Dallas Stars: Roope Hintz Providing Spark During Stars’ Hot Streak

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 12: Roope Hintz #24 of the Dallas Stars skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on February 12, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 12: Roope Hintz #24 of the Dallas Stars skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on February 12, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

With points in seven of their last eight contests, the Dallas Stars are enjoying their hottest streak of the 2018-19 season. One of the primary factors, though it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard, has been the play of Roope Hintz.

It’s not often that a rookie gets the chance to play on the top line alongside some of the best players in the NHL. And yet, that’s exactly the chance that Dallas Stars forward Roope Hintz was given on Tuesday night in Sunrise, Fla.

Monday afternoon brought a series of changes to the Dallas Stars lineup. After rolling with the same forward lines for seven games and getting promising results with a 5-1-1 record over the span, head coach Jim Montgomery shook things up.

The shakeup was in response to the Stars’ stale offensive showing against the Arizona Coyotes two days prior. On that Saturday afternoon matchup, the Stars found themselves down 3-0 late in the third period. And, had it not been for two quick goals by Brett Ritchie and Alexander Radulov in the final four minutes, the game would have ended in a 3-0 defeat.

But, even with the two goals, the need for consistent offensive pressure still loomed. So, Montgomery went back to the shuffler and came up with a new lineup.

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That lineup featured a few changes, including Valeri Nichushkin taking over for Denis Gurianov on the fourth line. But, of all of the shiftings, the move of Roope Hintz from line four to line one was the most intriguing.

Hintz, 22, is currently in the midst of his rookie campaign with the Dallas Stars. The former second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft made it through each round of cuts to the Stars’ training camp roster and ended up slotting into the lineup on opening night against the Arizona Coyotes.

But, his initial stay didn’t last very long. After starting in five of the team’s first seven contests, Hintz was sent back down to the AHL. He spent a month with the Texas Stars before being recalled in mid-November. And after another two-week span in the NHL, he went back down to Cedar Park.

He spent most of the month of December in the AHL, but was recalled ahead of the Dallas Stars’ Dec. 29 matchup with the Detroit Red Wings. He hasn’t been sent back down since.

There’s a reason for that. Since Hintz was reinserted into the Dallas lineup on Dec. 29, he has yet to miss a game. That’s 18 consecutive starts. Over that span, the Stars are 10-6-2 and have reclaimed third place in the Central division.

They are also 6-1-1 in their past eight contests, including wins against Winnipeg, Nashville, and Minnesota.

So, when Hintz was put on the first line alongside Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov ahead of the team’s game against Florida on Tuesday night, the curiosity peaked. Would he be able to provide a spark and keep the first line running in an important game that could alter the divisional standings?

With 8:13 to go in the first period, that question got an answer. After breaking out of the defensive zone, Seguin sent a pass near the blue line to Hintz, who broke into the offensive zone with speed. And, not even two seconds after gaining possession of the puck, Hintz had it fed back to Seguin in the slot, who scored on a pretty redirect.

“A great play by Roope Hintz,” said Stars forward Tyler Seguin after the win. “He made that pass. The only way that goal was going in was because of him. And even more importantly, that shot block he had in the second period.”

The play couldn’t have been drawn up more perfectly as the top line got the Stars on the board with a 1-0 lead. And while Hintz finished the game with only 11:14 of ice time and two shots along with four hits, he did what the team needed him to do.

That goal perfectly encompassed what no. 24 has meant to the Dallas Stars over the past seven weeks. An expandable asset that can be plotted anywhere in the lineup where there is the need for energy, speed, or a spark.

Hintz has served as a catalyst for the Stars, particularly since the hot streak began back on Jan. 19. In only 10:34 of ice time against the Winnipeg Jets, Hintz had four shots and three hits. He saw his ice time increase over the next few games and rewarded the decision with a face-off win percentage over 50 percent, a handful of shots, and plenty of offensive zone time.

Since Dec. 29, he has one goal and five points along with 24 shots on net. He’s done all of this in an average of 12:21 on the ice per game.

But it’s not the stats that make Hintz such a valuable player. Instead, it’s the energy, intensity, and traits that he brings to the ice every time he steps on it.

"“He’s doing the little things and he’s getting rewarded for it.” –Seguin on Hintz’s play"

Hintz is one of the fastest skaters on the Stars and can use his speed to kickstart any line. For the first few games of the win streak, he did so on the fourth line with Denis Gurianov and Brett Ritchie. With his speed churning the bottom three in that first contest on Jan. 19, the entire team looked faster. As a result, Dallas picked up a big 4-2 win over the Jets. And while Hintz didn’t score a goal, his speed and presence were prevalent.

That presence has continued throughout the hot streak. Regardless of where he is placed in the lineup, he brings intensity, possession, and speed to the attack. That, in turn, often leads to consistent zone time and plenty of offensive chances.

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In an offensive attack that desperately needs any spark that it can get right now, Roope Hintz is providing. After a shaky start to the 2018-19 season in which he was simply trying to establish himself in the lineup, Hintz has become a staple over the past few weeks. And with the way the Dallas Stars are trending, he might not be coming out anytime soon.

“I thought Roope was excellent,” said Stars coach Jim Montgomery following the win over Florida. “Big time play on that first goal and made a couple of other plays, too. A little more creativity in passing that we haven’t seen from him. I think he’s becoming a confident NHL player and it’s great for us.”

“He can fly,” Seguin noted after the game. “He’s going to be a heck of a player for a long time.”

Hintz is doing what the Dallas Stars need from him right now and is helping the team pick up critical points at one of the most demanding times of the season. And, while his work may not be showing on the scoreboard (though he has a goal and three points in his past four games), it’s showing in the game and is helping the Stars to positive results.

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At this point in the season, that’s exactly what you want from a rookie forward.