Thank goodness the NHL doesn't award points in the standings based on style or else the Stars wouldn't have walked out of Nashville tonight with two more than they had when they walked in! While it was a win on the scoreboard, this was about as ugly as it can get for an NHL team.
Still, we'll take it!
It was very unlikely this win tonight for your Dallas Stars... Coming off what had been a bit of a demoralizing shootout loss at home two nights earlier, facing a hot Predators team that had won their last six games on the road in Nashville where the Stars have had a recent history of struggling something fierce, facing Pekka Rinne who was just recently named the NHL's number one star for his work this past week... You could have almost excused the Stars if they just didn't show up.
But while we can accuse this team of having had soft defense, questionable goaltending and a disappearing offense at different points this season, we can't accuse them of rolling over even though all hope looks lost - and trust me kids, it still is despite the win - and still playing hard.
More thoughts and your 3 and 38th stars after the jump!
As I watched the game tonight an odd sense of familiarity came over me... Like somehow I had seen this kind of game before from the Stars. Not this season mind you, but in the past. Then DBD user johnnywaitt said exactly what my hockey mind had been trying to tell me:
Exactly! Maybe not quite the same... but be darned if the Stars weren't trying to win the game 1-0 tonight on the road! Hell, during the Predators broadcast, color man Terry Crisp mentioned who Crawford had said that in order to beat Nashville, they'd look to win a low scoring game by a 2-1 or even 1-0 count. Lo-n-behold they pulled it off.
Not that I'd say this is the way they should play from here on out... Allowing 35 shots against while only getting 14 isn't exactly the most ideal way to win a game in the NHL, but thankfully Kari Lehtonen was up to the task and was very, very good tonight. The defense in front of him - despite the 35 shots against - was also good and at the very least made sure to clear out most rebound and second opportunity chances away from Predator sticks.
I still don't want to get my hopes up too high on Kari, but geez he's making it tough not to turn around to GM Joe this summer and say with puppy dog eyes "We like him! Can we keep him?!"
And lets tip out hat to the Stars defensemen who not only kept things in check in their own end, but also provided two of the three goals tonight from Trevor Daley and Matt Niskanen.
Wait... that can't be right can it? Matt Niskanen scored a goal?! The same Matt Niskanen that has taken up residence in the doghouse of most Stars fans since about mid-December?! Yup. He did in fact score on a really nice shot from the blue line that I think we all wish he'd do more of when he's not busy letting the puck constantly hop past him on the point.
But it was defensively this group made it's mark. Want a mind boggling stat for the night? Dallas defensemen blocked 19 shots in total while Nashville as an entire team blocked 10. Granted, that just shows how dominant Nashville was offensively but lets focus on the positives here shall we? Good work defense! (We think...)
And as for the offense? Well it wasn't great by any means. Loui Erikkson scored the game winning goal (of course) a little over a minute into the third period and Brad Richards had two assists (of course) and Mike Ribiero was held off the scoresheet but did have five shots and as usual was trying to do what he could to spark chances in the Preds zone.
It wasn't a pretty win by any means, but it was a win... We'll take it!
Your Defending Big D 3 and 38th stars!
1st Star - Kari Lehtonen (DAL): 34 saves out of 35 shots is good enough for me... And never once tonight did it seem like Kari was completly out of control in his crease.
2nd Star - Loui Erikkson (DAL): Had a goal and assist.. could have had a second goal if not for being robbed by Rinne in the second period.
3rd Star - Brad Richards (DAL): Ho-hum, two more assists - both primary as usual...
38th Star - David Legwand (NSH): On a night where all Predators were firing at will, it almost seems comical that Legwand was the only forward to not register a shot on goal!