Preseason hockey isn’t usually pretty. But after crawling through the desert of the offseason, any kind of hockey >>>>>>> no hockey at all. Thankfully, these games don’t count for much (until they do, as Robert wrote about earlier today) so the Dallas Stars and their fans can just turn the page on this opening preseason matchup with the St. Louis Blues. Though, for those not in attendance in person and only having access to the Blues radio call of the game, it’s almost like it didn’t really happen to begin with.
The ways in which the hockey looked ugly came through in three ways:
- Holy breakaways off of turnovers, Batman.
- Can a pass actually be crisp and hit the tape more than twice in a row or nah?
- Not-quite-there-yet timing and miscommunication.
Dallas held the Blues scoreless in the first period despite a big deficit in shots on goal (10-2, Blues). They allowed two goals to the Blues in the second period, one off of a defensive coverage miscue that allowed Klim Kostin alone in the slot (that’s a high danger scoring area, kids) and the other a shot through traffic by Robert Bortuzzo from the point.
The 2-0 final score is not all that different than regular season games against the Blues. They know how to suffocate offense, and they executed their system pretty well tonight.
Second year head coach Jim Montgomery pretty much rolled his lines evenly tonight, giving guys a lot of ice time and good looks. In meaningless preseason games, you like to see that, especially before the team makes its first round of cuts.
Because the value of preseason games is really about the players that stand out in the good and bad ways more than the overall play of the team as a whole, here’s some player-specific observations about tonight’s game. In a lot of ways, these were a result of me looking at numbers and going “so who is that now?” Re-training the brain to think “Andrew Cogliano” when you see 11 instead of Martin Hanzal or “Joe Pavelski” when you see 16 instead of Jason Dickinson takes a little practice.
Thank goodness for preseason hockey.
BOWLING FOR GOALIES
Ben Bishop and Antoin Khudobin split time in net tonight, with Bishop making 16 saves on 17 shots and Khudobin making 15 saves on 16 shots to end their nights, respectively. Bishop had one snow angel-esque save shortly before Mackenzie MacEachern from the Blues had his face split open and he leaked a significant amount of blood on the faceoff circle. (He did return to the game to give Dallas their only power play of the game, so it’s likely just a cut that bled nicely.) Khudobin had a little bit more traffic in front to deal with than Bishop did as the team’s energy seemed to wane as the game went on.
WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T GO HOME?
I thought Stefan Noesen acquitted himself nicely through the first half of the game. He made several smart plays to move the puck up ice and played a solid two-way game. It didn’t appear that he had any issue getting up and down the ice, and kept up fairly well with his young linemates of Riley Tufte and Ty Dellandrea.
NEXT FIN UP
Joel Kiviranta is older than many of the Stars’ prospects that fans had hoped would compete and be given serious consideration for the last couple of forward spots available on the opening night roster. At 23 and with a few seasons of play in Liiga, he’s had a lot of experience playing against players at some of the highest levels of hockey. In other words, he should look better than, say, the 19-year-old Dellandrea.
But he looked right at home on the wing of Joe Pavelski. Kiviranta made several good plays at both ends of the ice. My favorite, though, was the one where he read the cross-ice feed of the Blues and got his stick perfectly in position to break the pass up and send the puck out of his own zone. It’s a small move, one that quite often goes unnoticed and isn’t often lauded by fans, but that’s the example of the kind of hockey IQ that could help lead to more offense for Dallas this season.
Because that play led to a transition up-ice and a chance for Dallas in their offensive zone instead of getting the line penned into the defensive zone. And more offensive zone time should, in theory, lead to more goals.
DON’T WAIT FOR LIFE, RIDE TO MEET IT
Thomas Harley earned more praise from Montgomery after tonight’s game, remarking on how his poise. When the team made good passing plays, Harley was usually involved in them. I wouldn’t get too caught up in the hype, though. Harley still has moments where he looks raw, especially against a big heavy team like the Blues. He’ll go back to juniors for some more seasoning, but the early looks at the Stars’ latest first round pick are promising.
NEXT TIME ON “AS THE WORLD TURNS”...
Dallas gets right back on the ice tomorrow with preseason game number two in Minnesota. None of the defense or goalies from tonight’s game are expected to play. Nicholas Caamano and Ty Deallandrea, who the coach specifically said seemed to win more of the compete battles than the rest of the team did tonight, will play again tomorrow. I’d also wager on different veteran players in the lineup than played tonight, as the team likely won’t want to risk injury to their top guys in meaningless hockey games.
The game will be streamed by using the Wild feed on Fox Sports Plus (though check your local listings to verify that.) Puck drop is at 7 PM CDT tomorrow night.