Preseason games are generally hockey fodder*. And they don't predict much. Last year the best preseason records were owned by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Granted, the worst preseason records were owned by a bunch of basement/near basement dwellers. But I think all it really teaches is that it's easy to duplicate success within a small sample size. Duplicating mediocrity within a small sample size might be a wee bit telling, however.
Or not. In the NFL, preseason success might actually be legitimately worrying, as the 18 teams over the last 10 years who have gone undefeated in the preseason recorded a combined tally of 130-158.
Whatever the case, some Dallas Stars fans might feel worried. Dallas is 1-3 thus far. Should you be afraid? Or is it all just 'white noise' at this point?
There's obviously no way to answer that. And any attempt would a rhetorical lottery. After all, the preseason has little to do with honing the team's game. It's more about experimenting; giving prospects looks against elite competition, figuring out line chemistry with different names, and giving players time to figure out the chosen system. Still, it's fun to sift through the statistical ether.
When you look at the top possession players through the first four games, it's just gibberish; like looking at a Salvador Dali painting if it bred with a Jackson Pollock that then accidentally fell on top of H.R. Giger's paint oils.
Derek Hulak was behind only Tyler Seguin in possession metrics with a 76 percent Corsi For at even strength against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Cory Kane was third among all forwards with a 58 percent Corsi For at even strength against the St. Louis Blues on the 24th.
However, at least one thing stands out. Cody Eakin played the last two preseason games and was a possession beast, recording a Corsi For of 72 percent and 84 percent at even strength. Granted, he was always part of the top billing with Jamie Benn out, but it's still good to see. Say what you want about Eakin's defensive game, but he's solid in a pressuring capacity.
It emphasizes his strength as a player in general; not an ideal 3rd line center, but an ideal 3rd line player if he can play in the top six and not look out of place. If you're confused by that wording it's because I'm alluding to the fact that I think Eakin would be well suited for wing.
Jordie Benn! How we've missed you and the way you fracture the space-time fantinuum.
Yes, Jordie continues to bull his way through the possession numbers like Judge Dredd in a Megacity methlab. He was one of the very very few positive possession players in the Stars' shellacking against St. Louis, and went into beastmaster mode against Florida the other day with a 78 percent Corsi For at Even Strength.
As I've said before, I'm looking forward to evaluating Jordie this season. The numbers undeniably identify him as a good defender. Fans often feel like the numbers lie as we watch him. I feel like the numbers demand that I rethink how much emphasis should be placed on his big mistakes. But I also feel like his big mistakes demand that I rethink how much emphasis should be placed on his numbers. If he offset any of his mistakes with actual offensive output, this wouldn't be a debate, but he doesn't, so I wonder.
Other than that, there's not much to glean from anything else. Jamie Oleksiak is predictably all over the place. A lot of observers have picked up on his increased physical play. That's fine. I like seeing him use his body to separate the opponent from the puck too. But being physical doesn't guarantee efficiency in your own zone. Jamie Oleksiak's problems have more to do with reading the play, and awkward pinches. He needs to resolve his identity as the kind of defenseman he's fit to be rather than worrying about peripheral criticisms.
Are we sure each ventricle is ready for this?
The team's collective goaltending has combined for a save percentage of .8495. Jack Campbell is the reason that number isn't lower (his save percentage in the preseason opener was .914). Kari Lehtonen has averaged a .821 save percentage through his two preseason games. You can exhale now.
Small sample sizes.
It's important to remember that everyone is either playing with someone they aren't familiar with, or someone who doesn't belong in the NHL just yet. Their opponents are working within the same framework. So the goaltender is tending his pipes in front of a bunch of kids being introduced into a new system with little to no chemistry with one another. in summation...are we there yet?
*Don't tell the Stars or Panthers that, however. This rivalry is starting to feel less about the Kulikov hit from last year, and more about vengeful bloodlines carrying a vendetta across generations.