Last season, the Detroit Red Wings had the Dallas Stars' number -- winning all four contests and outscoring the Stars 16-9. That streak came to an end tonight as the Stars dominated the Red Wings in their home owner with a 2-1 win.
If one word could describe tonight's play it would be aggressive. The best example of this aggressive style of play was when they were on the penalty kill. Stars' forwards had several shorthanded attempts on Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, but weren't able to connect. They not only looked to shut down shots towards Kari Lehtonen, but they looked to take it the other direction. It's a contrast to the solid but not over-aggressive penalty killing we've seen from the team in the first two games this season.
The backcheck was aggressive as well. Prior to the game, head coach Glen Gulutzan mentioned that the Stars needed to have more of a net presence. The Stars players did just that, getting their sticks and bodies into shooting lanes to keep the Red Wings from having second chances at rebounds. When the Stars defensemen would pinch down to the halfboards, there was always a forward to come back and cover the point and cutoff any momentum coming back into their own zone.
Trevor Daley was the best defensemen on the Stars tonight. He played perhaps one of his best games seen in a while. He was creating space for the forwards down around the net, and had one amazing breakaway chance that he barely missed -- the "ping" of the goalpost will most likely haunt his dreams tonight. Jordie Benn also had a very good game tonight, and was stellar on the penalty kill.
Cody Eakin showed tonight why he deserves a spot on the Dallas roster. He has great speed and uses it to open up space to setup his linemates. He shows great poise with the puck, often taking that one second to make a smart outlet pass and taking the body instead of panicking and causing a turnover.
The Stars were abysmal in the faceoff circle tonight -- most of the guys that took the faceoffs won only about 35% or so of their faceoffs. Consistency in this area is definitely something that can be worked on. Also, they could not take advantage of the Red Wings' terrible penalty kill (currently at about 57% success rate) with two consecutive power plays. The movement and passing on the man advantage is promising -- Jimmy Howard was the only reason Detroit did not allow at least one power play goal tonight.
It would be nice if the Stars could get Lehtonen his deserved shutout instead of allowing that last minute goal to break the streak. The Stars were just three seconds away from giving the Red Wings their first shutout in a home opener since 1947. Of course, no one will complain about a win -- even Lehtonen himself:
Kari Lehtonen loses shutout with 3.4 seconds left. Red Wings fans heckle. Lehtonen points to scoreboard - twitpic.com/bxhabj— Sean Leahy (@Sean_Leahy) January 23, 2013