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Five thoughts on Stars-Red Wings
Dallas won in overtime 3-2
The Dallas Stars defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in overtime on Saturday.
These are my thoughts from a game, which happened to feature the two teams this site covers the most.
These observations are for paid subscribers for 24 hours. They will be unlocked tomorrow for everyone else.
1. Nils Lundkvist got the overtime winner.
The young defenseman the Stars traded a first-round pick for in the offseason (and Jim Nill treats first-rounders like gold), was playing his 50th career NHL game and is giving me flashbacks to Julius Honka.
Wait, please don’t unsubscribe, hear me out.
Honka went through the early learning curve, we saw the healthy scratches and the occasional promise, and we all waited with bated breath for him to have the breakthrough which I was certain he would have.
That breakthrough, save for an overtime piece of magic with Gemel Smith against Mike Smith in 2017, never happened.
Lundkvist has faced similar hurdles and isn’t falling flat on his face. Honka would fall flat when given those chances and then would let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where his flaws came to define him.
Lundkvist has taken a healthy scratch, ate it as pridefully as he could, and has responded with goals now in back-to-back games.
He’s been better defensively, which is what the coaches were hoping for, but he hasn’t forgotten the skill that made Nill shell out a first-rounder to get him to Texas.
I thought about this before he scored an overtime winner, I swear.
The overtime goal, finding the open space from Mason Marchment (who was great all game on Saturday) is just a nice exclamation point to make this the lead point on observations.
That goal, for what it’s worth, started with a defensive play when he stalled Dylan Larkin at the blue line.
(Not sure why this screen grab is so blurry, sorry)
And then Lundkvist was the recipient of what can only be described as the 2015-16 Dallas Stars defense on the 2-on-1.
2. David Perron played his 1,000th NHL game and scored.
Storybook stuff, right?
Perron’s season and decision to sign with Detroit are also an important story of this season.
Perron, 34, signed a two-year deal with Detroit understanding he likely wouldn’t be around to see the payoff. He’s the veteran brought in to help insulate younger players and the current Yzerplan isn’t built with true glory in mind this season or next.
Perron’s signing is built with a modified no-trade clause, a 10-team list, but both sides new that this deal came with an escape hatch and a parachute that could benefit both sides in the end.
Instead Detroit has been ahead of the curve in Derek Lalonde’s first season.
And based on current points percentage and current pace, Detroit would make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Here are the current Atlantic Division standings.
I’m not sure if they’ll still be in this place in the spring, but when you look at Detroit’s in-game structure, which had to be rebuilt by Lalonde, and the fact the team has continued to tread water while losing players left and right to injury, Perron may have made a better bet on Detroit than anyone realized.
3. If you are a Red Wings, fan you’ve likely never let the Dylan Larkin-Jamie Benn captains’ beef die.
The fact Benn ended Larkin’s season with a cross-check to the neck two seasons ago will always be a talking point for Red Wings media when the Stars end up on the schedule. For the media contingent on the other side, it’s a play that has been loss to history.
Larkin was asked before this game about whether he’d have retribution in mind for Benn, and the Red Wings captain simply went with a very smart hockey cliche “That hockey players have long memories.”
Which is fine, it’s sellable on a broadcast sideline report, but it’s a lie.
Larkin knows he’s not going to have physical retribution against Benn, it’s a battle he would not win, and frankly it’s not worth it for a younger player that will be an unrestricted free agent this summer — and Larkin will get PAID after his start to this season.
Larkin’s best case of retribution, if you can even call it that, against Benn is scoring goals when Detroit plays Dallas.
And that’s what he did in the first period, hammering a shot past Jake Oettinger on the rush after he joined the play on a change.
Benn, fittingly, scored himself in the second period on the power play to give Dallas a temporary 2-1 lead.
4. The goal by Larkin, on a second watch, is a perfect example of how both Miro Heiskanen and Moritz Seider can drive their offense even on plays where they don’t touch the puck.
On a Dallas buildup, Heiskanen took the middle of the ice and was driving to the net when a pass was intercepted to spring Austin Czarnik the other way.
Seider now takes his turn simply skating through the middle of the ice.
It’s simple, by taking this route and simply taking space the Stars defenders have to respect Seider’s route.
And that creates the opening where Larkin jumps into the play for the hammer.
It’s a good reminder of what strong-skating defenseman can bring to transition offense, even when they don’t touch the puck.
5. Jason, who is a subscriber to this site, made sure we dug up an old (favorite?) Twitter bit when Denis Gurianov scored in the first period to make it 1-1.
Gurianov’s career has been frustrating to cover and discuss.
He’s a sharp human, like actually smart and not hockey player smart, and even puts in the time to learn about flaws in his game. He goes to coaches for critiques unprompted.
But the lessons rarely take.
As I said on Friday in the Spits & Suds podcast, I’m sick of moral victories when it comes to Gurianov’s career. He was good the other night against Ottawa, which is fine, but unless he’s going to score goals I can’t justify his cost against the salary cap or role within the Stars system.
If you’re a Stars fan, you should be happy with Gurianov scoring on Saturday, and it was a good goal, too!
But I also don’t know how many times you can write, “Maybe this will be the spark that gets Gurianov going!??!?” before it becomes time to just douse the flame and move on and build a new fire somewhere else.