more games with Oettinger or Holtby in goal.

The Stars are currently 13-11-2 and are 6-4 over their last ten games. Over his last five games, Oettinger hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a single start. Over the same span, Holtby has just one game in which he gave up more than two goals.

The Stars still have a majority of the season to make up lost ground. They are currently 6th in the Central Divison, eight points behind the third-place Avalanche. They are four points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. With 56 games remaining in the season, it is way too early to rule the Stars out of playoff contention.

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