Tonight may have been the last time some of the players wearing a Dallas Stars uniform had to show the coaching staff what they could bring to the NHL roster. After all, the team is expected to make roster decisions in the coming days so that they can get one preseason game in with their season regulars.
Of course, that can change. But right now, that’s Ken Hitchcock’s game plan.
Plenty of Stars played tonight like they were fighting for jobs. Several showed themselves well. Others may not have looked as good, but it’s hard to pick someone that may have played “very bad” as the team rolled to a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
The effort was punctuated by a very solid outing by Kari Lehtonen. The big Finn made a lot of great saves tonight, often keeping them in his stomach/glove/pads and not giving the Wild much in the way of second chances. The only time he got beat was on a scramble in front of his net that saw him on the ice when a Wild player dug the puck out from around his feet and lifted it over for a goal. There wasn’t a ton he could have done on that kind of a play from my vantage point.
Let’s get to the player-specific observations, as I’m sure that’s what everyone is really here to read about:
*Tyler Seguin: still really good at hockey. Scored two tonight. And there was much rejoicing. (Also he generated 8 shots on goal by himself.)
*Alexander Radulov is a puck hound, but in the best of ways. He will hound the puck carrier for the puck but doesn’t do it to the detriment of positioning of his teammates leaving someone open.
*Tyler Pitlick looked really good. Nice puck possession, several good outlet passes, lots of speed, and a goal to top it off.
*Devin Shore, to me, is one of the young guys that is worth putting on the 23-man roster. His speed and tenacity on the puck will make him a versatile winger on any of the lines. He’s seemed to fit in with any player that he’s lined up next to this preseason. He was named second star of the game tonight in recognition of his good play.
*I’m not sure if Jason Dickinson will make the roster, but he’s made a strong case for being one of the first injury call-ups if he hasn’t.
*Remi Elie and Gemel Smith both had some speedy plays tonight, with Elie even notching an assist in the game. Was their body of work this preseason and through training camp enough to set them apart from any of the other young guys like Roope Hintz, Dickinson, and Shore? I really just don’t know. They all seem to have flashes at times, and if I had to pick two of the set I’d go with Shore and Dickinson tonight. But that answer may change tomorrow the more I think on it.
*John Klingberg and Esa Lindell looked every bit an NHL pairing tonight. They played a lot of minutes, and had 9 shots on goal between them (3 for Klingberg, 6 for Lindell).
*To be honest, I’m not sure if either of Stephen Johns or Jamie Oleksiak set themselves apart from one another tonight. Once again, each had plays that they did well and each had tendencies we’ve seen from ghosts of bad plays past surface again. Julius Honka didn’t record nearly as many shots on goal as he did last night either. Maybe everyone was playing to not make a mistake tonight. One thing’s for sure – it’ll be a tough choice whichever way you slice it for Hitchcock and company in the next couple of days.
*Greg Pateryn wasn’t really visible tonight, which isn’t necessarily a negative when it comes to defensemen. Often, that means they’re doing things well enough. However, he did take an interference penalty in the game, the only defensemen to do so. It’s one play among many, of course – Oleksiak took one in last night’s game and got a ton of praise from Hitchcock because of his body of play after the game.
*If the Stars can get that version of Kari for the 25ish games they’ll need from him this year, it’ll be nice to see the narrative switched off of the goaltending position for a while.