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Five thoughts on Stars-Canadiens
Dallas closed out the last game before the Christmas break with a 4-2 win
My pal, Owen Newkirk, bullied (as nicely as possible) earlier this week about posting some observations from Stars games.
So, it was a Friday night, I was watching the game, and I gave into peer pressure. The Stars won 4-2.
Here are my thoughts on Stars-Canadiens, it’s locked for paid subscribers only for 24 hours. Thank you again for reading.
1. The Stars initial plan involved Wyatt Johnston playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.
While Dallas never wanted him to go back to Windsor, the Stars were willing to embrace him playing with his peers at the Under-20 tournament.
And if that were the case, Johnston would have been playing for Canada in a pre-tournament game on Friday.
Instead he was scoring game-winning goals for his NHL club and is an irreplaceable piece of the Stars roster.
Before we get to Johnston’s role, let’s talk about the game-winning goal itself.
Johnston takes the initial shot off a nice feed from Suter, and after a big rebound, with a ton of chaos, the rookie finds the puck.
I’m based in the Detroit area and went to watch Johnston play a couple times in the OHL last season with Windsor.
He was dominant, he controlled games and every shift was either about Johnston or waiting for him to seize the moment.
In the NHL he’s found a groove to impact games, even though true dominance is still likely at least a couple of years away.
One thing I love about Johnston’s game is his awareness. He reads plays well, and puts himself in position to make the next play, even before something has developed. Similar to what happened on the game winner Friday.
2. When it comes to a 2-on-1 a goalie wants to see the initial shot.
Defenders are taught to take away the pass and allow the goalie to focus on the shot.
And that’s what Ryan Suter does here.
It’s a good shot, not discrediting that, but it’s a situation where the goalie has been put in the position to make the save.
As Erin pointed out on Twitter, it’s the second straight game that Jake Oettinger had been beaten on a 2-on-1 where the defender has allowed him to see the shot.
It’s hard to nit-pick on Oettinger, it really doesn’t feel fair, but in a weird way he’s earned the nit-picking. His play has been that good that we have to find 2-on-1 rushes as an example of a fault in his game.
3. One of the things I like about how the Star power play has evolved is the acceptance that Jason Robertson can run the power play from the half wall.
As someone who covered the Texas Stars in the AHL for a while, it reminds me of how Travis Morin dominated that league and picked apart defenses with the man advantage.
And that’s what happened when Dallas got back into the game at 15:19 of the second period.
Robertson was given time and space, was allowed to run the offense, and found the ideal tip with Roope Hintz in front of the net (and Joe Pavelski on the backdoor for good measure).
I love this play by Hintz and Pavelski. Hintz, in the middle of the slot, has flipped his stick over for a more ideal tip, while Pavelski you can see by the back post in a position to corral and shoot on anything that gets through.
Pavelski’s positioning is never needed, Hintz’ tip is enough, but it’s the finer details like that which define a dangerous power play.
And then in the third period, the Stars did it again.
This time Robertson rotates to the top of the attacking formation, but his shot once again is tipped by Hintz who finds a way to create confusion with the tip.
4. Jake Allen is the only NHL goalie with a catching glove and blocker that aren’t made by the same equipment provider.
His blocker matches his pads, it’s built by True, while his catching glove is built by Brian’s.
Allen told me earlier this season that he’s just comfortable with the Brian’s catching glove, and he was happy with the fact that the Brian’s was able to to build a glove that matched his True pads and blocker.
Just a bit of goalie nerd stuff before the holiday break, enjoy.
5. I’m not sure if Martin St. Louis is a good head coach.
He’s a strong talent developer, especially on an individual basis, but for me the jury is still out on whether he’s the right head coach in Montreal.
The good news for St. Louis, and Montreal, is that they aren’t expected to compete for at least a couple seasons.
It gives St. Louis a chance to develop some individual talent, especially with the forwards, and prove whether or not he’s qualified for a true head coaching job in the NHL.
When St. Louis was hired there was some pushback within the coaching community about how he essentially leap-frogged other deserving candidates, coaches that had the resume for the job, while St. Louis had never been a head coach.
I don’t mind St. Louis in a head-coaching role for now, but if it’s going to stick he’s going to have to prove to me (and the Canadiens) that he can be more than a mentor for young skilled forwards.