In the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, all Dallas Stars forward all Joe Pavelski has done is further cement his reputation as a player who comes through in the game’s most pivotal moments. 

On Saturday night, the 37-year-old winger, who is coming off a career-high 81 points, pounced on a rebound late in the third period to give the Stars the lead in Game 3 of their first round series against the Calgary Flames - a lead they would not relinquish en route to a 4-2 victory and 2-1 series lead. 

“Elite athletes, man,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said after the game.

“They find a way to rise to the occasion. Joe comes up big. It’s always around the net. He knows there’s a timing to get there, and there’s a timing anticipating the shot. You can’t get there late; you can’t get there early. There’s a timing with that, and he’s got it down pat.”

Through these playoffs, Pavelski has three goals in three games while playing on a line with Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz. During the regular season, that trio combined for 105 goals and 232 points. 

“The leadership quality is something I look up to,” Robertson said of Pavelski's presence. “He’s a big, vocal guy. I’ve been next to him a lot in the locker room stall. You can hear him on the ice or on the bench. He always has a voice, and it’s something I try to incorporate…he’s in his 17th year and he’s had the best year of his career, so that’s just amazing for us.”

The 22-year-old forward has also soaked up Pavelski’s hockey sense.

“I think he just thinks one step ahead of most guys,” Robertson said.

“He knows where we’re going to be and that’s something that’s helped him this season because we know Roope is going to be flying down the ice and I’m going to be moving. He knows where guys are going to be…that’s helped our team and our line offensively.”

The modest Pavelski downplayed his role as a mentor, expressing confidence in the Stars’ young players to gain the necessary experience.

“They’ll figure it out really quick,” the 17-year-veteran said of his young teammates. 

“Every year is a little different in the postseason. Roope was there. He was a big piece of our run in the bubble. He’s played some of these big games. [Robertson] didn’t really play but he was around. Until you get out there and do it, you don’t fully know but at the end of the day, you watch these games and they’re fast and intense and it gets you excited to get out there.”

It’s not just young players who find Pavelski valuable. For Bowness, Pavelski and 17-year-veteran defenceman Ryan Suter are the ideal conduits between the coaching staff and players. 

“To be able to say the right thing at the right time and in the right tone,” Bowness said of his veteran support. “That’s just as important. If they feel that the team is getting a little too excited then they’ve got to have the tone on the bench to calm it down. If they feel they need another way, then the tone has to change and the words have to change."

"You’re counting on that experience that they know the difference of when to do it and when not to. They’re voices of the coaches. They’ll read off of us and there’s times I’ll go to them and say, ‘You guys need to do this or say this in the locker room,’ and they’re good at that. When you have the ability and experience they have, then you’re counting on them knowing the tone, words, and timing of it all.”

Forward Tyler Seguin has played with Pavelski for the past three seasons in Dallas and has a hard time describing his impact on the group.

“I don’t have a word for it,” Seguin said of the veteran forward. “Everything. That is the best word. In the room, on the ice, big moments, bad moments. He’s the guy that’s seen it all and lived through it all and has the utmost experience and pedigree and resume. Me sitting here, I’m 30 years old and during games,

"I’ll still go to him for things. He’s that gifted of a player and person.”

For his part, Pavelski is not taking the current post-season for granted.

“It means everything,” Pavelski said. “Last year we missed [the playoffs] and it feels like forever since we played one of these. That’s one year. I’ve been fortunate to be on some good teams and had the opportunity to play in some great atmospheres. As a player, you always want the opportunity. You want to play this time of year. At dinner last night, you’re watching games, you’re following them, and you can just see the excitement, the emotion and how guys put things aside and the energy ramps up and the desperation from shift to shift is there. You work all year and you work in the summer to try and get to a certain level and have success and now you’re doing it on the biggest stage. You want to go and test your skills against some of the best. It’s just a fun time to play and it’s what you work for, to have this opportunity.”