When I see the New York Rangers on the schedule, I get myself mentally prepared for a battle against Brad Richards and Sean Avery. This wasn't exactly the game I expected when I tuned in, and it's certainly not the game I envision when I think of 1-0 road wins. When all was said and done, the Dallas Stars had grinded out a very impressive 1-0 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The obvious story line here is the Stars against Brad Richards, the highest paid player in the NHL, who had been calling the American Airlines Center home for the past few years. Since parting ways, Richards has become the Rangers top scorer and alternate captain, while the Stars have spent his salary on a handful of relatively nondescript names that have provided incredible depth, in turn making us into a much more dangerous team.
While the possibility of Avery/Richards headlines failed to really materialize into anything of substance, the story of Richard Bachman is continuing to take shape. The rookie goalie was once against stellar in net, this time stopping all 34 shots faced to earn his first NHL shutout and second NHL victory in only his second career start.
As the scoreline would indicate, this was a goaltending duel from start to finish. Henrik Lundqvist and Richard Bachman matched each other save for save in a game that was scrambly, inconsistent, and contentious. Most 1-0 games aren't barn burners, but this one had tons of action and tons of intrigue.
In a game that was decided almost entirely by compete level, the Stars out-worked and out-grinded a very difficult Rangers team. As can be expected in a contest of this makeup, the line of Eric Nystrom, Vernon Fiddler, and Radek Dvorak were all over the map in both the offensive and defensive zones. Trevor Daley and Philip Larsen both continued their stellar play as well, with Daley scoring his second goal in as many games.
Not many teams are faced with travel from Los Angeles to New York in such a short period of time, but the Stars managed to pull two victories out of this road trip so far. When all is said and done, this road trip will see the Stars traveling a total of 5,500 miles, including the 5 hour flight from Los Angeles to New York. It takes guts to pull off a road trip like that, but luckily this team doesn't seem to be lacking in that area.
Woywitka Plays for New York?
Lost in the Richards/Avery talk was the fact that Stars fans would be taking on former Dallas Stars' defenseman Jeff Woywitka. "The Wildcat," an inexplicable favorite of Marc Crawford and favorite whipping boy of the fans started the season with the Montreal Canadiens, but ended up on Broadway after being waived earlier in the year. Stars fans can be grateful.
Not to single out a guy when he's down on his luck, but that was the Woywitka Stars fans grew to know and love that lead to Trevor Daley's game winning goal. He tried to clear it out, didn't muscle up as much as he needed, and the Stars pounced. A give-and-go later and Daley was chest bumping the glass at MSG and the Stars had all the offense they'd need to take home the W.
I could go on forever about the continued disappointment of our powerplay, but I'd rather give kudos to the Stars penalty kill unit. It all goes back to the compete level of the team, and the Stars simply outworked the Rangers potent special teams attack when it mattered the most. Loui Eriksson showing why so many people compare him to Jere Lehtinen on that final penalty kill is enough to give any Stars fan reason to be happy, despite the offensive struggles.
The Hammer Strikes
Is there anything more manly than Sheldon Souray? His abrasive style of play is nothing new for Stars fans, nor is his propensity of firing blistering slapshots on opposing netminders, but he actually managed to stop play so the officials could check on Henrik Lundqvist's well being after a rising slapper that caught him in the most... vulnerable part.. of his bulletproof vest? Studdly Wonderbomb, indeed.
Larsen Makes Things Difficult
I've done a lot to praise Philip Larsen's recent call-up to the NHL, and with Mark Fistric's suspension coming to an end, things are about to get more difficult for the Stars brass to decide which 6 defensemen to suit up and who should go down to the AHL. I guess it could be worse. We have too many NHL quality defensemen. Woe is us.
Who is in charge of music at Madison Square Garden? I heard Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Nirvana, The Ramones... wonderfully seasoned with a little classic Original Six organ business. I approve. I don't think I heard a single note of Rhianna or The Black Eyed Peas or anything.
Defending Big D 3 Stars
1) Richard Bachman
2) Henrik Lundqvist
3) Trevor Daley