While no one should attempt to glean too much from any preseason game, there were a handful of things that stood out following the Dallas Stars’ 6-3 win Saturday night at the American Airlines Center. Here are five things the 14,000-plus (paid) fans can take away from the team’s first appearance in Victory Green:
Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns, and Julius Honka all looked solid. While Lindell had a few hiccups in the early part of the opening frame (taking a penalty, whiffing on a bouncing puck that resulted in a waved-off goal for Tampa Bay), he looked good when he got his feet underneath him. He was good defensively, he found the net and tacked on an assist, and he looked comfortable playing at both ends of the ice.
Honka showed more of the same: he didn’t make any glaring mistakes beyond an over-the-glass delay of game on the PK; he looks like he has the chops to contribute on and help run the power play in the future; and his shot is a big one. He’s still a year away at best, but he’s showing serious promise.
As for Johns, he could be exactly what the Stars need; he’s physical, he’s big, and he can absolutely handle himself at both ends of the ice. He was confident, most apparently when he deftly took the puck away from a Tampa Bay attacker one-on-one in front of Antti Niemi. He’s the oldest of the bunch and, if he doesn’t begin the year in Dallas, he seems like a lock for the next man up. He looked good alongside Patrik Nemeth, as well; that’s a physical pairing Dallas could get used to.
For an NHL veteran, the first preseason game is next to meaningless. Niemi is this team’s No. 1(B) goalie, and nothing he does in the preseason will upset that. However, he showed Dallas fans some good things during his first ever Stars start. Aside from a short-side goal that somehow slipped through, the Finn answered the bell throughout the game. He only saw 19 shots, which makes his three-goals allowed performance seem less-than-stellar, but one goal came via pretty passing on a Tampa power play and the other came on a mad scramble where he was taken out of the play after making the initial save. It’s way, way too early to form any kind of opinion, but he didn’t show the Stars or their fans anything that’s going to set off alarms, either.
As predicted, this Stars team is going to be incredibly exciting to watch. Tyler Seguin found the net twice and added an assist, finding new addition Patrick Sharp for a beautiful 2-on-1 goal. The Stars are going to score in bunches again this season, and a line of Sharp-Seguin-Benn will be something to behold if Lindy Ruff decides to run it consistently.
The Stars went with a lineup of Sharp-Seguin-Klingberg to open the mandatory preseason 3-on-3 overtime, which is largely to be expected from them. Two speedy forwards and a puck-moving d-man could be the combination Ruff favors for his team, and the Stars’ speed will definitely be a huge factor. Each team is still working out exactly what their approach to the new format will be, but if the Stars can create lasting possession with that kind of speed and ability on open ice, they should do well for themselves.
The Stars announced an attendance of 14,676 Saturday, which bests many a regular season game during the lowest points of the playoff drought. While there may not have been exactly that many fans in the building, the attitude was markedly different. The fans were engaged throughout, which is an encouraging sign for a game that means essentially nothing. The offseason roster put together by Jim Nill and company has fans hungry for hockey to really get rolling, and it was a refreshing sight.
All in all, it was a good night inside the AAC. The outcome and stats are all but meaningless, but the emotion and excitement were completely authentic.