In his first appearance after officially being named captain of the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn showed exactly how he plans to lead by example.
The newly minted captain scored a highlight-reel goal nine seconds in to the third period of the preseason game against the St. Louis Blues. It didn't stand up as the game winner - a late tying goal from the Blues took the Stars to overitme for the third time this preseason where St. Louis scored on a 4-on-3 power play for a 3-2 victory - but it was exactly the type of play the Stars will be looking for from their captain this year.
After Tyler Seguin won the faceoff to his new winger, Benn cut into the zone and pulled goalie Jake Allen out of the net before tucking the puck behind him, giving the Stars a lead that would last much of the third period. But on a night that featured a tone of power play time, the Stars were unable to kill off either of the late 4-on-3 power plays that allowed the Blues to eventually tie, then win the game.
Special teams played a big part in four of the five goals scored this night. The Stars opened the scoring on the power play as Alex Chiasson was the beneficiary of some pretty passing from a four-forwards set that involved the first line of Benn, Seguin, Cole and lone defenseman Sergei Gonchar. St. Louis caught the Stars unaware at the end of the power play, springing a player coming out of the box to create a loose puck in the crease that Jaden Schwartz stuffed home.
The Stars even got some practice on the 5-on-3 penalty kill, running off 33 seconds of 5-on-3 time early in the second period, but they couldn't kill off the 4-on-3 power play late in the third period or in overtime. In the third, Alex Pietrangelo one-timed goal past Kari Lehtonen after Seguin had been sent to the box for tripping. Brenden Dillon had gone off for a matching minor with Chris Stewart a few moments earlier. Former Stars center Derek Roy played a big part in that goal for St. Louis, helping to run what Razor always calls the most dangerous type of power play.
The extra special teams time was probably a good thing for this particular Stars lineup, which featured many key veterans and the first full game from starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Players like Gonchar and Seguin will see significant time on the power play or penalty kill (or both). Having more time to gel in special teams situations certainly can't hurt right now in the big picture.
It's hard to get real solid observations via radio-only broadcasts, but here's a few nuggets that might be interesting going forward trying to read the Lindy Ruff tea leaves:
- Brenden Dillon and Stephane Robidas were broken up as a pairing near the end of last season, but they spent much of their even-strength minutes together tonight. Jordie Benn started the overtime period and played most of his night with Sergei Gonchar, and rookies Jamie Oleksiak and Kevin Connauton were paired together. Connauton also had a fight in the game.
- The third line looked like a pretty good approximation of what we might see the fourth line look like in the regular season with Ryan Garbutt centering Vernon Fiddler and Antoine Roussel. That line has pretty good speed and a ton of grit. If Ruff is looking for a "tone setter" style of fourth line, that might be your group.
- For the key penalty kill in overtime, Dillon and Robidas were tapped along with Shawn Horcoff as the lone forward to start the attempt. Oleksiak and Gonchar also got some 4-on-3 PK time with Jordie Benn in the box, but they were the pair that eventually gave up the game winner a puck off the stick of Alex Pietrangelo found its way to Patrik Berglund in front of the net.
- The announcers were rather critical of many calls in the game, including the holding call on Jordie Benn that eventually led to the Blues winning goal, but it's impossible to tell if it's the criticism is legitimate without video. Still, 17 minor penalties is an awful lot, especially when only two of them are matching.
- If there was a recurring theme over the Glen Gulutzan era, it's that the Stars had a very disturbing habit of getting outshot by their opponents. That trend showed its ugly head again Saturday night with the Blues finishing with a 36-24 edge in the shot count. A good chunk of that occurred on the power plays - the Stars had seven shots on six power plays while the Blues racked up 13 shots on seven power plays. Even strength shot differential was a more respectable 18-15 advantage for the Blues.
- Fiddler was the only Stars center to save the team's faceoff average for the night. Fiddler won 13 of his 17 draws while Seguin (7 of 18), Horcoff (4 of 16) and the combined efforts of Chiasson, Chris Mueller and Roussel (1 of 6) all struggled.
- The Stars next preseason game is Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.