DALLAS (AP) — Roope Hintz has the size, speed and shot that Dallas Stars teammate Max Domi says makes him pretty much the perfect hockey player.
“I’m sure most hockey fans have played some form of NHL EA Sports or whatever it is, and he’s kind of the guy you’d probably try and create,” Domi said. “He’s got everything. He’s got speed, he’s got size, he’s got a great hockey IQ, very competitive and a lot more. Unbelievable shot, too.”
Hintz is certainly putting up video game-like numbers in the first-round series against the Minnesota Wild. The 6-foot-3 top-line winger’s NHL-leading 11 points (four goals, seven assists) through five games are already the most for a Dallas Stars player in a single playoff series.
After a hat trick and an assist in Game 2, Hintz now has consecutive three-assist games. He helped on six consecutive goals for the Stars in Games 4 and 5, both wins, which put them ahead in the best-of-seven series for the first time. Game 6, a potential clincher for Dallas, is Friday night in Minnesota.
“He reminds me a little bit of (Florida captain) Aleksander Barkov where, you know, no one really talks about him, but he’s an elite player in this league,” Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said. “He’s got the whole package: power, speed, finesse, coachable, team guy, defensively good. Just an all-around player.”
A Finland native who was a second-round pick in the 2015 draft, Hintz has been nearly a point-a-game player the past three seasons with 190 points in 194 regular-season games. He had 37 goals and 38 assists in 73 games this season. Even when hampered by a lingering groin injury throughout the 2020-21 season, Hintz had 43 points in 41 games.
Joe Pavelski has been missing from the Stars’ top line while in concussion protocol since a big hit in Game 1 on April 17. Hintz and Tyler Seguin (four power-play goals) have certainly stepped up in his absence.
DeBoer said Wednesday, when his players had the day off, that the 38-year-old Pavelski would skate in practice Thursday and was planning to travel with the team for Game 6.
“I would call him a game-time decision right now,” DeBoer said.
In his Game 2 hat trick, the 26-year-old Hintz became the first NHL player since 2015 with a short-handed, power-play and even-strength goal in the same playoff game. His breakaway short-hander on the Stars’ first shot put them ahead to stay in a 7-3 win, when he scored in all three periods and they evened the series after losing the opener in double overtime.
After assisting on all three goals in a 3-2 win in Game 4 on the road, he set up the Stars’ first three goals in a 4-0 win at home Tuesday night. Two of those were on power plays in the first 11 minutes.
“He’s built for the playoffs. He’s a big, powerful man that won’t get intimidated, won’t get pushed out of any game,” DeBoer said. “He’s gone to another level here at the most important time of the year, and I’m not surprised. I think he’s built for this.”
Hintz made a cross-ice pass from the top of the circle early in Game 5 to Jason Robertson, who took a shot that was stopped by goalie Filip Gustavsson before Tyler Seguin knocked in the rebound. Later in the first period, Hintz gathered a long rebound, passed ahead to the blue line for Miro Heiskanen, who got the puck to Robertson for a 35-foot wrister that made it 2-0.
“We all know he wants the puck on his stick up the ice with speed,” Robertson, a 100-point scorer, said of his linemate. “And if we can do that and kind of let him play to his strengths, it kind of opens up ice for me, and for (Seguin) or Pavs, or whoever, and lets us create opportunities. We get a lot of puck touches and try to capitalize on chances.”
Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press