The Dallas Morning News
Heika: Methot-Johns pairing makes Stars defense formidable,
Defense-first veteran allows new partner to take more chances
Marc Methot was supposed to be the perfect partner for John Klingberg.
And why not? The veteran defenseman had already offered a great supporting role to two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson in Ottawa and knew a thing or two about playing with a skilled partner.
But while Methot was a nifty summer acquisition for general manager Jim Nill (via Vegas), knee surgery in November knocked Methot out for half of the season and created a situation in which Klingberg and partner Esa Lindell are now pretty much unbreakable. So with Methot finally returning Friday, the Stars decided that maybe the veteran blue-line buddy might be a nice fit with Stephen Johns.
The right-handed Johns has been vacillating from left side to right side with Dillon Heatherington and Julius Honka, all the while trying to find his own game in his first full season as an NHL regular. So giving the 25-year-old a strong shoulder to lean on might be a good idea.
Methot played 14:53 Friday in a 2-1 win over St. Louis and registered an assist. Johns, meanwhile, played 18:15, including a team-high 4:29 on the penalty kill. He had a goal and four blocked shots.
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said he was impressed with the natural chemistry.
“He and Johns are a tough pair to play against. That’s not a lot of fun,” Hitchcock said of a pair that he had on the ice late in a one-goal game. “Methot allows Johnsy to get up on the attack more, which is what we’re going to need moving forward. He’s a big add. We’re a lot better hockey club when he’s in our lineup.”
While Johns isn’t seen as a speedy skilled defenseman, he can skate and he has a heck of a shot. Johns unleashed a slap shot from the boards in the third period that ended up being his eighth goal of the season and the game-winner against the Blues. A big shot is a nice surprise to have on a pair that first sends an aura of bone-rattling hits.
“I’m going to back up whoever I’m playing with, and I know that he likes to jump up every once in a while,” Methot said of Johns. “He’s got a great shot, and I told him to just play his game. It’s not like I need to mentor the guy or anything, he’s a fantastic player. He made it real easy for me to jump in. He works really hard, he’s strong, and it make a big difference when you have a reliable defenseman as a partner.”
It also could make a big difference to the Stars if they have two shutdown pairs. While the unexpected duo of Dan Hamhuis-Greg Pateryn has carried a lot of the defending weight this season, Methot-Johns could potentially slide up to the second pair if they keep improving. That could give Dallas a playoff-ready defense.
“You’ve got to be careful evaluating that,” Hitchcock said of Methot’s second game since Nov. 6. “This is energy and excitement. By the time we get into California and that back-to-back, he’ll be into the grind so we’ll get a better look at what he’s like energy and fitness-wise. The best part is that he’s been skating for 18 of the last 21 days so he’s had lots of work on the ice and he looks, cardio-wise, like he can keep up.”
Methot has been working hard on his return and said he feels he’s earned his fitness the old-fashioned way. He also knows that playing at San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles over the next five days will be a good test as to where he really sits. Plus, it will get him out on the road for the first time in several months.
“I am looking forward to it,” said Methot, whose wife just had a baby. “My wife’s fantastic, and pretty much has taken every single night shift to allow me to sleep and heal up. Things have been good, but I’m finally back to where I can get on the road and have some dinners with the guys, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Who knows, that chemistry he carries could help a lot more players than just Johns.