Golf is Jake Oettinger’s escape.

The Stars goalie can settle in all day to watch a tournament, spend an afternoon playing through 18 holes, or just make a quick trip to the driving range to work on his swing. It’s the best way to let his mind breathe a little bit.

But there also is some method to his hobby. In studying the ways of the linkster, Oettinger sees some similarities to goaltending. Just as it is on the golf course, you have to have a short memory in goal. Sure, you might have had a bad moment, but there’s more challenges ahead and you can’t be focused on what already happened.

“It’s a great lesson,” Oettinger said earlier in the playoffs. “You have to always be focused on the next shot. You can’t let what has happened affect how you’re playing. You have to put it in the past.”

Oettinger has been the master of that in the playoffs. He is 11-4 after a loss in the postseason during his career, including some doozies. He allowed four goals in a 5-1 loss against his hometown Minnesota Wild last season, and then rebounded by allowing three goals in the next three games to win the First Round series. He was pulled in Game 6 against Seattle last year and then took a 2-1 victory in Game 7. He was pulled in Game 3 against Vegas in the Western Conference Final and then won Game 4 in overtime with 37 saves.

“He’s a response guy,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “He has been in my entire time with him.”

After games in which Oettinger has allowed five goals or more at any time in his career, he has a 9-1-1 record with a 2.19 GAA and .928 save percentage. He allowed five goals in Game 5 Wednesday at American Airlines Center. Now, with the Stars going to Denver for Game 6 on Friday, the Stars are expecting the best from their netminder.

“He’s a competitor, no doubt about it,” said Stars forward Joe Pavelski. “If people are saying he’s struggling, there’s not one guy in here that believes he isn’t going to bounce back. We need to bounce back as a group. Forwards, we can do a little better job, D, up and down the lineup. There’s more out there for us.”

Oettinger has dealt with some tough times in recent years. When he has had bad games, he said he has relied heavily on his family and his teammates. And his teammates say they are happy to give that support.

“That doesn’t change, no matter what the results have been,” said forward Matt Duchene. “We know we can rely on him. Whether a goal goes in that maybe he doesn’t like, he bounces back whether it’s that game or the next game. He’s been great and we’re lucky to have him.”

Oettinger on Wednesday got beat by both Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon, and it can be tough when those two superstars start to gain confidence. But Oettinger has been able to stare down the best players in the league and walk away the winner in his young career. He did that twice in road games both at Vegas and at Colorado, and that bodes well for a road game Friday.

The 25-year-old goalie is the top road netminder in the playoffs at 4-1 and has already won two games at Ball Arena, where the Avalanche posted the best home record in the NHL during the regular season.

“He flushes it away,” said forward Jason Robertson. “He’s probably the mentally toughest guy in this locker room. I know it’s the hardest job in hockey to be a goalie, so he takes a lot of pride in his work. He’s going to flush it away and get ready for the next game.”

That preparation will likely include watching some golf this weekend and finding that quiet place in his mind where you do everything exactly right.

“When I’m away from the rink, I try to not be a hockey player,” Oettinger said. “Be with my friends, my family, my fiancée. I find that's a pretty good balance.”

And that means he’s ready when it does come time to focus on hockey.

“I think he’s mentally tough and he’s got good confidence in his own ability,” DeBoer said. “He has a battle level to him where, for whatever reason if we’ve lost or he’s disappointed in his own game, he doesn’t sulk or mope, he gets out and competes. That competitiveness is what drives him.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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