Dallas Stars & A Hot Start: Thoughts On A Great Opening Weekend

We are just two games into the young 2010 season for the Dallas Stars and the team is already in a much better position than last year. Last season we witnessed a Dallas Stars team that was struggling with chemistry and consistency under new coach Marc Crawford. Coupled with poor play in net, the Dallas Stars were in a big hole early in the season and never had a good chance to really pull out of it.

Now, the Stars could struggle over the next few weeks and this great start will be all for nothing. Yet you get the feeling that these two wins, back to back road victories to start the season against two amped up teams, is exactly the sort of new beginning this Dallas Stars team desperately needed.

As we are being reminded of over and over, the Stars are starting fresh without two of the long-time franchise players on the roster. While the roster is essentially the same, these changes -- along with an overall slight shift in team philosophy -- represent a fresh start for a franchise that is looking to build on an already bright future. Many feel that the Stars are really about a year from really making the turn but some feel that with the right attitude and the right execution, the 2010-2011 Dallas Stars could surprise some around the NHL.

These two games, while still representing a number of the same issues that frustrated the Stars last season, showed that this is a team that is moving forward and not focused on the past. We saw the new goaltender steal a win for the team, we witnessed Mike Ribeiro and Brad Richards once against dominating (in the same game, no less) and watched a defense that is still suffering from a number of growing pains.

More assorted -- and random -- thoughts and observations from a very exciting weekend for Dallas Stars hockey.

More energy, more excitement.

I'm not going to get too much more into this just yet (TEASER), but you definitely get the sense that the uptempo and aggressive style of the Stars we expected last season was finally on full display this weekend. This new form of Dallas Stars hockey is all at once good and bad, as the Stars were certainly able to dominate the ice at times while also allowing a completely inordinate amount of shots. This team will have to find a happy medium if they wish to be successful over the course of the season.

Mike Ribeiro is back. Oh yes, he is back.

Brad wrote about it during the preseason and training camp. Mike Heika tried to tell us it was true. Heck, even during the preseason games Ribeiro was producing. Yet I never was going to believe it until I saw it with my own eyes and this weekend I found out that yes -- it's true -- Mike Ribeiro is back.

Last season it seemed that Ribiero was just not suited for Crawford's system and he would purposefully try to slow the game down when he was on the ice. Add to that his penchant for overstaying his shifts and you had a #2 center who was essentially holding up the rest of the team from progressing under Marc Crawford. This led to a number of trade rumors throughout the season and over the summer; if Ribeiro wasn't going to fit with this team, then perhaps it would be best for the Stars to try and get some value for a player making $5 million a season.

I know for a fact that Ribeiro knew about the trade talks and I was curious to see how he would respond headed into the season. He did exactly what he needed to do to take that next step in his career. Ribeiro, despite his playmaking and passing ability, has taken on the reputation of a player that is selfish, soft and at times a "cheap" hockey player. This summer, Ribeiro embraced his role as a veteran leader on the Stars and is now setting the example for the rest of the team.

Not only is Ribeiro back to his playmaking ways, but he's improved in every other aspect of his game as well. I'm seeing a center that is more focused defensively, that is playing with much more speed on the ice and one that is -- astoundingly -- much more physical than we've ever seen him before.

More importantly, he's loving the game of hockey again. You can see it in the way he's playing the puck, in his mannerisms and in the way he approached the shootout last night. He's confident in himself and for a Dallas Stars team that is going to have to rely on the top two lines to carry them throughout the season, there is nothing more important for the future of this franchse than having Ribeiro back to his old ways.

Let the "trade Brenden Morrow" talks cease.

Combined with Ribeiro's revitalization, we've also seen Brenden Morrow once again become the player that we all idolized and adored just two years ago. We said all along that it was going to take at least a year for Morrow to truly recover from his torn ACL. While some were upset with his Olympics comments last season, there's no doubt that Morrow was never able to truly put together the sort of effort we've come to expect.

Perhaps it was the overall atmosphere in the locker room and around the team that was holding him back a bit. With Turco and Modano unhappy and knowing they were on their way out, Morrow had to struggle with not only his overall health but with a team that was never truly a "team". With those two personalities not fully on board, it's no wonder Morrow had issues being the captain we all expect him to be.

It's also tough to say that's the exact issue anyways, but now we are seeing a Brenden Morrow that is in complete control of the Dallas Stars and once again leading the team by his effort on the ice. He's not a "rah rah" guy, but a player that sets the example by his performance in games. If Morrow is struggling, then the Dallas Stars are struggling. It's no coincidence that Morrow is having a great start to go along with two great wins by the Stars.

Yeah, I'm liking this Adam Burish guy.

This past June while covering the Stanley Cup Finals for NBC, I had the chance to talk with Adam Burish on a number of occasions. He was frustrated with his role with the team although he understood why the Blackhawks were playing the lineup they were; he was just happy his team was winning. But this was a guy who knew he was much more than just an aggressor and agitator and that he had much more to offer a hockey team if given the chance. He's also a guy who you will like as soon as you talk to him; he's just a genuinely nice guy.

When he signed with the Stars I knew that this could be one of the pieces they were missing. The Stars still need another defensemen to take the pressure of Stephane Robidas but with the depth at forward, all this team was really needing was a right-handed winger with speed. Burish is also the type of forward who will work hard in the corners, who can create havoc up front and is much better defensively than he's given credit for.

Through two games we're seeing just how much he gives the Stars. His energy feeds Morrow and Ribeiro and he instantly makes that line a defensive strength and not just an offensive powerhouse. His speed allows him to instantly become one of the best back-checkers on the team and his hard work has already created multiple scoring chances that his linemates have cashed in on. It's only a matter of time before he gets on the scoreboard his own.

If you aren't going to block any shots, get out of the dang way.

The Stars are going to allow a lot of shots this season. Get used to that. This system is going to leave the ice open, especially from the points, and team are going to be able to get plenty of shots off. That's just the reality of the situation this team is in. That doesn't mean, however, that the Stars should just allow shots from afar to get through all the bodies in front of the net.

Too many times this season we've seen Kari Lehtonen having to fight off screens in front in order to stop a shot from the point. The forwards for the Stars need to find a better way to get to the shots from the points and if those shots are getting through, minimize the amount of bodies in front of the net so Lehtonen can actually make the saves.

And if you can't actually clear out the front of the net, don't be the actual player screening your own goaltender.

Lesson over.

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