With a nearly full NHL roster at their disposal and the urge to put a disappointing preseason behind them, the Dallas Stars had a great opportunity to make a strong impression in their final exhibition game tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.
While there were some promising moments dispersed throughout, mainly in the first two periods, the Stars still failed to put all the pieces together and drag themselves over the hump, falling to Chicago by a stinging score of 4-0. Dallas finished the preseason with a record of 1-6.
Marian Hossa had two goals for the Hawks, while Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw also tallied. Corey Crawford and Scott Darling split the 28-save shutout.
Antti Niemi started the game for Dallas and played well, but was replaced by Kari Lehtonen at the start of the third period as the battle for the number one goalie job continues to wage on. It didn't take long for the Hawks to welcome Lehtonen to the game, though, as Kane scored just 1:42 into the third. Lehtonen finished with 8 saves on 11 shots, while Niemi stopped 17 of 18 before he left the game.
Dallas' powerplay went 0-for-3, a continuation of one the most troubling trends of the team's preseason. Not only did they fail to score with the man advantage, but they rarely looked menacing while on the job and had trouble keeping the puck in the offensive zone. All three chances came early in the game and provided the Stars with an excellent opportunity to jump ahead in the game, but the chances ended up being squandered.
By all means the Stars still have some recurring problems that they need to iron out. The regular season begins on October 8th. Back to the drawing board.
Thoughts and Observations:
- So, about that goaltending battle. By all accounts, Niemi was the better goalie this preseason. While the Stars will probably still give both netminders a good number of starts early in the regular season, it's pretty clear that Niemi is winning that race at this point in time. Will he get the start against Pittsburgh on Thursday?
- Jamie Benn wasn't particularly noticeable tonight, aside from one nice scoring chance in the second period where he was stopped point-blank by Darling. He also spent most of the third period on the second line with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. Just how healthy is the captain after his hip surgery? 90%? 75%? It might take a while until we see "Jamie Benn Beast Mode" get activated this season, which could be a point of concern.
- Then again, Benn still led the Stars in Corsi For% at 62%. So who really knows.
- Patrick Sharp was flying tonight, and led the team with five shots. He's clearly trying to leave a positive impression on his new team, which is a very encouraging sign.
- Mattias Janmark just looks like an NHL hockey player out there. He does so many little things right, the kinds of little things that you expect to see out of veterans. One play that stood out in particular was making a great stick check to break up a prime Hawks scoring chance in the third period. The Stars are going to have a very, very hard decision to make over the next day or so.
- Curtis McKenzie, Colton Sceviour, Patrik Nemeth and Jyrki Jokipakka were the healthy scratches. Take from that what you will.