Last year it seemed that even in games they maybe deserved to, the Dallas Stars found ways to lose. This year in the first four games of the season you could argue that there have been two, maybe even three of the four games that the Stars by all rights probably shouldn't have won and yet have found a way to win each of them.
Such as the case again tonight against the St. Louis Blues where the Stars started very slow out of the gate and fell behind quickly 2-0 but battled back slowly, got the game back to even in the second period and then after a frantic back and forth overtime period, pulled out a fine shootout effort and defeated the Blues 3-2 in a shootout.
The Stars now have a record of 4-0-0 to start the 2010 / 2011 season. Even the most diehard of Dallas Stars fan couldn't have seen this coming before the season started.
In a way, tonights game really mirrored the opening night game in New Jersey... at least the start of it did anyway. The Stars had two bad mental lapses defenseivly which the Blues took advantage of with goals from Patrik Berglund and Andy McDonald on the powerplay less than four minutes into the game. After that, the Stars settled down a little and got somewhat better defensively - or at least not quite as sloppy - and with about two minutes to go in the first, James Neal hammered in a goal that Blues backup Ty Conklin got a piece of, but not all of it.
Throw in a snipe-job of a Loui Eriksson goal in the later half of the second period - one that came after a series of great scoring chances for the Blues - and it was a tie game. The third saw yet more scoring chances for the Blues, but Kari Lehtonen was once again very good in net and to their credit the Stars defense did a better job limiting second chances in keeping the game tied.
Overtime is actually where the Stars really played well and had at least five brilliant chances to end it if not for the just as fine work of Conklin. In the shootout, all thee Stars shooters: Brad Richards, Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro all scored to give the Stars the win.
Again, not the prettiest way to win a game by any stretch but then they don't exactly award style points in the NHL, so...
More thoughts on the game and the players in it after the jump.
- Brad Richards at this very moment in time as of posting is tied with Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks as your leading scorer in the NHL with two goals and seven assists. Just thought you'd want to know...
- This is now the second game this season in which you can for sure say that Kari Lehtonen is the reason the Stars got any kind of positive result. The Blues outshot the Stars 43-25 in the game and while it's true that Kari did need a little help from a couple of posts, he once again was outstanding time and time again. It's so very early in the season so I want to temper my enthusiasm over Lehtonen, but I bet he's playing beyond what even Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk thought he could bring to the team.
- At some point, Andrew Raycroft needs to get into a game because we know Kari can't play 82 straight and the longer the Stars keep Raycroft off the ice, the more they risk throwing in a goalie who won't be anywhere near ready to play a full sixty minutes and at the rate the Stars defense is giving up shots and scoring chances, it could be a very bad night. I'm a firm believe that goalies should never go more than a couple of weeks without some actual game action and it's now been three weeks since Andrew has been in a game. That whole thought does have me worried a little.
- Speaking of worried... The Stars were grossly outshot again tonight and it got worse as the game went on. I think the two biggest factors as to why is the Stars lack of ability to stop teams from cycling the puck in their own zone. Positionally they are pretty solid and they have been doing a good job - for the most part - in front of their net clearing away rebounds and tying up opposing players trying to get second chances. The other big factor is the giveaways in which Dallas had 11 as opposed to St. Louis' five and while I don't have the numbers in front of me, I'd be willing to bet 8 or 9 of those turnovers that the Stars committed were in their own zone or in the neutral zone. You gotta take care of the puck when you have it
- The Stars top two lines have been excellent so far, but it's time to start seeing some production out of the bottom two lines. Bryan Sutherby was mostly invisible, Tom Wandell as well, Steve Ott didn't register a shot in the game (but was credited with six hits, so we'll give him that), Brandon Segal is reminding us all why the Kings felt he needed to be put on waivers and Krys Barch is seriously making me think about bringing back our "38th Star" program that we had going on last season as the worst player on the ice for either team. These guys don't need to be even close to the best players on the ice for the Stars on a nightly basis, but they do need to play better than they have been.
- For all the great work Kari did in the game tonight, the talk after the game will be that amazing glove save off a Ribeiro shot that Ty Conklin had late in the second period with the Stars up on a brief two-man advantage. it's your early leader for save of the year, although I sure at some point it will be topped.
- Special teams were a mixed bag for the Stars again. 0 for 5 on the power play, although they did manage five shots in those four chances and there were a couple of times the moved the puck well to generate scoring chances. The Stars PK only allowed one goal on six opportunities, so it's an improvement. They do deserve kudos for being very strong during a 5 on 3 PK that was just a little over a minute long and saw only one shot allowed in that time. Overall, it's getting better...
Your DBD Three Stars of the night...
1st Star: Kari Lehtonen (DAL) - It could have been a much more lopsided score in the first half of the game if not for his work.
2nd Star: Loui Eriksson (DAL) - He now has four goals on seven shots this season and all four goals have been scored with pretty much pinpoint accuracy. Added an assist and the shootout winner for good measure.
3rd Star: Andy McDonald (STL) - Much like Brenden Morrow in Dallas, McDonald has re-found his game this season. Very solid effort from him tonight.