A day ago, Stars head coach Marc Crawford laid into his team preaching patience from his players when things get tough on the ice, hard work from everyone for a full sixty minutes (or 65 if so needed) and above all else focus and the discipline to not be a team that beats itself in a game.
Tonight, the Dallas Stars put those lessons into good use with a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres. They played a very 'back-to-basics' type game where they didn't try to do too much with the puck, kept shifts short and took advantage of a tired and frustrated Sabres team by constantly keeping their feet moving and hustling from the opening puck drop to the very end of the game.
And when things did breakdown for the Stars, Andrew Raycroft in his first start as a Star picked up a 34 save shutout for his first as a Dallas Star (naturally), the eighth of his career and the first Stars shutout of the season. While Dallas was the better team through out all 60 minutes of this game, the shutout Raycroft picked up was well earned as the Sabres did have a handful of solid scoring chances. In fact you can make the argument that with a few tough saves that he made in the first period, the players in front of him were able to relax and play a more patent game that Crawford had asked of his team the day before.
The other big news from this game came in the form of the Stars special teams. The powerplay went 2 for 7 - goals from James Neal on a 5 on 3 powerplay in the first period and Brenden Morrow on a beautiful deflection of a Brad Richards blueline shot in the second period. The shorthanded unit was not only a clean 2 for 2 on kill opportunities, but Steve Ott scored shorthanded after some amazing dogged hounding of the puck from Jamie Benn forced a turnover and a prime scoring chance.
How good a night was it tonight? So good that Trevor Daley who has taken some flack on this blog as of late scored a very sniper like goal in the third period to cap off what was a very good night for the entire defensive unit.
More thoughts on the game and the three stars after the jump...
It's hard to call any game in late October a "must win" but this was as close as one could have gotten to that point. The Stars needed to right the ship in a hurry because the negativity that hung over the team like a large black cloud last season was starting to form again with the past week of games. While we shouldn't go as far as to say that the Stars are back in fine form, tonight proved that if they do the little things teams need to do to win games - play a full sixty minutes, win the majority of mini-battles that happen during the game, defend strong around their net - they give themselves a great chance to win every night.
Other random thoughts from the game...
- Enough can't be said about the game Trevor Daley had tonight. He looked confident, he skated well, threw plenty of pucks at the net. We've been saying for a while now that we can live with an average or even below average defender Daley as long as he does help out offensively. Tonight he helped offensively and didn't commit any errors with the puck in his own end. Good night for him.
- The Stars defensive unit overall was very good tonight and the next time they get into a run of poor playing, they need to pop this game into a VCR (do they even still use those?) and watch because this was an indication of how strong the Stars D can be if they play smart.
- Not a single player logged under ten minutes of ice time which when you consider how much power play time the Stars got in the game (9:35 to be exact) tells us that the Stars and their coaches did a fantastic job of rotating all four lines and making sure everyone got involved. As a result, I think it was easy to see that all four lines had strong games.
- Other offensive standouts in the game: Richards picked up two more assists... Morrow had five shots on the night and he seemed to kick his game back up a gear after being called out... Jamie Benn toned down his 'one-man show' act that was more of a hindrance than a help the last few games, but not so much so that he didn't seem to be all over the ice most times. Tonight was as close to a perfect game from him as one could get... Mike Ribiero had an assist and while he had no shots, he did miss the net a couple of times. If anyone is owed a goal by the hockey gods at this point, it is in fact Ribs who has had chances and has played very well off the puck but has just been snakebit.