Right now we're a fragile group. -Marc Crawford
In that quote, Marc Crawford was talking about his team being a fragile group. I think the fans are a bit fragile right now themselves. The pervasive feeling in the arena last night, and around the net this morning is that this win was one home game against a bad team, sandwiched between two horrible road games and whatever comes next in Columbus and Philly. But as they say, a win is a win. We'll take it.
As I watched the Islander defense perform their frequent mad scramble in their own end, a thought occurred to me: Is this what the Stars look like most nights to other teams fans? Defense and goaltending were a problem on both sides of the ice last night. Why did Matt Niskanen go crashing into Marty Turco just as the Islanders lifted a seemingly harmless puck high into the air toward the goal? How did Trevor Daley let that puck creep out right onto a wide open Okposo's stick? And then there's Andy Sutton: The game winner came off DiPietro out through Suttons' legs, to Richards, and then back through Suttons legs again. This sort of "comedy of errors" was on display all night.
The bright spot for me in the game was Brenden Morrow, who looked liked like a man (re)possessed out there for the first time in a long time. Also Jere Lehtinen was great again, skating like a much younger man. His line, including Eriksson and Richards, collected 5 points between them but finished the game with an even +/- rating.
I'll assume that enough will be said about Marty Turco without my two cents this morning. Though I'd only pin one of those goals last night directly on him, I will borrow a baseball term and say that all three of those goals were "unearned". Unless they're playing the Islanders a few dozen more times this year, I don't think that sloppiness is going to cut it.
After the jump, quotes and reaction to last night's win over the Islanders...
...they desperately needed these two points. The Stars are 9-2-2 in their last 13 home games, and that has saved them from a 1-6-3 stretch on the road.
But with six of the next eight games on the far flung reaches of the continent, and with that road record hanging over their heads like the Sword of Damocles, they could not afford to lose these points. Squander points in a horrible game against the Islanders and Rick DiPietro, and there really would have been panic in the streets (and the locker room, and the GM office).
So bravo to them for holding that off for a day or two.
The dichotomy of road versus home is staggering.
Four goals allowed, none of them embarrassing, yet most of them stoppable by a true #1 on an in-form night. Ironically, though DiPietro showed he has a ways to go to round back into form, he probably wasn't the worst goalie on the ice. That honor went to Marty Turco, whose swimming and snow angels in the crease gave me hope 'till the final horn, and whose puckhandling follies gave Frans Nielsen a goal outright.
One thing I hate to mention because just hours ago I fumed about Mike Milbury touting it so much on draft day 10 years ago (and WebBard rightly suggested it in the game thread): Rick DiPietro's puckhandling, which makes so many of us nervous, nonetheless helped break the puck out better than the defense often does. DiPietro's wanderings were largely effective, in contrast to Turco's. As I thought 10 years ago, that's not an essential skill, but it's nice to have.
Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossman sat out Friday's game with an undisclosed injury Friday night and is listed as day-to-day.
Grossman suffered the injury, believed to be a knee, in Wednesday's game when he got tangled up with Rangers forward Marian Gaborik during a puck battle in corner.
"The injury he had the other night has flared up and he won't play," said Stars head coach Marc Crawford. "He is right now day-to-day. We'll see how is as he goes through it. He saw the doctor the other day and we've decided to hold him out. We'll see if he improves on Saturday and then make a decision on Sunday."
*And as I was writing this, the Stars sent out a press release: Grossman has been placed on the IR retroactive to the 6th:
Frisco, Tex. – The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has placed defenseman Nicklas Grossman on injured reserve with a lower body injury, suffered in Wednesday’s game at the New York Rangers. The move is retroactive to Jan. 6. Dallas has also recalled defenseman Maxime Fortunus from the Texas Stars, Dallas’ primary development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Woywitka filled in well enough, and Fistric handled big minutes (against the Islanders, anyway) OK, but it's questionable whether or not Matt Niskanen did anything to ingratiate himself with the coaching staff last night.
It was DiPietro's first game in just over a calendar year. His coach was reasonably pleased...
Gordon was pleased with the performance of DiPietro, who hadn't played an NHL game since Jan. 2, 2009, due to knee injuries that required surgery and a lengthy rehab process.
The Stars were happy after their three-goal second period and some goaltending heroics in the final minutes by a previously shaky Marty Turco enabled them to go home with a 4-3 victory.
"I thought it was a great first game for him," Gordon said after DiPietro stopped 24 of 28 shots. "Considering where he's come from, he made some big saves when we needed them. For a first game, I'll take it."
"I'm not going to lie: I was nervous, but I got a chance to handle the puck a couple of times, made a few saves and ease my way into it," DiPietro said. "
The Stars had these notes following the game:
Brad Richards picked up his 39th assist of the season and added a goal for the 599th and 600th points of his career. He entered the night ranked third in the league in assists and now ranks second overall in multi-point games (18) behind only Henrik Sedin (VAN).
Jere Lehtinen’s 265th career assist tied Darryl Sydor for 10th all-time in Stars franchise history. He has points in consecutive games (1-1-2) and 1-4-5 points in his last seven games.
Mark Fistric collected his fifth assist of the season, a new career-high. He also established a new career-high in points with his assist against the New York Rangers. Fistric has earned points in consecutive games for the first time in his career.
"The first thing is you get a little confidence from winning,'' Crawford said. "It relaxes you a little bit and you don't squeeze the stick quite as much.
"Right now the guys that are playing at the top of their game for us - Lehtinen, Richards, Eriksson, especially - they're playing with that zeal and confidence. Just that little extra jump in their step, and we need a few more doing that.''
``I thought we responded to the adversity in the game,'' Crawford said. ``Everybody knows Marty let a couple bad ones in today, and there were a few bad bounces out there. Right now we're a fragile group. I liked the resolve in our team tonight. I thought we had good leadership from Brenden and Brad Richards did a terrific job, Jere Lehtinen; all of the guys we expected to be good strong leaders for us were. Guys were doing the right things; we put pucks in the right area, we put pucks at the net, we stayed on loose pucks, we won the kinds of battles we figured we would have to win tonight. The best part of our game was that we showed a tremendous amount of resiliency. Sometimes, there are things that are out of your control, and it can suck the energy out of your group, and we didn't let it tonight.''
"We've got to do the same as we do in this building,'' said Eriksson, who earned his 18th goal of the season to tie James Neal for the team lead. "It's not easy for us to get points now. We've got to dig in and win some games.''
"Those were bad mistakes, but we got it back and got a win,'' Eriksson said.
"Marty battled hard and came up big when he needed to in the third,'' Morrow said.
"I was hoping the puck would come out, and sometimes they come right on your stick,'' Richards said. "I got lucky.''