So, does the preseason really matter?
Naaa …uh, well, maybe.
Probably not...for sure
With that clarity, the Stars did not have a very good one (1-6) but they weren’t alone. The Avalanche also won only one game and the Coyotes didn’t win any. In the East the upstart Islanders went 2-5.
Nobody except Tyler Seguin (and newcomer Mattias Janmark) produced much in the preseason. Benn and Hemsky were limited, and tiptoed into the games after offseason hip surgeries.
Some bubblish individuals were virtual no-shows. There were some vacillations on the blueline.
And the goaltending was, well, underwhelming.
Its difficult to produce really good stats as a goalie in the preseason when you are playing partial games but that excuse doesn’t work this year because Lehtonen, Niemi and Campbell were given full games from the get go. (Although Campbell only played the preseason opener at Florida and Niemi left the finale in Chicago after two periods)
Every Stars goalie’s gaa was 3.00 or higher and the group save percentage was .854. Not good.
In fairness, new goalie coach Jeff Reese has been installing some changes to the way they play the position and it isn’t just a snap the fingers and it works kind of thing.
But the reality is this: Only the Stars regular season opening night opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, allowed more goals in the preseason (one more, in one more game played).
Offensively things weren't much better. Three of the projected top 6 forwards continue efforting toward full-go from hip surgeries (Benn, Hemsky and Nichushkin) and that hampered the team’s attack in this preseason. The second highest scoring team in the league last year mustered only 13 goals and was shutout twice in the seven games. It wasn't all bad though, the always fabulous Tyler Seguin had a healthy stat line of 3 goals, 5 points and +4 in his five preseason appearances.
What do we parse from all of this?
Well how about I just throw some records from last year’s preseason at you and you make of it what you want:
The two team’s that met in the past Stanley Cup Final:
-Chicago went 2-3-1
-Tampa Bay was 5-1
(So the Bolts won, right?...)
The defending Cup Champ LA Kings were 5-0-2…then missed the playoffs
Columbus was 7-1! Then everyone got hurt and they missed the playoffs. (They finished 5-2-1 this year too, so they are a bit of a preseason wunderkind)
The Leafs went 5-2-1, which surely prompted parade route planning in Toronto. But they floundered, fired a coach, fired a G.M., and failed to make the playoffs.
For what it’s worth, the Stars were 4-2 in last year’s preseason (The 8 points were the most earned by any team in their Central Division)
So there you go. Clear as mud.
One final note: It involves the Montreal Canadiens goalie who just finished a season in which he was awarded more hardware than humanly conscionable.
Back in 2010 Carey Price was touched up for 4 goals on 8 shots in his preseason debut and was emphatically booed off the ice by the passionate Bell Center faithful who have a history of treating Habs goalies as god or goat, and nothing in between. That summer Montreal had traded playoff hero Jaro Halak in favor of keeping Price. It wasn’t a popular decision with the fans so when Price stumbled they let him, and the Canadiens, have it.
How did Carey Price handle it?
In his post game comments on that late September night in 2010 he told everyone to just “Relax” and “Chill Out”. Then he went out in the regular season and posted 38 wins, a 2.35 gaa, and a .923 sv%, helping him finish 7th in league MVP voting and 5th in Vezina voting for Best Goaltender.
So in the words of the man Habs fans now refer to as, “Jesus Price”…Relax, it’s only the preseason.