After blowing game 1 to Colorado, the Stars officially have a Joe Pavelski problem

Determining when a pro athlete officially turns old is akin to driving on a highway in the fog; you can never see the cliff until he’s gone over it.

Since he came to the Dallas Stars as a free agent in 2019 at the age of 34, forward Joe Pavelski has proven to be one of the best free agent signees of any team in this area, ever. The man never grew old.

It was Pavelski, more than veteran Jamie Benn, who has become the real captain of the Dallas Stars.

Even as Pavelski’s career went further along the foggy highway of age, not only did he not show any signs of actually aging but a cliff looked years away. We may have finally arrived at that cliff, at the worst possible moment.

In Game 1 of the Stars’ second round playoff series against Colorado, Pavelski scored his first point of the post season but rather than express some relief both he and his teammates could only be disgusted with themselves.

The Stars led 3-0 in the first period, but blew it. Because that’s what they do against the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avs scored twice in the second period, added another early in the third, and won it in the first overtime on forward Miles Wood beautiful individual effort to score the game-winning goal. Final score, 4-3. Game 2 is Thursday night.

If you are a Stars fan, the only positive spin is that a game that began a few minutes before 9 p.m. ended shortly before midnight.

“We shouldn’t go to overtime when you’re up 3-0,” Stars forward Matt Duchene said. “We didn’t stay on our toes. We had it under control and let it slip away.”

After the game, Stars coach Pete DeBoer rightly noted that the Avs’ best players were “all over the stat sheet.” He also called out his scorers for not scoring.

“Our scoring has to step up,” he said. “We’ve been waiting a series plus a game for that.”

That would include Roope Hintz, who blew a chance late in regulation to win it. He scored 30 goals in the regular season, and he has one in this postseason.

This list should also include defenseman Miro Heiskanen, and Jason Robertson needs to push Wyatt Johnston as the team leader in goals.

While we’re at it, Pavelski fits here, too. Because he’s a top six forward who is supposed to score in the playoffs.

Pavelski is one of the greatest American-born hockey players ever who is coming off yet another solid regular season. He is also 39.

In the first round against the Las Vegas Golden Knights, 39 was the problem that wasn’t a problem. It was an issue the Stars ducked. He didn’t score a point in that series, a first for him since the 2012 playoffs when he was with the San Jose Sharks.

Here in the second round against the Colorado Avalanche, 39 could be a problem that becomes the issue the Stars can’t avoid.

“(This series) is going to be more high octane,” Duchene said.

A series with Vegas was tight, narrow and physical. Perfect for Pavelski.

A series with Colorado will be open, speed and skill centric. Perfect for Pavelski, when he was 29.

At 39, this is hard.

He did have an assist in the first period, and later in the game anchored in front of the net for a potential redirect of a point shot that Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev stopped. In the history of the game, few players have been better at this impossible craft than Pavelski.

But as the game wore on, DeBoer changed his lines and essentially made Pavelski a third-line player. The coach had no choice. Colorado’s forwards looked like Olympic speed skaters with sticks.

“You can’t take a breath with these guys,” Benn said.

Sure you can. But if you do, and give the Avs some power plays, as the Stars did in the second period, they will bury you for it.

Up until the final week or two of the regular season, there was no sign that Pavelski was ready to turn into the old guy at the club. In his third straight season of playing all 82 regular season games, he finished with 27 goals and 67 points.

The Stars had every right to count on him, and expect him to produce like he always has since he came here. But these eight playoff games are not encouraging.

The signs for Joe Pavelski is that he’s the old athlete on the highway who just drove off a cliff.