When the Dallas Stars first acquired Cody Eakin in the trade of Mike Ribeiro, there were a lot of questions as to whether or not it was a good move. Many people believed that Eakin would serve to be only a 4th line center at best, and giving up your second line center in return, despite his defensive shortcomings, was not a good idea.
Last night, Eakin had a chance to prove why he was brought to this team. Being placed on the second line, he had his chance to shine. And shine he did.
From the onset, he and Michael Ryder started clicking immediately. He was directly responsible for both of Ryder's goals by making great plays to keep the puck in the offensive zone. For the first time this season, it felt like more than one line was clicking as a group.
It was a good thing, too. Because with Jamie Benn still out of the lineup, fans were desperate for something to happen. The season is still very young, but being shut out against the Minnesota Wild, especially considering last year's back-to-back problems, was not an encouraging sign. Mike Heika explains why Glen Gulutzan's decision to switch the lineup around worked so well.
People needed a sign, and they needed it now. They wanted to see some shuffling somewhere, they wanted to see the coach push some buttons. So he did. It was a subtle move. Tom Wandell is a talented center who played second line minutes in Russia. Cody Eakin is a talented center who played first line minutes in the AHL. Honestly, their games aren't that different.
And yet, chemistry is a funny thing, because that revamped line with Eakins in Wandell's spot shot out of the chute and created scoring chances early. And when Eakin made a nice save to keep a puck in the offensive zone at the blueline and then found Ryder, who roofed a snap shot from distance, everything seemed right with the world.
Dallas scored 5:41 into a game that would be determined by goaltenders. It was exactly what Minnesota had done to the Stars on Sunday. It was exactly what the Stars needed to do to a Detroit team that had played the night before in Columbus.
That all speaks to momentum and timing and confidence and mental toughness, really. The coach challenged the team to be better, he made a change that allowed it to be better, and it responded and was simply...better.
It is likely that, given the offensive pressure from last night, Eakin will stay on as 2nd line center until Jamie Benn returns. If he continues to make plays like he did last night, the Stars can possibly go from one scoring line to three, in just a matter of a few games.
There are still plenty of questions surrounding this team, mind you, but there are certainly some positive signs as well. And the play of Cody Eakin is one of them.
Coming up in today's links: Some more postgame thoughts and quotes, why the number of early fights in games are continuing, and how other teams are making it up to the fans.
- Lehtonen also played a huge part in this win, stopping 39 of 40 shots. I'm looking forward to seeing more of his brilliance as the season wears on. The Stars are certainly going to need it. [Stars Inside Edge]
- You can tell we're already close to the playoffs when injuries are being masked. Whitney was able to play last night, despite an "undisclosed foot-area injury." I'm surprised it wasn't just labeled as flu-like symptoms. [Dallas News]
- The Stars team was killing time on twitter while waiting for their plane to deice after the game last night. It started with Reilly Smith throwing a Happy Gilmore reference out there over his lack of a goal tonight, and it only escalated from there. Eventually the flight was cancelled, and they all spent the night in Detroit, but not before some fun was had. [Twitter/Twitter/Twitter]
- The upcoming schedule for the Stars does not improve, with the undefeated Chicago Blackhawks coming into town on Thursday. Last night, they were victorious against my Stanley Cup Winner Pick, the St. Louis Blues. [Globe and Mail]
- At least some other teams are losing for the Stars in the meantime. The Kings dropped their second straight, and have not earned a point yet this season, proving that they might have a Cup hangover after all. The Oilers, meanwhile, gave up 6 goals in the first period to the Sharks, ensuring that the next 40 minutes was nothing but a formality. [NHL/NHL]
- It's interesting that Eakin should shine so well last night, while Mike Ribeiro was having some problems of his own. He got a little angry with the refs after a missed high stick call in the Capitals 4-2 loss, and wasn't afraid to let the media know what he thought. I may miss some of his playmaking abilities, but I won't miss moments like these. [Puck Daddy]
- Allan Muir discusses how motivating fights on the ice can be to a team. I'm personally not a fan of staged fighting happening in the first few seconds of a game. I think there needs to be a proper reason to do it instead of "to pump up the team." If the players aren't pumped at the opening faceoff to begin with, I think there are larger problems at hand. But, hey, that's just me. [Sports Illustrated]
- Down Goes Brown got a hold of some of the plans that teams around the NHL have for making it up to their fans. That includes Vancouver's plan of "One lucky spectator will get an official Canucks jersey and ball cap, a front-row seat, and also $7 million dollars, because they are Roberto Luongo." [Down Goes Brown]
- In case you missed the game last night, here are the 6 minute highlights. Pay particular attention to Eakin before each goal is scored. It's easy to miss during game time, but when you go back and look at the reel, you can see how much of an impact he made offensively.