That’s how you kill an OT curse, my friends: through the magic of friendship. And goals.
1. Getting the band back together
Stars expected lines:— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) November 22, 2016
After spending 7 games on separate lines and finally with a mostly full forward roster, head coach Lindy Ruff put Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin back together on the top line with a fully healthy Cody Eakin at center.
Maybe it was this change, maybe it was the shuffling at defense, maybe it was that they were playing the Minnesota Wild, but the Stars had their best possession game in a long while, and the top line had the best possession night among the forwards.
When it works, it works.
2. What’s up big d?
Last game Stars had Oduya, Johns and Klingberg in the lineup. All three out tonight replaced by Honka, Lindell and Oleksiak. #MessageSent— Bruce LeVine (@BruceLeVinePuck) November 22, 2016
To be fair to Johnny Oduya, he’s actually out due to a lower body injury. Ruff said after the game that Stephen Johns was benched because he’s been struggling with puck movement. John Klingberg, if you missed this, was out because he missed a team meeting yesterday.
The message is obviously not meant for Oduya, but Johns and Klingberg have been wildly off the mark everyone expected of them coming off last season. Some of that is huge changes to our blue line in the offseason, losing Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers. Some of it is inconsistent partnering, though Klingberg was thought to be more of an anchor than this. But most of it has just been poor play and decision making, and you’d hope a night in the press box, thinking about what they’ve done, will be the kick start they both need.
Maybe scratching Klingberg sent a message to the whole team. I like what I see so far tonight.— Taylor Baird (@taylordbaird) November 22, 2016
And that, I think, is something that can’t be overlooked. Just like swapping goalies mid-game, sometimes a benching has less to do with the player you’re benching and more to do with the message you’re sending to the rest of the team. In this case, it’s both.
Worth noting, though, that Klingberg’s absence isn’t the reason the Stars won.
@JoshL1220 every single defenseman SKATED the puck out of the zone with regularity. ALL OF THEM. Even Hamhuis and I'm not sure he had all yr— Josh Lile (@JoshL1220) November 22, 2016
It’s easier to pick off long passes than it is to strip a defenseman of the puck. The defense played a different game than they had all season, and that was the biggest difference. You can see it in the possession. Klingberg is certainly capable of playing this way, and has in the past.
3. Big Rig!?!
Jamie Oleksiak scores. He's just an assist away from the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. 1-0 Stars.— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) November 22, 2016
The last time Jamie Oleksiak scored was October 28, 2014. Also against a divisional rival, but that time it was the St. Louis Blues. And, oddly enough, was also the first goal in what was eventually an overtime win for the Stars.
Oleksiak with 5 career points against the Wild. He has 13 points total. #LikesPlayingMinnesota— Bruce LeVine (@BruceLeVinePuck) November 22, 2016
I imagine this gets Oleksiak back in the line up next game, because we know Lindy Ruff’s style.
4. Honka Honka burnin’ play time
Julius Honka:— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) November 22, 2016
21:01 of ice time
Team-high 5 shots
1st unit PP
How's that for a debut? Welcome to the NHL, kid
Julius Honka made his NHL debut tonight on a pairing with Dan Hamhuis. He was fourth in ice time, tied for first in CF% at 5v5, led the team in shots on goal, and got his first NHL point on an assist to Brett Ritchie’s goal in the third period. A solid debut in what has been a period of uncertainty for the Stars.
HONK HONK COMIN' THROUGH pic.twitter.com/Ia1xWQYXWz— Mancomb Seepgood (@Pat_Iversen) November 22, 2016
My best guess is that when Klingberg and Johns return Honka will be sent back down to Cedar Park for playing time, but it’s nice to know that our defensive future seems to be in good hands. (Near future, by the way.)
5. You be the coach
Poll: If you are coaching Stars what do you with defense on Wednesday after win tonight?— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) November 22, 2016
These last two bullets bring us here. Klingberg and Johns have not been having their best seasons. Honka made an impressive case for himself last night in his first NHL game. We’ve seen enough of Oleksiak over the seasons to have a pretty good idea that games like this are a one-off for him. And despite opening scoring, he trailed the entire team in possession metrics. Trailed them by a lot.
So what do you do with the line up? My guess is Oleksiak and Honka play at least one more game, to see if this one was a fluke, and maybe get a better idea of how Honka plays against the big boys.
What would you all do?
Find someone who smiles at you like Benn to Seguin after an OT GWG. pic.twitter.com/7xTIv5xmVL— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) November 22, 2016
Instead of ending on a coach question, I’m choosing to end as we began, on the highest of high notes. The bromance is back together, and it feels so good.