What does preseason hockey really tell you about the team? Usually, not a lot if I am being honest. For most players it is an opportunity to earn a spot and show why they deserve to be on the main team’s roster. For the veterans who do play in these games, it is about getting their legs back and/or shaking the rust off, especially if they had an injury in the prior season.
This being said, the Stars had their big guns playing while the Panthers only had a few semi-recognizable names in their lineup.
The Stars started the game with Seguin, who is coming off of an injury, along with Jamie Benn, Radulov, Suter, Pavelski, and Oettinger in net. And all of those guys were getting regular shifts as if it were a mid-season game and not a mean nothing preseason game.
The Panthers on the other hand did not dress Barkov, Huberdeau, Duclair, Reinhart, Knight, or Bobrovsky. This is giving players like Tippett, Marchment, Noel, and Lammikko an opportunity to skate against the Stars top line and prove why they deserve to be NHL regulars on opening night.
And believe it or not, these guys did just that. Marchment capitalized early (even though it was initially thought to be Tippett’s goal) when Jamie Benn took a questionable penalty in the first few minutes of the game. While it may not have been Marchment’s prettiest goal, he was in the right place and not afraid to go to the net. Something historically the Panther’s struggled with.
Kids, always remember, nobody asks you how, they ask how many. Don’t play soft hockey looking for McDavid highlight reel goals. Go to the dirty areas, take a beating, and that is how you will make it to the next level.
The best part of this game was seeing how the Panther’s young guys were able to compete and respond against the big boys of Dallas.
Serron Noel was extremely impressive considering he is just 21 years old and only has 8 professional hockey games total, none of which are at the NHL level. Do you expect a guy like Noel who was playing for the Oshawa Generals less than 2 seasons ago to be tying the game and then scoring an OT winner against NHL veterans? But Noel did just that. He was buzzing around the net, going to the dirty areas to make plays, and he was rewarded. The kid has a bright future with the organization in my opinion.
Owen Tippett was another Panther’s draft pick who everyone was writing off as a first round bust. After breaking in to the league in 2017 and getting 7 games with the Panthers, he finally got his first full season last year with Coach Q. While his numbers weren’t mind-blowing, he has been working his bag off to show that he is not just an NHL regular, but a top 6 player. Last night he played physical recording 3 hits, found the open spaces, and generated plays. I think his contributions will be worthwhile even as a 3rd line guy. He is another reason the Panthers can go far this year; he provides that extra depth which the Cats lacked in before.
For being an undersized player and a later round draft pick, Logan Hutsko made a case for why he deserves to be in the NHL. The 22-year-old had the 2nd goal, and despite it being a fluke type goal, he just always seemed to be in the right place and generating offense. Hutsko had 4 shots last night and was constantly having his name called out by the TV announcers. Looking at his stats, Hutsko was a point per game type player at Boston College and I think this kid’s game can translate that type of skill to the NHL as well. He has a great upside, especially for being a 3rd round draft pick.
Another player I was very impressed with was the career journeyman, Christopher Gibson. Gibby has been an up-and-down guy, never getting more than 8 games in the NHL in a season. He has totaled 16 NHL games posting a career 3.33 GAA and .901 SV%. But that is 16 more NHL games than I have played, so who am I to run my mouth.
Gibson looked calm, cool, and collected stopping all 15 shots in the first period. And that includes as 2-on-1 with Tyler Seguin getting a low pass in prime-time scoring position. The most impressive part of Gibson’s game was his ability to swallow up pucks and avoid giving rebounds and the ability to bang in those dirty goals.
Gibson only gave up 3 goals on 38 shots in a game where Dallas should have easily won. The first goal was a fluky bounce where the “Warthog” (Biz likes that) got a hold of a 3rd rebound that seemed to squeak around the front of the net. A guy of Radulov’s size and skill will not miss an opportunity like that.
The next goal was another loose puck scramble in front of the net while Dallas was on the PP. It hit Robertson square in the nuts (again nobody asks how, they ask how many – take the puck to the nuts to score) and dropped right to his stick for a goal. As a goalie, there is not much you can do and that is why they call it a bad bounce.
The third goal was more on the Panthers players than on the tendy. A turnover in the neutral zone on top of a bad defensive change led to Jamie Benn being on a 2-on-1 and burying the biscuit 5-hole on Gibson. Jamie Benn is a top player in this league and even though people talk about his power forward and physical style of play, you still need show respect for his goal scoring abilities.
Gibson continued to stay strong in a shootout which included a lineup of Jason Robertson, Tyler Seguin, and the Warthog – Biz likes that. He stopped all 3 shots which allowed Serron Noel to be the hero once again in this game and get the shootout winner.
This goes to show that when the Panthers pull the trigger to buy out Boobtitsky, there will be a solid backup for Knight in either Montembeault or Gibson. I just can’t wait for the Yandle cap hit to fall and the NHL salary cap to rise so the Panther’s can buyout the overpaid tender and not suffer too badly for it.
On the reverse side, the goalie of the future for the Dallas Stars, Jake Oettinger, did not have a great performance. On the first goal it looked like he let a flutter puck past from Owen Tippett, but then again, if Tippett’s shot was redirected by Marchment, then there is a good reason it went in the net.
Early in the 2nd, Logan Hutsko snuck one past Oettinger on a shot from the top of the circles. It seemed to hit Oettinger and slip by him once again. This is typically a puck you would expect an NHL #1 goalie to stop, but it is nice for a young 22-year-old draft pick to get a goal and try to earn a full-time roster spot.
The game tying goal came with only 44 seconds left in the third period and was another goal on the softer side for an NHL starter. While yes, it was a scramble in front of the net, it was just one more squeaker that seemed to sneak through the big man.
As mentioned, it was incredible to see the Panther’s young prospects not just keep up with seasoned veterans like Benn, Seguin, and Radulov; but comeback on them to tie the game late and win in a shootout.
Players like Benn and Seguin are definitely household names and only 2 years removed from a Stanley Cup final; whereas, outside of Florida, who has heard of Owen Tippett, Mason Marchment, or Serron Noel?
Hopefully this is not just typical “preseason hockey” and the Panthers, with guys like Barkov and Huberdeau in the lineup, can make that push to get over the hump and become a true Cup contender. Only time will tell as we have just a little over 2 weeks until the season opens up.
In Zito we trust!