The Dallas Stars entered Saturday's game with the Los Angeles Kings needing a win, not just to move back to the top of the Pacific Division standings, but to help get the taste of the debacle in San Jose out of their mouths. In San Jose, Richard Bachman gave us a teaser of what he's capable of in mop-up duty in the third period. He played well enough to earn himself his first NHL start, in a later-than-late start at the Staples Center.
The Kings, donning their retro "Forum Blue and Gold" uniforms on a night they honored Bernie Nichols, held a lengthy pre-game ceremony that pushed the puck drop to a 9:50 start in the central time zone. If that isn't reason enough to cheer for next season's NHL alignment, I don't know what is. Half an hour after midnight, when the game finally ended, the Stars skated off the ice victorious and Richard Bachman had his first NHL win under his belt.
Bachman Comes Up Big
This season, when Kari Lehtonen isn't between the pipes, it's hard to not notice. A team that relies so heavily on strong play from their netminder simply can't survive when they get less than stellar netminder. While that isn't always fair to backup Andrew Raycroft, it's the nature of the position. Raycroft's recent play in Lehtonen's absence left something to be desired, allowing Bachman to take advantage of an opportunity to step up and have a big game.
In his first NHL start, the rookie goaltender looked calm, collected, and confident. Simply put, the Stars wouldn't have won this game without him. He stopped 26 of 27 shots on the night, with the only puck that found a way past him being a shorthanded goal by Brad Richardson on a 2-on-0 caused by Michael Ryder's miscue at the point. In the post-game show, Brent Severyn said that he wouldn't be surprised to see Bachman get the call in New York on Tuesday, and I have to agree.
While it's too early to call this a goaltending controversy, Richard Bachman played well enough to warrant more looks at the NHL level. If Raycroft continues to disappoint and Bachman continues to put up performances like Saturday night, then Gulutzan is going to have some tough decisions to make.
Missed Opportunities on the Powerplay
This 2-1 victory had the potential to be much less of a nail-biter. The Stars had several chances to put this game away early on the powerplay, but simply failed to capitalize. While the Stars did a fairly good of staying out of the penalty box themselves, they went 1 for 7 with the extra attacker. When you factor in the shorthanded goal against, it looks even worse.
While the play of the special teams units improved as the game went on, scoring chances don't always equal scoring plays, and pretty passes and puck movement don't win games on their own. 1 for 7 is still 1 for 7, and the powerplay remains a concern for this club.
Solid Play from Mobile Defensemen
Trevor Daley's game wining goal was another flash of what he is capable of when he uses his skating and speed to join the offense. On multiple occasions he created offense with his skating ability and had really impressive use of arm-extension on his wrist shots, to get around the defenders in front of him. It was a much needed goal by a Stars defense corps that has seen it's numbers dry up in recent weeks.
I also think Philip Larsen played his best game as a pro against Los Angeles. I was impressed by his poise, confidence, and intelligent play. We all know that his offensive game is the reason he's here, but he played a very solid defensive game. He was quick to pick up his assignment, and confident enough to help direct his teammates. At times Larsen has seemed a bit timid out on the ice, so it was a big plus to see him perform the way he did.
Defending Big D 3 Stars
1) Richard Bachman
2) Trevor Daley
3) Jonathan Bernier
13:35 DAL PPG - Jamie Benn (7) Wrist - ASST: M. Ryder (8) AND T. Daley (5)
13:58 LAK SHG - Brad Richardson (1) Wrist - ASST: A. Kopitar (18)
16:44 DAL Trevor Daley (2) Wrist - ASST: T. Vincour (2) AND T. Wandell (3)