CALGARY, Alberta — Entering the postseason, the Stars didn't know what they had in Jake Oettinger.
They sure do now: a franchise goaltender and the cornerstone of a core that grabbed ownership of the Stars this season.
"The Dallas Stars are in good shape for a long time with Jake," Stars coach Rick Bowness said.
Oettinger made 64 saves during the Stars' 3-2 overtime loss in Game 7 to the Flames on Sunday night, setting franchise record for the most saves in a postseason game. In NHL history, only one goaltender has made more saves in a Game 7: Kelly Hrudey made 73 in 1987.
His save percentage in the first round was .954, which led the league. According to Natural Stat Trick, he saved 13.28 goals above expected in the seven games against the Flames, which led the league. It was also almost as much as the two goalies behind him — combined.
The only goalie in Dallas history with a better save percentage in a single round was Ed Belfour (.967) in 1998′s second round win over the Oilers.
"That's the level of goaltending I expect from myself," Oettinger said. "I think I can be a great goalie for a long time. I think I learned how fun the playoffs are. That's what it's all about is being in these situations and giving yourself an opportunity to win.
"I've never been more motivated than I am right now. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that I get this opportunity again and I'll make sure I'm on the other side of it the next time."
Oettinger played high school hockey for Lakeville North for one season before leaving to play junior hockey in the USHL. He was also a member of U.S. national teams from 2014-18 and played three seasons for Boston University before turning pro. He was Dallas' first-round draft pick in 2017 and played two games during the 2019-2020 NHL playoff.
Oettinger finished the series with 272 saves, which surpassed both Ben Bishop's second round vs. St. Louis in 2019 (230) and Marty Turco's first round vs. Vancouver in 2007 (229) as the most in Dallas Stars history.
League-wide, only two goalies finished a series with more saves than Oettinger. If Oettinger would have made six more saves, he would have passed Curtis Joseph (277) for the most saves in an NHL playoff round.
"Jake, his demeanor this whole playoff series was outstanding," Bowness said. "He will grow from it, but not once was he intimidated by the situation, not intimidated by their team, not intimidated by their pressure. He handled everything perfectly, like a real pro. Like a franchise goalie."
After Johnny Gaudreau handed the Stars a gut-wrenching loss by picking the corner on Oettinger, the Stars streamed from their bench to the crease to console Oettinger. As the Scotiabank Saddledome press box swayed back and forth, and as the flames filled the air with the smell of kerosene, Oettinger said his teammates told him to "keep your head up."
"It's really sad and some of those guys, you don't know if you're ever going to play with them again," Oettinger said. "It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's such a good group of guys in there, such a great coaching staff and management. It's a great place to be. It feels like a family in there.
"It seems like every year flies by and it never ends when you want to unless you win the Cup. This one's going to hurt for a long time."
While Oettinger left his mark on the history books, he exited Sunday's loss with an eye on the future.
"I have a lot of stuff I want to work on," Oettinger said. "I feel like I'm just scratching the surface of where I'm going to be one day. That excites me."
Oettinger was always billed as the team's next franchise goalie. He was a first-round pick in 2017, taken between Miro Heiskanen (No. 3) and Jason Robertson (No. 39) with the 26th pick. He was supposed to be the successor to Ben Bishop.
Oettinger began the season in the AHL with Texas, but rose to the No. 1 job as Bishop's career ended, Anton Khudobin underwent hip surgery and Braden Holtby suffered a season-ending lower-body injury.
He will be a restricted free agent this summer whose playoff performance should increase his value.
"He's a phenomenal young goalie and is going to be great for this organization for a long time," Stars captain Jamie Benn said.