When asked about Jamie Langebrunner after the game last night, Dallas Stars backup goaltender (victorious goaltender) said "You add a guy like that, it's never going to hurt your team, that's for sure."
It's certainly not going to hurt. After Sunday night, that's abundantly clear.
One game does not a season (half season?) make and there's a lot of hockey left to play before the ultimate goal of making it back to the playoffs is achieved but early returns indicate that GM Joe Nieuwendyk's vision of how this move will help the Stars seems dead on.
Like it was with Raycroft. And Burish. And Lehtonen.
Langebrunner himself, as a single player, may be a 35 year old veteran whose best days are behind him (?) but his insertion into an already strong group of forwards solidifies the Stars third line, and even if he were to swap with Benn sometime down the line Dallas would still put three lines on the ice for the other team to worry about.
Ott and Burish, aided by Wandell and Segal have had some nice games lately where the line has been more than noticeable but Lagenbrunner's presence takes it just a little bit further. Coming out of camp they thought that Benn, Wandell and Ott on the third line would provide them true three-line scoring depth. Now, with Langebrunner, they might truly have it.
Even so, the addition is a valuable one even if they don't score, because in a lot of games the job of the third and fourth lines is simply to keep the momentum going. Whole-sale changes for both teams take place bringing a completely new set of players onto the ice and yet there's still such a thing as "shift to shift momentum." The strengthening of the lines by adding quality like Jamie aids there as much as anywhere else, if Sunday was any indication.
Consider what Langebrunner could be seen doing on Sunday...
- A nice heavy shot off the rush in the first few minutes of the third leads to a golden rebound chance for Ott, even if he couldn't convert.
- A nose for the puck: Burish centers in the first period off of Theodore and through a maze of bodies comes Langenbrunner and gets a shot on net. Forgive me but it was the kind of puck some of the guys who have played on that line just don't get to.
- A right hand shot available for one-timers on the PP. This was a breath of fresh air last night (I tried to find a screen cap in the highlights but failed). He played the point but slid down to the half boards on occasion and Richards had shooters opening up on both sides of the ice. Left and right shots. It's something they did Friday with Larsen, so we've been treated to the option before sometimes it's going to be a more regular fixture going forward and as I already mentioned: He has a nice heavy shot. Bring on more of that.
- File also under "nose for the puck" his scramble in front of Theodore and near goal. Only a pretty brilliant play by Theodore, after he was down, to pokecheck like he did saved that would be goal, but it was just another example of what he can do.
- The broadcast said he had 10 "shot attempts", though most did not end up on net. The point, of course, was that he has a mind to get the puck to the net immediately and ask questions later. Will he do that every game? We hope so, but for now it sounds like a great idea.
Should you get excited about one game? No, probably not. Should you go buy a Langebrunner jersey? I'd stick with t-shirt, if you are so inclined to purchase something. So many have been caught up in the nostalgia of "Langenbrunner" that they don't realize that a.) He's 35 years old and his deal expires at the end of the year, and b.) He didn't come here to be "the man." He didn't even come here to be the 3rd, 4th, or 5th guy that is "the man."
That's what's great about it. It's like a baseball team with a great pitching staff adding someone to be their #4 guy and on some other teams he might be the #2 guy. Ok, it's KIND OF like that. You get the point. He makes the group stronger without anyone having to leave, and there's no pressure on him here. He was effective on Sunday and not even the best Jamie on the team. That's the beauty of it. Depth.
Marc Crawford and his players like to talk about details. Whenever they lose they say they need to practice to fine tune the details. Having this kind of quality (stop snickering, Devils fans) on your third line improves those details immensely.
He back checks. He doesn't give up on plays. He's hard on the puck. He kills penalties... The guy's got details written all over him and he's only played in this system for two days.
Be optimistic. This experiment appears to have a great deal of merit.
And for the love of Stephane Robidas' plastic surgeon, get your butts down to the AAC tomorrow and give him a big 'ol round of applause in person.