As the Dallas Stars started the 2011 / 2012 season with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, Ted Price, who is the valued producer of our Stargazing Puckcast, said it best midway through the opening contest tonight between the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks:
"No clue how this team will finish, but they sure will be a lot of fun to watch."
Couldn't have said it better myself, but the win sure makes games like tonight that much sweeter.
While the performance of Kari Lehtonen in picking up the 37 save win and Jamie Benn along with Alex Goligoski scoring goals for the Stars were the highlight of tonight's win, the defense and transition game out of the Stars zone is looking to be a bit of a work in progress for Dallas as they were pinned in for lengths of time in their own zone. It was that inability to get out of their zone that ultimately cost Kari what would have been a well earned shutout and made things a little too close for comfort at the end of the game.
But the bottom line is the Stars showed a ton of tenacity tonight at home in front of a pretty good and lively crowd and have now hopefully set the tone on just what we can expect nightly. I somehow doubt the Stars will go 82 and 0 for the season, but as Mr. Price so aptly pointed out I think we'll be good with 82 games worth of this kind of effort.
After the jump we take a closer look at some of the finer points of tonight's contest...
Someone said the "S-Word" again didn't they? : Tough to see Kari lose his shutout bid with a mere 13 seconds left on the clock, but that should not take away from how clutch he was in tonight's game including a point blank pad save on Jonathan Toews from about three feet away in the first period, and a blocker save on Jamal Mayers' breakaway attempt in the third period. Kari looked focused, kept himself constantly square to the puck and was able to freeze the puck when it got near him.
Benn-dozer! : Benn picked up right where he left off last season picking up the eventual game winning goal tonight, but it was bone crushing hit on the Hawks Niklas Hjalmarsson that left a lasting impression on this game not to mention the plexiglass that Benn put him through which caused a bit of a delay in the game.
The "Didn't Get Rewarded With a Point But Should Have" Award goes to : Michael Ryder who not only was extra creative with the puck in a play making sense, but also a little bit surprising in how well he played defensively. he was credited with just 2 takeaways tonight, but that number should have been higher.
The runner-up to that award is : Vernon Fiddler, who announced his debut with the Stars very quickly getting off a dangerous scoring chance 30 seconds into the start of the game and displayed a fair amount of hustle all night.
The turning point : The Stars were hit with the first four penalties of the game and were being seriously outplayed and outshot late in the second period when Marian Hossa - who did have a fine game for Chicago overall - took a dumb and rather selfish penalty about 100 feet away from where the puck was. The Stars - who were already down a man themselves - took advantage of the open ice and generated the second goal that deflated any momentum the Hawks had been picking up in that period.
That wasn't thunder you heard, just the sound of Sheldon Souray's shot : I feel like we should do a running tally of how many goals will be scored this year as a result of a booming Souray shot from the point. We can start the count at 1 tonight as it was his shot that rebounded right to Benn who was at the right place at the right time for the second goal.
Let's get phys-i-cal.. phys-i-cal... : Hopefully the Hawks had plenty of ice packs to go around as the Stars nearly doubled them up in hits 37 to 19. Of course you can attribute some of that lopsided total to the fact the Hawks had the puck a lot more in the second and third periods, but the Stars made sure to follow through on their early promise to be a very tough team to play against. Mark Fistric led the parade with 8 hits, while Steve Ott was close behind with 7.
Chicago scoring : Nick Leddy (1 goal), Patrick Kane (1 assist), Brandon Pirri (1 assist)
Dallas scoring : Benn (1 goal), Goligoski (1 goal), Souray (1 assist), Trevor Daley (1 assist), Mike Ribeiro (1 assist)
Defending Big D Three Stars
1 - Kari Lehtonen (DAL)
2 - Jamie Benn (DAL)
3 - Corey Crawford (CHI)