No one would call this one particularly "pretty."
At the end of the season, no one asks how you got the two points. Good thing, too, because tonight's Dallas Stars win over the Edmonton Oilers was anything but "pretty". The game was actually pretty much what most have come to expect of Stars-Oilers showdowns: crazy, hard to explain activity.
The strangest part of the game tonight wasn't the score, but more the way that a majority of the goals were scored. Taylor Hall put one past Kari Lehtonen when the puck took a weird dip and changed direction to go right over the glove hand and into the net. Brenden Dillon shot over the net of Devan Dubnyk which caromed off of the glass and then off of Dubnyk's back and dropped into the net. Eric Nystrom would put the Stars up 2-1 after just firing the puck at the net and having it redirect in off of an Oilers player.
The takeaway from what can only be called a weird win like this is that it showed the Stars that as long as they continue putting the puck towards the net that the scoring will come. Fiddler said after the game that he and Nystrom "had been struggling a little bit offensively. But trying to keep it simple, take pucks to the net as much as we can." That mentality lead to the Stars getting depth scoring for one of the first times this season. Two goals between Nystrom and Ryan Garbutt from the fourth line to go with scoring from the blueline in Dillon's goal made this truly a team win.
Kari Lehtonen's stellar play once again was the only reason the Stars were able to keep the game close through the first two frames of hockey. Outside of the one flukey goal, Lehtonen came up with clutch stops at key points in the game. He backstopped the Stars' penalty kill to keep the NHL's eighth best power play off of the scoreboard with the man advantage.
One thing that the Stars have been doing well over the past few games has been the team defense. Michael Ryder was particularly impressive in his backchecking tonight, coming back to support the defense. Trevor Daley has shown great one-on-one defensive capability, often taking the man to separate him from the puck to break up what is sure to be a good scoring chance otherwise.
The game definitely had some bad spots. The penalty parade, which has become a running theme this season so far, continued tonight. The difference tonight was the type of penalties the Stars took; they did not have many of the "safety" calls of hooking, slashing, etc like they usually have a tendency to take. It was delay of game and too many men on the ice - penalties that are very easy to get rid of in the game if the Stars are crisper in their line changes and stop closing their hands over the puck.
For the majority of the first 40 minutes of the game, the Stars couldn't seem to get into the offensive zone for any kind of sustained pressure. The zone entries were non-existent, often leading to turnovers at the offensive blue line. The puck was turned over still, another common theme of this year's Dallas Stars. The difference between tonight's game and the games we've seen in the first quarter of the season was that the Stars got progressively better as the game went along, instead of having a strong start followed by a terrible second period.
The team seems to be trending in the right direction. The big test now is coming tomorrow night in Calgary. Will they be able to get the "back-to-back" curse broken tomorrow night by winning on the second half? We'll see when we do it all again tomorrow night.