Stars get just what they need in win to close preseason
Dallas' shootout victory in come-from-behind fashion should provide a nice boost before its 'big week ahead'by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
DALLAS -- Well, that makes a difference.
For the 27th time, I'll reiterate that it is indeed just the preseason, but if you're going to go out and play exhibition hockey, it's good to play it like that.
After a bumpy stretch of seven games that created more questions than anything else, the Stars on Saturday finished with an incredible surge, scoring twice in the final four minutes of regulation and then beating Colorado, 4-3 in a shootout. It was an affirming win for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the leadership and skill displayed by Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski.
Benn had a goal and an assist and was on the ice for all three of the regulation goals. Same with Seguin. Same with Pavelski. Benn had a nice goal from the right circle that tied the game with 1:33 left in regulation. Seguin had a patient goal where he found himself alone in front of the net and pulled goalie Philipp Grubauer out of the net before slipping in the puck in the second period. Pavelski had a goal-scorer's goal that slipped in the upper right corner of the net and helped start the comeback.
It was everything this team and those players had not yet done in the preseason. It was everything fans, management and coaches are expecting from the top players this season.
Video: Montgomery on comeback win in preseason finale
The Stars on paper should be better. Jamie Benn had a drop in scoring of 26 points last season, so there are high expectations for him to get back to the 70-, 80-point range. Players like Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen and Jason Dickinson should up their scoring as they take the next step in their respective careers. Joe Pavelski should be an upgrade from Jason Spezza. We've been talking about it all summer, but we have not seen evidence on the ice just yet.
On Saturday, there was a glimpse. Sure, the top line handled all of the scoring, and really only did it in short bursts, but the team as a whole had more swagger, more emotion at the end. They had something to play for, and it showed.
Maybe we dissect these things too closely. Maybe we're too impatient waiting for results. But that's what we do in sports. We talk and talk and talk, and then we expect to see action. Truth be told, the players have not been able to manufacture the intensity of the regular season just yet. That was clear in Tulsa, it was clear against Minnesota on Thursday, it was clear Saturday for large swatches.
It feels like the preseason, it smells like the preseason, it tastes like the preseason. And the Stars aren't alone. The Blues haven't been getting the best from their best players -- same with the Wild, same with the Avalanche. You need emotion to play this game, and the best players might need it the most.
So when you got to see a little "beast-mode" Benn, it was reassuring.
Video: Bishop already looking to 'big week' ahead
"Obviously, emotion came into the game and I thought the first goal, Jamie went over the bench with a purpose on that faceoff and completely changed his whole game and the team's game in one shift. The entire line was great from there on." Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "I think emotion and physicality are very important in this game period but for our team, and especially for our captain, it's very important."
Tyler Seguin will be Tyler Seguin. He's been one of the most consistent performers on this team since he got here in 2013. Ben Bishop sure looks like he will be fine this season. John Klingberg ate up 23:58 in ice time Saturday and helps the Stars do good things on most of his shifts. There are things that we can expect from this team. The penalty kill allowed one goal in five kills, and was pretty solid during the entire preseason. The centers won 59 percent of their faceoffs Saturday.
There is history here that we don't expect to change.
But there is also history that needs to change.
The Stars need to possess the puck more. They need to be able to spend consistent time in the offensive zone. They need to be able to set up camp in front of the opposing goalie. They need to be able to draw penalties. They need to be able to score big goals at big moments.
Video: Klingberg speaks following final preseason game
They did all of that Saturday. They did it with an incredible rush of desperation and emotion that will change their outlook this week.
The regular season is not going to be easy. Dallas has a tough schedule to start, and the milquetoast pall of the preseason was creating some real doubt as to whether they were going to be ready for opening night. But getting that late surge -- and getting it from those players -- makes you at least lift your expectations a little. It should also help the players lift their's.
"Absolutely I think it's a good feeling in this room right now," said Bishop, who had to stop Gabriel Landeskog as the last shooter in the shootout to secure the win . "Obviously, going into a four-day break kind of on a high. It's nice to come in and play a song and share some laughter.
"We have some time here before we play two extremely good opponents -- two Stanley Cup contenders. So we'll enjoy it tonight, and have some fun. And then, obviously, we've got a big week ahead of us."
A week that looks just a little bit better now.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.