Confidence is a tricky thing.
Everyone knows that it exists, but it’s nearly impossible to have full control of it. When you have it you can feel on top of the world — but when it’s missing it can feel a thousand miles away. There’s also no one universal way to build or restore confidence, as all individuals are unique and respond differently to different things.
When it comes to the hockey world, however, you can find about as surefire a confidence booster as there is: lighting the lamp.
When the Dallas Stars assigned forward Denis Gurianov to the AHL’s Texas Stars late last week after three NHL games, the word “confidence” kept popping up in discussions about the move. It’s not that Gurianov was unconfident, per se, prior to the demotion. Rather, the hope was that some more time against weaker competition would help give Gurianov a big boost in the confidence department that he could later carry with him back to Dallas.
So far, so good.
Gurianov had a monster game in his AHL return on Friday, scoring a hat trick in regulation and then adding one more in the shootout. He also had a game-high seven shots on net.
His performance on Saturday wasn’t quite as dynamic, but he did score another shootout goal. Also, according to reports gathered by The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro, he played a solid defensive game, something that he’ll need to keep doing when he eventually returns to Dallas.
Gurianov’s assignment to the AHL was met with some controversy, but one of the reasons why the Stars did it was because of how well the exact same move worked for another player in the organization: Roope Hintz.
After making the Dallas Stars’ 2018-19 roster out of training camp, Hintz was sent down to the AHL after five rather uneventful contests. It wound up being just what the doctor ordered, as Hintz immediately began excelling with the Texas Stars. He went up and down between the AHL and the NHL a few times before sticking with Dallas for good in January, and when that happened it was crystal clear just how much his game improved after that extra time in the minors.
Hintz wasn’t just good when he got back to Dallas full-time in January — he was confidently good, helping him to break out in a big way toward the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. Heck, Hintz has carried that play over into 2019-20 as well. (Editor: Please don’t jinx that play, Derek.)
That’s precisely the kind of outcome that the Stars are hoping for with Gurianov.
After a 1-5-1 start to their season it’s obvious that Dallas desperately needs a boost of offense. If some more time in the AHL helps bolster Gurianov’s confidence and allows him to be more of a difference-maker in the NHL, then the assignment will have been well worth it in the long run.
Like their NHL parent club, it took the Texas Stars until their fourth game of the 2019-20 season to procure their first win. And also like Dallas, it took more than the 60 allocated minutes to make it happen.
Gurianov had one of the shootout goals and veteran forward Tanner Kero had the other in the team’s 2-1 win over the Iowa Wild on Saturday, but it was goaltender Landon Bow who was the true hero of the game, turning aside 35 of 36 shots in regulation and overtime before stopping two out of three in the skills contest. As I wrote about him in the most recent edition of my Dallas Stars Prospect Rankings, Bow (ranked 15th on this list after going unranked in the previous one) has put in a lot of work and improved his game over the past few seasons, and seems to have leveled up over the summer.
Jake Oettinger had the team’s other start of the week, making 34 saves on 38 shots and then one of three in the shootout in Friday’s 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Wild. The rookie netminder’s play earned a few tweets of praise from our friends over at 100 Degree Hockey.
Oettinger has been really good in the third period. #txstars— 100 Degree Hockey (@100degreehockey) October 12, 2019
Beyond Gurianov’s Friday hat trick, Ben Gleason had two assists while Jason Robertson and Gavin Bayreuther each had one.
North American Juniors
Windsor Spitfires forward Curtis Douglas is impossible to miss out on the ice because of his gigantic 6-foot-9 frame, but it can take some close watching of his play to fully understand why he was selected so high (106th overall in 2018). What many Stars fans still don’t realize about Douglas is that he has some legitimate skill to go along with that hulking frame. It doesn’t show itself every game he plays, but when it does, Douglas can be a major difference-maker for his team.
That was precisely the case on Saturday, when Douglas picked up one goal and two helpers in an 8-5 Windsor win over the Sarnia Sting. He was also 10-for-19 in the face-off dot, his second game in a row playing center. For his efforts, Douglas was named the game’s first star and the OHL’s second start of the night.
Biggest man in the 'O' flashes finesse.@DallasStars prospect @curtisdouglas39 makes a move inside the line before dishing to an open @henault_43 who gives @SpitsHockey a two-goal lead on home ice. pic.twitter.com/b7yRzmlHlW— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) October 13, 2019
Ty Dellandrea also earned a bit of love from the league for a highlight-reel play of his own, scoring a spinning backhand goal in a 6-2 Flint Firebirds win over the Peterborough Petes.
A play that starts as a mess turns into an absolute masterpiece @DallasStars prospect @tydellandrea somehow manages to twirl his way into a shooting position, firing a backhander home for Saturday’s #BestOfOHL moment as the @FlintFirebirds were victorious. pic.twitter.com/6L5moUEFFy— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) October 13, 2019
Defenseman Ben Brinkman, who was selected by the Stars in the sixth round, 173rd overall, in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, made his 2019-20 debut over the weekend when his University of Minnesota team played a pair of games. He finished with no points and two minutes in penalties. Brinkman is a smart, sturdy defenseman, but he specializes more on the defensive side of the puck, so don’t expect much in the way of points from him this season.