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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' win over Blues in exhibition opener's Scott Burnside details the main topics of discussion following Tuesday's 5-3 victory

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB /

The Dallas Stars kicked off a new era with a 5-3 come-from-behind victory against the St. Louis Blues in their first of six preseason games.

It wasn't pretty. In fact for bits of this carnival of penalties, it was pretty ghastly. But here are five (plus one) notable moments and/or thoughts about the first game action of the exhibition schedule and what it means moving forward.


1) Chemistry won't just happen in one night

You know why they call it chemistry? Because it's hard. And so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the much-anticipated unveiling of the trio of captain Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and new number one right wing Alexander Radulov remains after one game very much a work in progress. The trio had a couple of decent looks playing at even strength.

Seguin bursting down the left and trying to swing a pass to Radulov coming out of the box late in the second period comes to mind as does a glorious chance by Seguin that led to a power play midway through the third period. Still, very much what you would expect from the trip especially given how little 5-on-5 play there was.

That said, kudos to Radulov who dug out the puck and made a nice diagonal pass from deep in the St. Louis zone to Julius Honka at the point that led to Benn's game-winning goal on the power play in the third period.

And, since these kinds of things are going to matter a lot to head coach Ken Hitchcock, kudos to Benn for a strong back check late in the third period to break up a Blues scoring chance after being thwarted on a good chance at the opposite end of the ice.

Chemistry takes time. Details are every night.


2) A solid step forward for Mattias Janmark

At some point, we're going to stop asking Mattias Janmark how he feels or thinks he's going to feel at every little signpost along the way as he tries to reconnect with his NHL career after missing all of last season to a rare knee injury.

Seriously, we will stop asking him. But not right now.

Not even Janmark had a real sense of how his first game action since the spring of 2016 would go. Fair to say it exceeded even modest expectations, as Janmark might have been the team's best forward scoring a first-period goal and then adding a primary assist on Brett Ritchie's third period tying goal. Janmark also took a high stick to the face that gave the Stars a four-minute power play and nearly set up another goal with the Stars on the man advantage.

"It was nice. It was fun," Janmark said. "Now I know what it feels like and it was a lot of fun."


3) About all those penalties called ...

Oh yes, there were a few penalties. Like more than 32 minutes in combined power play times for the two teams.

Still, we've lodged a formal complaint with the NHL because of the 15 minor penalties (and two double-minors) not one was for face-off violation, which given the calls, being those particular kinds of calls being made around the league early in this exhibition season leaves us feeling a little ripped off.

But seriously, we have zero problem with the carnival of calls. But the problem it does create is that it skews how head coach Ken Hitchcock and his counterpart Mike Yeo evaluate their charges especially young players who might not have seen as much ice time because of the constant special teams play.

"Probably wasn't as good as we wanted it to be but that's was a lot of penalties and a lot of stick work that we need to clean up if they're going to be calling it like that during the season," Benn said. "We've got to be a lot more careful."

The special teams war made it hard for guys like Denis Gurianov (6:05 in ice time) and Roope Hintz (7:59) to get into any kind of flow. But the kid who had the least amount of ice time for the Stars, 19-year-old Nicholas Caamano, made the most of his 5:14 scoring to tie the game at 2-2 in the second period and nearly adding another. His strong work earned him an extended stay at training camp and a place in Thursday's preseason roster in Colorado.


4) Penalty killing comes through as a plus

Given that the Stars were shorthanded for 18:44 on the night, and given that your team was dead last in the NHL a year ago while killing penalties, giving up just two power-play goals on 11 opportunities, and one of those while on a 5-on-3, is probably cause for happiness.

Now, the Blues iced a team sans top offensive stars like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko to name but a few, so let's keep things in perspective. But the facts are the facts and guys like Janmark, Devin Shore, Marc Methot and Esa Lindell who combined for about 29 minutes of shorthanded ice time Tuesday night played very well.

"I thought it was really good," Hitchcock said. "I thought for the most part that was the best part of our game. We negated a lot of their momentum and we took their skilled players out. They did the same to us."

Oh yes, we did mention chemistry, right? The Stars power play, which also wasn't very good last season, went 1-for-8 but if you're an optimist the one power-play goal was the aforementioned game-winner by Benn.


5) Best of the rest

Off the top of our head other guys that had a good night; Marc Methot was punishing on the back end, Jason Dickenson was solid and nearly scored on a nice shorthanded effort, Mike McKenna was terrific in relief of Ben Bishop stopping all 11 shots he faced including some difficult opportunities with St. Louis on the power play. Bishop was solid through two periods and, as expected, was an active participant in the passing game. And we loved Antoine Roussel getting into it with Nate Prosser in the second period gesticulating with his hands in a routine that will no doubt make it onto the American Airlines Center scoreboard a few times this season.


Quote of the night

"I thought we competed hard, I thought we played bizarre at times and then I thought we gathered it in really well at the end." -- Hitchcock, pretty much summing up the first preseason contest.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB

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