The Neutral Zone is a new feature here at Defending Big D, where I spill all of the incredibly informal thoughts and quick-fire analysis tumbling around in my head on the Dallas Stars.
I wasn't able to catch the big Stars win from last night live, instead watching the game on DVR very early this morning. When I do this, I make it a point not to ruin the outcome of the game for myself as I want to watch the tape as if it's a live game, only fast-forwarding through the commercials*. About nine minutes into the game, I questioned whether it would even be worth staying up any later to finish the game, because it was obvious who was going to win. Then I thought about the Calgary and Chicago game, and realized that a four goal lead is no longer safe and I needed to make sure this Stars team didn't fall to the same fate as the Blackhawks. Good thing there was no need to worry.
*I've done this with football games as well, and honestly it's awesome: the 'jump ahead' feature on the DVR is perfectly timed so that as soon as a play is finished, I can usually jump straight to the next snap of the ball. No dumb announcers, no dancing Fox robots and no commercials.
So today, after a few hours of sleep here are a mess of thoughts on the Stars win from last night, including what I believe to be Turco's best overall performance since the 2008 playoffs. Sound crazy? Follow the jump to find out why.
- I know the title of this post probably had some scratching their heads and wrinkling their noses a bit, because how could Turco have led the team when it was so obviously an offensive blowout? Here's the thing: The game could EASILY have been 3-2 going into the first intermission, even tied at two. After the Stars had gone ahead by two goals within minutes of the drop of the puck, the Predators had a couple of prime scoring opportunities which Turco turned aside with some incredible saves. His point-blank stymie of Joel Ward on the power play was a game-changer. That shot goes in and it's 3-1 Dallas with over half of the period left to play and the Predators have new life. Instead, Turco makes the stop and Brenden Morrow makes it 4-0 less than 20 seconds later and the game is essentially iced.
All of the little mechanical issues Marty Turco has had this season were for the most part non-existent against the Predators. He was on top of his crease, his angles were perfect and he was challenging shooters. When the Stars let up a bit in the late second and in the third period, Turco was there to make great save after great save. And that is why I say that this was his best performance in over a year; in a game in which Turco could easily have lost his concentration a bit, allowed two goals yet still got the win he stood tall (and sometimes on his head) and was determined not to allow a garbage goal. This is something the Stars have had issues with in the past, and it's great to see them put their foot on the throat of the opposition and close the game out. That was all because of Marty Turco.
- Here is what I noticed the most about what went right for the Stars last night: they won the battles. We've said it over and over the past few weeks, how this system won't work at all if the Stars cannot control the puck. Last night the Stars were beating the Predators to the puck, making crisp and accurate passes, establishing a strong forecheck and maintaining the great backchecking presence they've built over the first five games.
- Some thoughts on the Predators: I don't want to take away anything the Stars accomplished last night, because they had that team on the ropes from the very start, but what the heck is wrong with Nashville? They just seemed disinterested, non-energetic and just didn't seem to care. How many passes last night went straight through Nashville defenders? How many shots just sailed by a Predator without any reaction whatsoever? On the James Neal to Loui Eriksson goal, I counted three that just skated by and watched the shot go by on its way to the net. No reaction. The Predators are a team that seems to be in big trouble of falling off the cliff very early in the season. They don't have any secondary scoring threats, their goaltending is a mess right now and they just seem disinterested in what's going on. I'd like to see this team turn things around, if for no other reason than to further fight these 'hockey deosn't belong in the south' voices.
- Man it's great to see those yellow laces out there on the ice. He's obviously not what he once was, but several times last night Lehtinen made those savvy veteran moves that can really make the difference in a game; a quick outlet pass, a subtle lift of the stick in front of his own net or battle down low that springs a teammate. Once Modano returns (which should be soon), I can see a very solid third line that is capable of absolutely stifling opposing scorers, with Ott and Lehtinen as his wingers. Now we just need to get all three healthy at the same time.
- I have gone from thinking of Jamie Benn as "he's pretty damn good for a 20-year old rookie" to now saying to myself "this kid is quickly becoming of the best players on the team". More on him at another time.
- Brad Richards was absolutely dominant in this game and the best I've ever seen him play in a Dallas Stars jersey. He looks like the player that won the Stanley Cup all those years ago; a guy who is healthy and has assumed a leadership position on this team. Before, I think he was still working on trying to determine just what his overall role on this team was and now he's embraced it. His line has been brilliant in each game, and he's the quarterback.
- I thought Fabian Brunnstrom was ok. He had some good chances, put the puck on net a lot and orchestrated a brilliant passing triangle around the net at one point. But he just gets knocked off the puck too easily and is manhandled along the boards. He doesn't use his body to create space for himself and if he doesn't have any space to work with his nearly useless. It's frustrating, because it's painfully obvious he has some great vision and offensive skill but he's just not adapting to the NHL very well. Keep working, keep trying and hopefully we see him get back to where he was last season.
- Brenden Morrow is back. He's physical, he's nearly out of control and he dangerous with the puck. He's the emotional core of this team and when he's playing well it transfers to every other player on the bench. The captain of this team threw himself not once but twice into the net while executing a ferocious backcheck, the sort of 'lead by example' stuff we were missing last season.
- Finally............John Raddigan is my hero.