Stargazing is a daily assortment of Dallas Stars and NHL news, and whatever other random ramblings are bouncing around inside our heads.
Why is the most frustrating aspect of this Stars team also one of the very few things we can celebrate about them? I'm talking of course about their dichotomous road vs home play. Their road failure will probably be the greatest cause of their inevitable downfall, but their home play has been a joy to witness. I cannot recall (because I didn't attend the Coyote game last Sunday) the last time I walked out to the car from the AAC after a loss.
It was fun to beat Bryzgalov, finally, after Tippett saved him for us once again. It was nice to a see a win heading into the long break, where the season tickets sit lonely in a drawer, not to see the light of day for nearly 4 long weeks. And it was nice to party with a full barn- 18,532 at the AAC last night, without having to fill it up with fans of other teams. We sell out that place quite often, but usually with the assistance of the Red Wing fan, or Chicago fan, etc. Last night I personally didn't see any Coyote fans, and I certainly didn't hear them. It was a fun party heading into the break, and the Stars obliged with a beat down of Phoenix.
As for the game, Brandon illustrated the theme of the festivities quite nicely last night. It was the young guns leading the way in Neal, Eriksson, and Benn. Those three, in our estimation, should be considered the core of this group moving forward. Untradeable, in other words. But it wasn't only the young wingers doing the work last night. I thought Brenden Morrow had a strong game, physically engaging himself with 6 hits and an assist on the night. Mike Modano returned, going 12 of 20 in the faceoff circle, and of course Marty Turco was good too. He didn't have to stand on his head, per-say, but he made the stops they needed to build that lead. He was better than the guy at the other end, and that's something we cannot often say.
By the way, the Stars won 66% of the faceoffs last night. That is a pretty staggering margin as far as faceoffs go.
Even after another fun win at home, the loss in Columbus means that the Stars are right where they've been. In 10th place. Three points out. Nothing is going to change until they can win on the road.
Follow the jump for the quotes, reaction, and excuses for last night's game, then go party your ass for the Super Bowl...
Well we couldn't extend the winning streak but we at least went 3 for 4 on the roadtrip which is good enough. I'll take 6 wins followed by one loss all season long. All that optimistic stuff aside, I really don't have a whole lot of postive things to say about this game. Shane Doan and Ilya Bryzgalov played fairly well, but it seemed like the team in general wasn't able to get moving at all. Everyone seemed to be 2 or 3 steps behind the play. The defense was still going after the guy who touched the puck last instead of the one with the puck. Just lazy lazy play. The Stars were very good about making the Coyotes pay for their mistakes though striking early and often. I'm just going to go to the bullet points...
The entire defensive unit looked slow and tired out there. From the top line to the bottom it was just bad. Zbynek Michalek was caught missing the puck, Ed Jovanovski was turning things over and making weak passes. James Vandermeer was caught behind plays, Sami Lepisto wasn't doing well possessing the puck, Adrian Aucoin got caught chasing the puck instead of taking his man. Even Keith Yandle wasn't all there though he skated well, nothing was happening.
That's the thing. The Stars were patting themselves on the back and the Coyotes were thinking "Whatever, we're in 4th place." Doesn't matter. Good win.
The Phoenix Coyotes felt they got saddled with that on Saturday.
``When the players are coming back to the bench and the look on their face is `Really, I'm trying, but nothing's happening,' that's probably a good indication,'' Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. ``Last night's game, you could tell after the game it took a huge toll on us. That was a hard, hard game, went into overtime, late, late travel. You've got a fresh team sitting here. You know they're going to come hard at you.''
They had a fresh goaltender, and they didn't seem to be tired on their back to back last week when they took it to the Stars. Remember when I mentioned last Sunday how few back to backs the Coyotes have played this year compared to the Stars? (I think it was 10 versus only 6).
Heika goes on...
Bottom line, Phoenix played Tuesday in Nashville, Friday in Chicago and Saturday in Dallas. They had a shootout game, and late travel from Chicago. Last week, they played at home against Calgary Thursday, at home against the Rangers on Saturday and at Dallas on Sunday.
I really don't see the difference in challenges there.
I see the difference in that Dallas did not make them pay for being a tired team last week in a 4-2 Stars loss to Phoenix. I see the difference in Dallas came out soft and let the Coyotes dictate play last week, take a lead and get a fresh burst of energy. I see the difference in that Dallas didn't deserve to win that game.
On Saturday, I honestly believe the effort and execution the Stars put on the ice could have beat the best team in the league on two day's rest. I believe the Stars dictated the game, made the Coyotes feel tired and made them want to give up.
Made them want to give up. I like that.
The first goal was going to be key in tonight’s game, and the Stars got that this time around when Loui Eriksson set up James Neal in front of the net. As much as the first goal is key, so is the second one and the Stars got the turning point goal of the game when Neal set up Eriksson on a shorthanded breakaway and Eriksson cashed in. From the Coyotes perspective, they needed a save there and didn’t get it. As the team coming off the game the night before and being down 2-0, they were in some trouble.
Marty Turco. For the first time all season, Turco allowed two or fewer goals in three straight games. He's starting to play better. The Stars certainly need that. More on that on ESPNDallas.com. Turco even headbutted Petr Prucha. What did you think of that?
Turco was tracking the puck well. He was alert. He was being pretty nasty to the Coyote players (in addition to Prucha, I thought he and Jovanowski had quite a war during Phoenix's first PP)
He's stopped 98 of the last 101 shots he's faced. Is that good enough? Is your perspective that this increases his value, or does it make a case for keeping him?
I liked this set of quotes about Neal and Eriksson setting each other up. Somewhere Brad Richards is thinking "Hey, isn't that my job?"
"Loui got the jump on the penalty kill there, and I found him," Neal said. "When he gets a chance like that, he’s going to bury it."
"Loui hit me backdoor. It was kind of an open net, so it was nice," Neal said of the play.
"I think personally it was probably our best 60-minute game that we’ve had in, I don’t know, a month or two," said forward Steve Ott, who earned an assist in the contest. "I think our goaltending was solid, our defense was solid, our power play was solid, our penalty kill was solid - you can kind of go down the list and if you want to talk about complete games, the complete package, those are the ones you model it after. For us, I thought we did that tonight and it proved to ourselves that if you jump on a team like that, physically engaging them and winning one-on-one battles and playing well, then we’re a heck of a team."
"This is a huge road trip for ourselves," Ott said. "Going on the road, our road record has been pretty shameful, I guess you could say, in the last while, and for us to bear down and to push for a solid playoff spot, we have to do it on this road trip before the break."
"I’m seeing (the puck) pretty good," said Turco, who extended his franchise record with his 39th career goose egg. "It just helps to have good balance and to be able to move well. That always aids my patience - that allows me to stand in there and wait to see the puck and react accordingly and not get ahead of myself. And when we score four goals, I like our odds."
"The body actually feels a lot better," Turco said of his recent performance. "It was nice to work on some things while I wasn’t playing, but a couple of games really doesn’t do it for me. We are out of the playoffs, we’re scratching and clawing on the road, and we’ve got three huge ones coming up."
"A huge one in Chicago," Turco added. "I can’t say how big it is to go in there, a tough game, to collect points, but we have to. We’re just in that position so we’re going to have to be just as good, if not better, and we’re going to have to do like we did tonight."
"He’s played very well in the last three," Crawford said of Turco. "Probably the biggest thing he needed was a break; he didn’t want it to be as long as he got it, but all you can do in those types of situations is prepare for your next outing. Definitely he’s feeling good about himself right now. You can see it in his body language, you can see it in the way he moves the puck, and it couldn’t come at a better time for us."
"We had a strong game tonight," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "We haven’t had a lot of games where we’re really comfortable coming into the third period. We did a lot of things that we needed to do. We knew they were a team that this was their third in four nights with travel, and you’ve got to make it a hard game. The last time we played them we didn’t get off to the good start. Tonight, I thought we were better, and we did things that made it difficult on them."
It's football time.
Who is everyone rooting for, btw?
I'm rooting for "a good close game." It's a tough call. The Saints (fans) are obnoxious, but so is Colts owner Jim Irsay. Peyton Manning needs this one to cement his pure greatness in history, and Brees needs it to join the conversation.
Don't drink and drive.