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Wax on, wax off: Many Oscar-worthy moments may lie ahead for Stars

One step at a time? Dallas showed in beating Ottawa that's how it will push itself back into the playoff picture

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- Jim Montgomery is stealing my bits.

The head coach of the Stars was trying to explain the struggles that John Klingberg is going through early this season and he decided to fall into movie comparisons.

He said Klingberg is too much like Roy McAvoy from the movie "Tin Cup," taking bad risks and putting himself in bad situations because of it. He said Klingberg needs to be more like David Simms, the conservative pro who laid up on all four days at the U.S. Open just so he could contend for first place.

 

[READ MORE: Fast start propels Stars to second straight win over Senators]

 

It all sounds good. Klingberg is being too risky, he needs to be smarter, we get it.

But c'mon, Monty, nobody likes David Simms. He was the villain of the movie. He ended up losing to Peter Jacobsen. He's a putz.

If we're going to do this movie stuff, at least pick a likeable comparison.

You could go with Daniel LaRusso from "Karate Kid." Or how about Gordon Bombay from "Mighty Ducks"? Even Ricky Bobby would do from "Talladega Nights."

Video: Montgomery on Stars' 'relentless' effort in win

I'm going to go with Pete Mitchell from "Top Gun." You might know him better as "Maverick." Cocky kid, thinks he knows it all. Chip on his shoulder, needs to prove everybody wrong.

As the coach has discussed John Klingberg over the past few days, he has often prefaced his thoughts with "this is actually about the entire team." He's right about that. Klingberg is a microcosm of the 2019-20 Stars, and he's certainly not the only one going through some moments of struggle.

The scorers aren't scoring, the power play isn't clicking, the goalies aren't as good as they were last year. There is much to fix here, so let's let Klingberg stand as a composite character.

Klingberg has arguably been the most consistent and maybe most important player on this team since he moved up to the NHL in 2014. He is hands down the leader in time on ice and in puck possession. Measured in SAT (shot attempt differential at even strength), Klingberg is plus-718 in his career. Second-best in that span is Tyler Seguin at plus-465.

Last year in the playoffs, Klingberg was plus-70 in SAT. Jamie Benn was second on the team at plus-7.

That's impressive, and it allows Klingberg to play with a certain athletic arrogance that is needed.

But, just as it has been for the entire team this year, Klingberg has struggled with the high expectations and low performance this October. He entered Monday's game at minus-12 in SAT and a team-worst minus-7 in plus-minus. Asked what was wrong, Montgomery said the 27-year-old defenseman needs to learn patience and discipline.

Video: Condensed Game: Senators @ Stars

Just like David Simms, he needs to know when to "lay up," when to make the smart play.

"He's a difference-maker, and he knows it," Montgomery said. "He expects to be a difference-maker. He's ultra-competitive and he wants the puck on his stick -- that's what you love about him. But your biggest strength is also your weakness."

And that fits Maverick to a tee. He has all the skill in the world, but he needs to know how to control it. He has to bounce back from some bad experiences and come back stronger and smarter.

Klingberg is doing that. He was plus-8 in SAT Monday in a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. After being benched Saturday and playing a year-low 17:53 in a 4-1 win at Philadelphia, he bounced back and played 22:50 Monday. He had 14 shot attempts and helped drive play.

Before the game, he said he understands the challenges and understands his importance in helping this team collect some wins.

"I can do a lot better," he said. "We can do a lot better as a team and I can do a lot better as an individual. My game has got to be better."

On Monday, it was.

Video: Pavelski on Stars' fast start, first home goal

Same goes for Alexander Radulov, who went from having no shots on goal in two games to six against the Senators. Same goes for Joe Pavelski, who has two goals in the past four games after having zero in the first seven. Same goes for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and Radek Faksa.

That's how this team gets better, that's how it wins games, that's how it pushes itself back into the playoff picture.

Wax on, wax off -- you know the story.

"It's encouraging, but it's got to continue," Pavelski said with a determined look after the win. "It's a small sample size of what we have done right so far. It's on us to continue with that."

You could say the Stars' challenge is Rudy-esque or Rocky-esque or tantamount to Happy Gilmore winning the tour championship. There is a lot of work to be done to crawl back from a 1-7-1 start, and it will probably be there all season, but that just means there are a whole lot of "film" sessions you can use to motivate this team.

Jim Montgomery had a busy day Monday, drawing comparisons to Dan Fouts, Tom Brady, and his bald head. It was a day of entertaining interactions that should make fans love him even more.

But seriously, he needs to leave this movie stuff to me.

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.

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