Rookie official Marcus Vinnerborg might have been the Swede of the night entering play on Tuesday, but Nick Grossman quickly stole the show in an impressive display of grit and tenacity.
Grossman said the Stars wanted to establish a pace and "send a message" against Anaheim. By "we" it looked like he meant himself and his stick as he went out there and single handedly started punishing anyone who got near him. It's sometimes hard to quantify the impact a defenseman has on the tone of a game and with only four official hits recorded, last night was no exception. When every recorded hit is a particularly memorable one it bolsters our perceptions of what he did, and rightfully so, because "four hits" doesn't tell the story of what he means to this team.
Early on it looked as though Nick could be the recipient of some pretty bad luck and the unwitting goat of the night. Seven seconds after his point shot nearly trickled behind Jonas Hiller for an early lead, he stapled Ryan Carter to the boards in the corner, and the Anaheim forward lay on the ice for an extended period of time while the crowd awaited the penalty. I was sure a 5 minute major was coming and the game's turning point would come early.
Two minutes later the Stars killed off what was only a minor penalty (somehow what Burish did in Los Angeles was worse?) and Nick Grossman was free to Duck-hunt again, and Duck hunt he did.
Stars fans have been clamoring for these big guys like Fistric and Grossman to use their size to their advantage for years. When it actually happens it can be a thing of beauty.
"Fistric and Grossman played like big men," said Crawford after the game. "That's as physical a game as I've ever seen Nick Grossman play and he had a fight to boot, against one of the tougher guys in the league."
Speaking of that fight, let's give that another look. It was Grossman's second career NHL bout...
Stars fans have been treated to the seemingly unlikely spectacles of Matt Niskanen, Jamie Benn (twice in one night) and now Nicklas Grossman pugilistic endeavors. Watching aKrys Barch marathon, as we did last night, is nice and all but these guys who rarely go at it make for a more intriguing prospect.
Grossman's lack of experience can be made up for by size in many cases, but he took on a heavy weight, veteran fighter in Parros last night...
Hockeyfights.com scores it in Parros' favor.... 70% Parros, 15% Grossman, 15% Draw. God bless you Stars fans that voted for Grossman, and if you're not rating these fights at Hockey Fights.com, you should be. Check them out here.
It's not about the spectacle of the fight itself, however. It sends a message to the rest of the team when someone like Nick drops the gloves. It reinforces that "every day, for each other" motto printed above the lockers in Dallas and in Frisco. Low spirits and a three game losing streak were set aside and they picked themselves up off the mat last night with Grossman leading the charge. If you can't score on them, beat them up.
There's some concern that these outbreaks of physicality (particularly) lately could be damaging what the team wants to do offensively. Games that get bogged down in special teams play eliminate the flow of rolling four lines like Crawford wants to do, but I think everyone in the organization believes that this is an important part of their game this season and they're going to continue searching for the right balance.
Besides, they're not the Ducks (90 PP opportunities surrendered) or the Flyers (92 PP opportunities surrendered.) The Stars rank 15th in the league at 67 power plays surrendered. If they can keep it there but maintain the tenacity then they will indeed be "hard to play against." All they have to do is kill a few more penalties.
In the mean time Nick Grossman will be patrolling, and if you want to forecheck like Mr. Perry does here, you might find yourself craning your neck to get the license plate on that truck that just hit you. Like so...