The Dallas Stars are back in the points column. Jaromir Jagr clinched two points for the Stars tonight as they beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 in the shootout. Jamie Oleksiak and Antoine Roussel debuted for the Stars in the game. Roussel contributed early with the first goal of his career on a semi-breakaway off of a pass from Brenden Morrow.
The Stars were outshot 34-24 on the night thanks to the Coyotes propensity for taking shots from distance to pad their totals. However, the Stars did outchance the Coyotes 14-10 in what was, despite the good pace, a game with relatively few prime offensive opportunities.
The key difference tonight was the Stars ability to move the puck out of their own end. The defense was significantly more secure with the puck in their own end which allowed them to play a smaller portion of the game on the defensive end of the rink. The continued improvement of Brenden Dillon and the insertion of Oleksiak helped stabilize the situation.
The Stars active defense early allowed them to jump out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Roussel and the first of Dillon's career. The Coyotes fought to tie it up at two early in the 2nd, as the entirely-uncoverable-vanishing-giant-human Martin Hanzal bulldozed to the net for what had to be the first of twenty times on the night. He and Vrbata, against all odds, always seem to dominate the Stars. The two teams would trade goals to end the second before playing a very Coyote scoreless third period.
The debut of Oleksiak deserves some mention also. The biggest thing you can say for the 6'7 20 year old is that, outside of a few moments, he wasn't really noticed. For a 20 year old defenseman that is anything but a slight. When they're noticed it's generally because of an awful play. Oleksiak was steady in his own end, had an uncovered point shot, and was very sturdy in the corners.
The only questionable decision I remember of his was his ill-fated attempted to lead a rush which ended with a neutral zone turnover. In the future his decision making will improve as he learns the speed of the NHL game, but you have to like the fact that he has the confidence to attempt such a play. Big guys shouldn't be able to skate like that.
Also, the third line continued to improve. Two key differences have aided that improvement. One, they don't appear to be dumping the puck in nearly as much as they were early in the season. Secondly, Tomas Vincour's ability to move the puck up the ice has helped them escape the defensive end of the rink with more regularity. It's an encouraging trend.
I can't emphasize enough that the Stars just picked up two points. It's hard to complain about anything right now if they pick up points. The season is already almost 20% over, and the Stars need to take care of business against the Coyotes of the world.
Now, if they can just figure out these back to backs.