Going into tonight's game we kind of tabbed this game as the Dallas Stars first real big measuring stick-like test on the road playing in a building where they've had issues getting a good result out of over the last few seasons.
After tonight you can consider this first test passed for the most part as they defeat the Anaheim Ducks of Mighty California Disneyland by a 3-1 score.
Loui Eriksson opened and closed scoring for the Stars and Mike Ribeiro added the game winner, but the story as it has been for the other wins was the play of Kari Lehtonen who had just another night at the office stopping 35 of 36 shots for the win - and I'm pretty sure he rescued a kitten or two from a tree during the intermissions as he was that awesome tonight.
It's been tough to fight the urge to see how good a start Dallas has gotten off to this season - now 6-1-0 - and not want to look over at the standings board, but it's ok if you can't help but take a quick peek over and notice that the Stars sit on top of the Western conference.
Just don't peek at it too long as there is another game and another big measuring stick test against another division rival in less than 24 hours....
On Your Mark... GO! Get Set... : The Stars really needed to get off to a quick start to tonight's game and it didn't get any better than Loui scoring 13 second into the first period and Ribs picking up a second goal about six minutes later to take life out of the Anaheim crowd and life out of the Ducks for a majority of that first period. The Stars demonstrated a second quick start of sorts in the third period when Loui and Benn combined yet again for the Stars insurance marker that instantly killed any momentum the Ducks may have gotten at the end of the second period from a Corey Perry goal.
Line 1A and 1B : Coach Glen Gulutzan had stated a few times in the past couple of weeks that the Stars can't really rely on a single top line to carry the scoring in games and the Ott / Benn / Eriksson line has responded to that call by essentially being the team's top line and in turn taking some pressure off the Morrow / Ryder / Ribeiro unit. The six players on the two top lines accounted for 11 of the team's 19 shots on goal.
Not All Icing Is Enjoyable : There were two things the Stars were extra guilty of tonight that didn't help the cause and the biggest issue of the two were the amount of icings the Stars committed thanks to a combination of missed passes to try and make a quick exit out of their own zone, and making sure they didn't get pinned down in their zone for any length of time. Thankfully the Stars had a fairly ok night in on the face off dot so in some ways icing isn't a bad strategy.. as long as you win the faceoffs in your own zone - which the Stars did quite well going 15 for 28 (A somewhat respectable 54%)
Outplayed At Times, But Not Outworked : Razor Reaugh touched on it during the game broadcast and that is that while the Stars may get pinned down in their own zone at times and while they may have allowed more shots on Kari Lehtonen that what they'd probably like, most of these chances and shots being taken are coming from distance and are usually one-and-done type deals with the Stars defense doing a fairly good job boxing out opposing players from completely crashing the net. That said, the zone exit is still a sore spot for Dallas right now and needs more work, but the defensive play in front of their goal has improved compared to last year.
Paging Mr. Parros, there is a Mr. Shanahan on line one for you.. : George Parros should expect a call within the next day or so after delivering a blatant drive-by elbow to the head of Krys Barch who missed a string of shifts in the second period. It was delivered with a good two to three seconds after Barch had passed the puck away and was textbook in terms of how it came from Barch's blindside and on a player who was not expecting to be hit. Expect at the very least four games, though if Shanahan wants to prove he's going to clamp down on these kinds of dangerous hits, then anything less than 6 games will be a disappointment.
Nystrom Fitting In Nicely : As advertised when he came here, Eric Nystrom is providing a nice spark of energy with some hard physical play and good hustle. He actually led the team in hits with 4 and had a couple of shots on goal as well in the span of a little over ten minutes of ice time.
The Return Of The 40th Star Of The Game! : I won't do this all the time, just for special occasions and special players and it doesn't get any more special than Corey Perry who cost his team a goal in the first period by throwing a blatant elbow at the head of Kari Lehtonen and then tried to throw himself through the plexiglass when Nicklas Grossman gave him a slight shove at the end of the game. It's a shame because Perry has a ton of talent and wold probably be one of the NHL's go-to guys in terms of marketing the game... If he wasn't such a dirtbag player most nights.
Defending Big D Three Stars (aka: The real Three Stars Of The Game not picked by an overly biased Bryan Haward):
1 - Kari Lehtonen (DAL)
2 - Loui Eriksson (DAL)
3 - Lubomir Visnovsky (ANA)
Eriksson - 2 goals (4th & 5th of season), 1 assist (2nd of season)
Benn - 2 assists (4th & 5th of season)
Ribeiro - 1 goal (1st of season)
Ott - 1 assist (4th of season)
Goligoski - 1 assist (2nd of season)