The Stars beat the Sharks, then lose to the Coyotes. They beat the Canucks, then lose to the Wild. They beat Blackhawks, then lose to the Kings. The beat the Red Wings, and then...?
Are you sensing a pattern? Perhaps we should put aside our notions of who "the big players" are in the Western Conference and concede that parity (the most over-used word of the sports-decade) is alive and well; That any team can beat any team on any given night. Fine.
The fact remains that games in places like Chicago, San Jose, and Detroit are games the fans and players alike consider to be big, "measuring stick" type games. The Stars are excelling at those. Those are huge wins. Those are the ones you can point to and say "See, we can play with those guys." That's great. We're excited about wins at the Joe.
But what about the Kings? What about the Wild? Phoenix? And the Blue Jackets tonight? Aren't those the teams they're more likely to be jockying with for playoff positioning in March and April? (I do realize that the Jackets have a better record than Detroit now. It's early yet.)
Without taking some of these other games, like this one tonight, those big statement wins are only glimpses of what the team has the potential to be, rather than what it really is. The potential is there. It all comes back to that same word we can't seem to get away from: Consistency.
After the jump: More on the goal that wasn't, Stars player-men reaction, and Steve Ott is starting to garner attention regarding his pending free agency, and is Tom Hicks going to sell the Rangers...to himself?
Case in point, Steve Ott knows this is how good they can be...
"It's who we want to be and who we think we are, and now we just have to try to show we can be that team every night," forward Steve Ott said. "That's the challenge."
Puck Daddy brings your their take on the non-goal, which absolutely was a goal. The "intent to blow" rule is becoming a very polarizing phrase...
Again, the "intent to blow" rule is one of the most asinine in professional hockey; the notion of "playing to the whistle" is undercut by referees ending plays in their minds before actually blowing them dead. This Detroit farce is, perhaps, the most rancid example of its folly.
Beyond Detroit losing a goal, the worst thing about this situation is that it'll provide further fodder for the tin foil hat society among Wings fans, who are convinced that Gary Bettman and the NHL and the Illuminati and the Stonecutters are all conspiring in some secret cabal to undermine their franchise. Because what business would want one of its most popular, ratings-driving, star-studded franchises to, you know, succeed?
Tin foil hate society. His words. Not ours.
After I chattered on about Marty Turco's stats at the Joe in yesterdays Gameday Preview, Crawford started Auld instead. Mike Heika examines the choice:
One of the concerns with the Stars' pace of win one, lose one this season is that the team must adjust between their two goalies' opposite styles. Auld is more conservative in his puck movement. Turco is more adventurous. So logic suggests that maybe the team could get more consistency by playing Turco more. Crawford doesn't agree. "I would say the bigger issue is we usually play with Alex on the second night of a back-to-back," he said, "and we might be a little slow to start off in those games." So maybe Auld getting a fresh team in front of him was the real difference. But if there is a difference, then Turco will get a chance to see it Thursday against Columbus at home when he gets the start.
One of the concerns with the Stars' pace of win one, lose one this season is that the team must adjust between their two goalies' opposite styles. Auld is more conservative in his puck movement. Turco is more adventurous.
So logic suggests that maybe the team could get more consistency by playing Turco more. Crawford doesn't agree.
"I would say the bigger issue is we usually play with Alex on the second night of a back-to-back," he said, "and we might be a little slow to start off in those games."
So maybe Auld getting a fresh team in front of him was the real difference. But if there is a difference, then Turco will get a chance to see it Thursday against Columbus at home when he gets the start.
The Wings tend to carry the puck in more than Columbus does, I would think. Perhaps it does make more sense to have Turco handling the puck tonight.
CBC Sports liked Alex Auld enough last night to name him their top star of the night...
CBCSports.ca senior reporter Tim Wharnsby names the top performers in the NHL from Wednesday night.
Auld was in tough on Wednesday, on the road against one of the hottest teams in the league in the Red Wings. But the Dallas backup goalie was up to the task with a 31-save effort that included a controversial no-goal call on Detroit's Brad May. The Stars' 3-1 win was Detroit's first regulation-time loss at Joe Louis Arena this season.
Well, if you get good goaltending and you win the special teams battle you are going to win most nights. Alex Auld was excellent, the penalty kill was 4-4 and is now 17-17 over the last five games and the power play scored twice. I thought all those areas were a big part of the Stars 3-1 win over Detroit tonight, but I think they simply played an excellent game all the way around.
They skated well, pursued the puck well, defended well and they created more chances than the Red Wings and when you create more chances are you’ll score more. They simply outplayed the Red Wings. I didn’t think Detroit had that many great chances and Auld closed the door on all but one (actually, two but more on that later).
Alex Auld got the start in goal and was outstanding, making 31 saves to snap a four-game personal winless streak (0-2-2) to secure his third win of the season.
"I feel like I’ve played pretty well this year, although the numbers might not really show it," Auld said. "I’ve felt comfortable and confident in net and obviously getting results like this go a long way. At the end of a long trip like this, coming into a building like this, it’s probably really good for us. You know you’ve got to be extra sharp and the guys were tremendous in front of me. Our special teams were really good tonight and that’s a big key."
"It’s definitely good for your confidence," coach Marc Crawford said of beating the defending Western Conference champion Red Wings. "Our goaltender played a very good game, and you always have to have good goaltending playing in an opposition building where Detroit is a very good club. And you look on the other side of it, there was depth to our group tonight. We played four lines, all four lines were good. We were able to play all six defensemen. I thought there weren’t a lot of big mistakes by us tonight. We did a great job of recovering, we did a great job of pursuing, and then we simply were very good in the areas that we had to be in, including the power play and the penalty kill."
The Windsor Star has a nice article on Steve Ott and his impending free agent status. Of particular interest to Stars fans...
As much as they love him, in a salary-cap situation, can the Stars afford to keep Ott?
This season, they've paid forward Loui Eriksson (all figures US) $4.2 million and defenceman Stephane Robidas $3.3 million in multi-year deals.
Left-winger James Neal, already with 11 goals in 18 games, will be a restricted free agent at season's end.
"I really hope my future is with the Dallas Stars," Ott said. "I've spent a lot of years here and I definitely don't want to leave."
After a career year in which he produced 19-27-46 totals, Ott will certainly be looking for a pact similar to the four-year US $8-million that Alex Burrows garnered last summer from the Vancouver Canucks.
We don't know if Ott and his agent are talking to the Stars during the season, but we hope they are. As much as everyone claims to hate Steve Ott, there's bound to be a couple of GM's out there who will throw out some kid of stupid money to get him. I'll love him wherever he goes, but I hope there's a way to keep him here. By the way, if you're reading this, and you have $600 million, can you please buy the Texas Rangers?
If your absolute worst baseball-related fear is the prospect of Tom Hicks rising from the dead and retaining majority control of the Texas Rangers after it seemed 80-plus percent certain that he was headed out, then you might have to brace for the realization of that fear, as Hicks has hastily assembled a group of local investors -- comprising both Cowboys legend Roger Staubach and the dual-allegianced Nolan Ryan -- and is preparing to submit his own bid ... to himself. Yeah.
There's the apparent confirmation that the Rangers are operating under league-imposed budgetary guidelines (via the largely reputable Joel Sherman), the hearsay that the owners have pressured the commissioner's office to figuratively clip Hicks' wings after he opened an eight-digit line of credit with the league, and then a hodgepodge of snippets and quotes that lend nothing but confusion to the entire situation. It could be months, years, or never before we get full disclosure on the rise and (very hard) fall of Hicks Sports Group and the accompanying juicy behind-the-scenes happenings from this past summer, but that's beside the point right now.
I bet we'll have more on this to come.