We've reached the halfway point of the preseason, but it's still pretty ridiculously early to be making any sort of judgement on things this season. After all, the Dallas Stars haven't played a lineup even half made up of NHL regulars at this point, though Lindy Ruff has promised they'll move more in that direction.
So it's tough to read too much into the performance by Kari Lehtonen, who was left at the mercy of the St. Louis Blues top line as some young defensemen struggled to contain them. It's equally tough to say Antti Niemi out-performed him with his performance on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But it's worth talking about at least one thing that showed itself on Saturday night in the Stars 6-3 win - the apparent chemistry between the shiny new winger Patrick Sharp and all-everything center Tyler Seguin.
Unlike Seguin's typical partner in crime Jamie Benn, Sharp is at a little bit of a different place in his career. Acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks this summer as part of a package with Stephen Johns for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt, Sharp is 33 years old and on the back end of his career. He's a proven commodity (though coming off a difficult season), and a veteran with three Stanley Cups under his belt.
When the Stars made the trade this summer, speculation immediately started about where the Stars might play Sharp. The right wing alongside Benn and Seguin was a possibility, but there was an open left wing spot alongside Jason Spezza on the more veteran second line as well.
There were articles written about the best fit for Sharp that pointed to the top line, and there were reports from early training camp about apparently chemistry with Seguin, as both were in Group B down in Cedar Park.
But Saturday night was the first chance Stars fans had to see Sharp in action, this time alongside Seguin. And the results were, if early, The two combined for five points, including two goals by Seguin and one by Sharp, and showed a strong chemistry in the transition game.
If you haven't watched the highlights from the game yet, check them out. While the first thing that strikes you is the ridiculousness in the speed and accuracy of Seguin's wrist shots, the most encouraging sign for the Stars may be in the plays that led to the two goals Sharp and Seguin combined on.
Both were in transition after turnovers near the Stars blueline, and both involved quick lateral puck movement from the team. On the first goal, Sharp takes a strong breakout pass made by Seguin and pushes the play up the left wall. John Klingberg joins the rush as Sharp draws the attention of three defensemen and takes the centering feed, bumping it up to a flying Seguin, who digs the pass out of his feet and puts it in the upper corner before the Tampa goalie can react to the change in the point of attack.
The second goal starts when Sharp comes in as a second defender in a puck battle and bumps the puck up to Seguin on the right wall. This play turned from nothing to 2-on-1 for Dallas on Sharp's strong defensive play, and his hustle up the ice beats any backcheck (though it should be noted Seguin's pass got an assist from a truly lackadaisical play by defenseman Dylan Blujus).
Yes, it's preseason, but both those goals started from a strong, possession-oriented defensive play by one man and turned into a speed play from the other. One of the big concerns reported about Sharp, especially as he's getting older, was his potentially declining speed. He showed no signs of that, keeping up with Seguin on both speed-based goals.
It's the little things you look for in preseason - how a goalie is tracking a puck through traffic, how a young defenseman keeps rushing forwards on his outside, or the instincts a young forward has in offensive-zone puck movement. Results, even raw points, hare hard to read much into given the varying quality of opponent, so to see those little things clicking for Sharp and Seguin at this point is more encouraging than Seguin's two points per game average.
Now we just have to wait until Jamie Benn gets healthy enough for some preseason games to see if the line of many nicknames has as much firepower as many hope or if the Stars would potentially be better served through some other line tinkering.
After all, playing around and having people read far too much into the results is exactly what the preseason is for.