I didn't wait until February to see a game at the American Airlines Center this season, taking advantage of the Ott-toberfest promotion and scoring some prime seats at the Platinum level in section 202. It was incredible getting to witness the Stars get off to their best start in 14 years, despite some obvious issues that this team needs to correct if it hopes to continue this good run.
I'll be following up with a separate post on the actual game presentation at the AAC, but I wanted to share my brief thoughts and observations from a very entertaining win over a pretty good Blues team. Folllow the jump...
- Announced crowd was just under 12,000, the smallest crowd ever to watch the Stars at the AAC. The Texas Rangers win over the Yankees, a game which ended just 30 minutes before the drop of the puck, was obviously the main reason for the low attendance. Later in the game, I saw perhaps 500 or so fans file into their seats wearing Rangers jerseys and t-shirts, so it was obvious that a lot of fans simply just couldn't attend both games. Can't blame them.
- What was great was how, especially in the third period, the Stars fans that were in attendance were really into the game and were able to get the AAC rocking at times. There was a group of fans by the Blues goal that endlessly taunted Ty Conklin, which was amusing. What's great to see is how the Stars fans have now become a knowledgeable hockey fan base, which certainly wasn't the case in the mid to late 1990's.
- We can talk about Adam Burish, the revitalized Mike Ribeiro or the experience of the team in Crawford's system until we're blue in the face. Yet there is absolutely zero doubt why the Stars are unbeaten to start the season -- Kari Lehtonen. He's not flashy, although he did make some big saves at times. But he's so big, so positionally sound, that the Blues had serious trouble getting him to open the net by moving laterally. This team would likely be 1-2-1 last season if they had played the same way, yet Lehtonen is giving the Stars reason to believe in themselves.
- Brad Richards is absolutely amazing. He's great to watch on television, but you never realize how good he is until you get the chance to see him play away from the puck as well. On Loui Eriksson's goal, Neal and Eriksson were cycling the puck in the corner and Richards was able to sneak around and get position behind the net. As soon as the puck is on his stick he draws Blues players, then makes a lind pass back to Eriksson who is wide open in front of the net. Simply amazing.
- I was all over Matt Niskanen to start the game. I was behind the Stars goal for the first and third periods, getting a great view of the Stars' viewpoint as they move out of the zone. Niskanen couldn't make a pass to save his life and it was becoming more and more frustrating as the game wore on.
Then he seemed to flip a switch. In the third period, he played very solid defense and made sure passes out of the zone that actually hit the tape of a teammate. It was like a completely different player put on his pads and jersey in the 2nd intermission, which is perhaps most frustrating of all. This proves this is all in his head; he has incredibly ability and potential and if the Stars can just find a way to get him to play consistently, this team will be going places.
- Toby Petersen is perhaps the most underrated player on this team. He's physical, he can create scoring chances and he's perhaps the best backchecking forward on the Stars. In the third period he made several big plays tracking the puck back on defense and breaking up prime scoring chances for the Blues. He's now the third-oldest player on the team and he's showing to have a veteran savvy about him we haven't really seen before.
- Nicklas Grossman is a monster and he's on the verge of breaking out into one of the top defensmen in the NHL. I'm close to saying he's the best defenseman on the Stars, if it weren't for two simply boneheaded penalties in the third period. Other than that, I can't express enough how impressive this young man is; he's found his physicality and he's learned how important it is to establish himself in front of the net. He may actually be that physical presence on defense the Stars have been lacking for a very long time.
- Trevor Daley...I have no words. I really don't. Is it time for Severin Blindenbacher yet? Perhaps he would actually shoot the puck, or make a decent pass, or not take out his own goaltender. Absolutely the most frustrating player on the Dallas Stars right now.
- Finally, just wanted to say how great it was to see a number of young Stars fans get to watch their first game live. Many families took advantage of the Ott-toberfest promotion and there were a number of kids out there in the platinum sections. There were very into the game and they loved seeing a big win.