Dallas Stars: Preseason Finale Provides Boost Into 2019-20 Season

DALLAS, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 16: Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas Stars during a NHL preseason game at American Airlines Center on September 16, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 16: Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas Stars during a NHL preseason game at American Airlines Center on September 16, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

It was everything a team could want in their final dress rehearsal before the regular season. The Dallas Stars pulled off an impressive preseason win against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday and provided themselves with an impressive boost into the 2019-20 campaign.

As the Dallas Stars approached their 2019 preseason finale against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, there was a certain sense of unfulfilled expectations looming around the team.

Yes, they had only played six games up to that point and their lineups had been so scattered from game-to-game that trying to grade the “team” seemed illogical. To top it all off, it was only the preseason and the regular season had yet to take effect.

But expectations and concerns still lingered. Through six preseason contests, the Stars were 3-3-0. They had been shut out by two different opponents, scored a total of seven goals in the preseason, and hadn’t scored more than two goals in a single game. Young forwards hadn’t stepped up and forced their way onto the opening night roster, there was a lack of game-to-game consistency, and the team had yet to strike an encouraging chord.

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“We’ve got to finish off the training camp well tomorrow with our best effort,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said at practice on Friday, “to get prepared for pace of action and the game we want to play starting next Thursday.”

As a result, Saturday carried a unique vibe with it. It was another preseason game, but it almost seemed as though the Stars needed something to come from it. It was a chance to end the preseason on an encouraging note and build some momentum into the 2019-20 regular season while also answering some of their internal questions.

And while their start against the Avalanche didn’t bring much reassurance with it, their finish provided a perfect bow to the 2019 preseason.

The Dallas Stars started the game in an early hole following a Nazem Kadri power play goal midway through the first period. 22 seconds later, Andre Burakovsky tallied a goal in the slot to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, a newly-formed Dallas offensive lineup attempted to build chemistry and generate scoring chances. And while they managed to create a few (primarily from the second line of Mattias Janmark, Roope Hintz, and Alexander Radulov), they were unable to connect.

As the second period progressed, it began to feel as if the Stars were once again destined to stumble through another home preseason game. That all changed, however, when the top line combined for a goal midway through the frame. Jamie Benn gained possession of the puck near the blue line and fed a pass to Tyler Seguin in the slot, who scored on a nice move on the doorstep.

"“Obviously, emotion came into the game and I thought the first goal, Jamie went over the bench with a purpose on that faceoff and completely changed his whole game and the team’s game in one shift. The entire line was great from there on. I think emotion and physicality are very important in this game period but for our team, and especially for our captain, it’s very important.” –Jim Montgomery on Stars’ first goal"

It was just the second preseason goal scored by the Stars at the American Airlines Center and helped cut the Colorado lead in half. Dallas continued their offensive push into the second intermission, but still trailed by one with 20 minutes remaining in their final dress rehearsal.

Less than seven minutes into the third period, Joonas Donskoi scored to push the Avalanche back to a two-goal advantage. As time dwindled down and the Dallas Stars continued their search for an answer, it seemed as though their preseason was barreling towards an unfortunate ending.

But then, the top line chimed in. Joe Pavelski scored his first goal as a member of the Dallas Stars with a nice wrist shot that beat Philipp Grubauer over the shoulder. That tally pushed Dallas back within one, but time was of the essence with 3:38 remaining. In order for the Stars to have a shot at tying the game, they would have to score a third goal, a feat that they had yet to accomplish in the preseason.

With 1:33 remaining in regulation, however, Jamie Benn tallied his first goal of the preseason and second point of the game on a delayed shot to tie the game at 3-3.

The game progressed through overtime, with the Stars controlling possession for the majority of the five-minute span. A shootout was eventually required, and Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov scored in the first two rounds to help Dallas secure the 4-3 win.

It was an emotional and thrilling comeback victory that helped the Dallas Stars cap off their 2019 preseason on an encouraging note.

“This was a typical regular season game,” said Stars defenseman John Klingberg after the game. “It was a great test for us. I think we started off the game pretty good and then had some breakdowns throughout the game, but that’s going to happen. I think we were still in it pretty good, but to come back like that in the third period is something we are going to bring with us going into practice this week and getting ready for Thursday.”

For perhaps the first time in their preseason journey, the Stars played with a purpose with their backs against the wall and found a way to triumph. There were remnants of the defiant spirit that the team boasted throughout the 2018-19 season. The top line was firing on all cylinders with six combined points. Each line had its own shining moments throughout the game. Dallas looked like they were ready to take the 2019-20 season by storm and take the next step forward.

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And while that’s a lot to observe in a preseason game, it’s an encouraging sign.

“I think it’s a good feeling in this room right now going into a four-day break before the regular season starts,” said Stars goaltender Ben Bishop following the game. “For me, it was my first win in the preseason. It was nice to come in, play a song, and share some laughter. We have some time here before we play two extremely good opponents and Stanley Cup contenders. We’ll enjoy it tonight, have some fun, and then we have a big week ahead of us.”

Pavelski looked as though he had settled into the system and took control of the game at certain points alongside Benn and Seguin. Bishop worked through a shaky first period and turned aside 18 of the final 19 shots he faced. The Stars looked better with each passing period and set the tempo through the final 45 minutes of the game.

Everything seemed to click and gave a glimpse at just how resilient and impressive this Dallas Stars can be.

And while there are still things that need to be tweaked and decided between now and Thursday night when the Boston Bruins arrive to open the 2019-20 regular season, it was an admirable and important finish to the games that are supposed to prepare teams for the real thing.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Montgomery said about the Dallas offense following Monday’s practice. “We have to continue to get better. It was 25 minutes of offensive hockey. It’s good that we saw signs, but we need to get better.”

On Saturday night, the Dallas Stars gave a crowd of 13,112 fans a glimpse of what they can do. They showed how to properly respond when their backs are against the wall and dominated against a tough Central division opponent. If they were going to end their preseason play in any way, that was likely the best possible route.

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And now, the countdown to Thursday rages on. With only a handful of practices separating the Stars from opening night, Saturday night provided an ideal springboard into an important week ahead.