The Dallas Stars played in what was referred to as close to a "dress rehearsal" as we'll see this preseason and Monday night provided all the fireworks that come with that, both good and bad, as fans got a taste of the offensive potential of this team.
Down 0-3 early in the second period, the Stars came roaring back with three goals in the middle frame before scoring two more in the third in a 5-4 comeback win. The game featured some incredible ups and downs -- so let's discuss a few of them.
- Jamie Oleksiak and John Klingberg were paired together throughout the game and just looked lost at times against a very aggressive Panthers team, especially in the first period. Turnovers, misplays with the puck, bad decisions and poor defensive positioning were rampant in the first 20 minutes and while both recovered to make a few plays and play more solidly as the game progressed, it was a troublesome sign for two players expected to push for NHL playing time this season.
- Oleksiak did look better as the game progressed, but once again had trouble really finding out what sort of game he wants to play. His tentative decisions with the puck in the first period were costly, and when he does decide to get physical it's not always in the right moment or situation. But he's progressing as the preseason rolls along, which is what you want from your young defensemen.
- Oleksiak drilling Nick Bjugstad into his own goalie wasn't exactly a good move, however.
- Speaking of which, Ruff said after the game that Lehtonen has a "concussion, with mild symptoms." He didn't seem to be too concerned, but this is a concussion we're talking about.
- Klingberg definitely seemed to find his feet after his gaffe to open up the second period and made several good plays both defensively and on offense, including a rather nifty read-and-steal at his blue line that created an odd-man rush the other way. Klingberg needs time in the AHL this season before being called upon for NHL time, however. That is clear.
- The Stars turned to a four-forward power play on Tuesday that featured Hemsky, Spezza, Seguin, Benn and Daley and after a couple of false starts -- that combination proved positively electric. The puck movement was unlike anything seen on the power play last season and resulted in two big goals for the Stars in the third period in the comeback victory.
- The interesting thing about that alignment was Spezza set up in Seguin's usual spot on the goal line, with Seguin roaming up high. After the game Seguin said it took him some time to get used to the new configuration, but it certainly helped -- Seguin finished with a hat trick and two power play goals on his way to a four-point night.
- Val Nichushkin looked rusty in the first period but turned on the jets in the second period, and looked every part of the dynamic power forward he's expected to be this season. The big Russian was fast and aggressive with the puck and more importantly didn't make the sort of mistakes made last season, and looks to have generated good chemistry on the top line with Benn and Seguin. Will that combo stick?
- Erik Cole finished with just one assist and one shot in 13:50 of ice time, not getting hardly any time on the power play but continuing to look like his physical, speedy self that was so good at times last season. He was on the second line next to Spezza and Hemsky again and looked like a good fit once again, but the question becomes if he can sustain that level of play throughout the season.
- Jason Spezza is...dirty. Just dirty.
- Val Nichushkin had two points, Tyler Seguin had a hat trick and four points. Jamie Benn? Four shots on net, five shots that missed the net and no points at all on the night. That's not something I expect to see too often.
- The fourth line of Radek Faksa, Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie was solid, but didn't generate much offense in limited minutes as Ruff shortened the bench in favor of the veterans as the game wore on.