Tonight wasn't pretty to watch by any stretch and in fact it was a downright gritty road effort that proved to be just enough for the Dallas Stars to hang on for a 2-1 over the Ottawa Senators. If you are a fan of slow, deliberate and at times overly cautious hockey though, this was nirvana for you as both teams made sure to keep things as simple as possible and not commit too many errors.
If you did miss this game, then outside of seeing the Stars pick up a rare two points on the road you really didn't miss much. The game itself was pretty unremarkable, but there is some hope that momentum can be gained from a win like this where the team offense really wasn't there but the defense stepped up and played as good a shutdown type game as they have all season.
They were never outplayed at any point of the game except maybe for the last five minutes of the third period where the Sens finally found some sense of urgency in their own game. The Stars scored first with a Trevor Daley goal in the second period, which as Brad had mentioned the other day on this very blog is always key to a team's success (Stars now 9 and 2 in games where they score first, by the way.)
Combine that with the great defense the Stars displayed tonight and you most times have the recipe for a good road win.
More thoughts on the game and the three stars after the jump.
- Andrew Raycroft who got the start tonight and the defensive unit as a whole did a very nice job playing in front of him. Ryan Shannon was the only Senator player to pick up more than three shots on goal for the game and overall it was the first time the Stars this season limited a team to under 20 shots in a game. The defense also did well to keep costly turnovers to a minimum. The only gripe that I can have with the defense tonight is why are they not as tenacious around their net as they were tonight when Kari Lehtonen is in goal?
- My personal apologies to Karlis Skrastins for jinxing him. One day after giving him an 'up' rating and commenting that it had been a long time since we could say "Wow, Karlis should have played that better than he did" he goes and makes a weak flailing attempt to block a floating Ryan Shannon shot from the Stars blue line which in turn beat a partially screened Raycroft and allowed the Sens to get on the scoreboard.
- The Stars are now 3 for 33 in their last nine games on the powerplay. Zero for four tonight although they did generate nine shots with the man advantage so it's not like it's comatose, it's just in a deep winter sleep at this point. Tonight was a rare Stars broadcast on TSN in Canada and it was quite amusing to hear the broadcast team wonder more than once over how a team that can throw out the likes of Brad Richards, Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson on it's powerplay can end up being so poor on the road. We Stars fans would like to know the answer to that one as well.
- Not exactly the most physical game the Stars had, but compared to the previous game on Monday they weren't dominated by any means either. The usual suspects - Morrow, Jamie Benn and Stephane Robidas - led the way for the Stars in that department and all three of them had great efforts. Brandon Segal also picked up his physical play as well tonight and was much more noticeable on the ice and that is hopefully a good sign of things to come from him.
- Part of the offensive woes this team has is simply due to missing wide open cages. Typically Mike Ribiero missed half an open net in the first period and Steve Ott floated a puck high and almost over the glass with Sens goalie Pascal Leclaire down and out at the side of his net. Dallas got away with it tonight, but in past games we've seen where the Stars failing to capitalize on scoring chances like that have come back to haunt them. Maybe it's a case of bad luck, maybe players are gripping the stick too tight... But whatever the case is, here is hoping the Stars figure out what the issue is and start burying the great chances they've been getting in each game.
- Loui Eriksson hasn't scored a goal since November 5th when he had his four point night against the Coyotes. Now to his credit he did have a five game point streak going until tonight, but of all the top players, it would sure be nice to see him rolling again.
- Brad Richards also had a good game, added an assist to Daley's opening goal and kept himself on pace to stay in the NHL's top ten scoring leaders. Ott also played well and it's almost a shame he didn't score that goal he completely missed as it would have been a nice reward for the hard work he put in all game.
- Faceoffs continues to be an issue for the team overall though they did win a couple of key faceoffs late in the game when the Sens started pressing for the equalizer. Strangely enough, Richards and Ott had off nights in the circle, but considering they were usually going up against Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher who are both pretty proficient on the dot it's a little understandable.