For a rough five game stretch the Stars struggled. But there were extenuating circumstances. Back-to-backs, road trips, tough competition. Last night there would be no such excuses. The Stars were rested, playing at home, and against a team wrapping up a grueling five-game road swing. The Stars needed to win.
And they didn't disappoint.
Alex Chiasson, after an unacceptable five games where he failed to find the back of the net, gave the Stars the early boost with a goal just four minutes into the game. And although there were some nerves, and Kevin Connauton's first NHL penalty led to a momentum shift at the end of the period, Dallas held the initiative for most of the rest of the game, outshooting Calgary in the second and third periods, despite playing with a lead, and generally playing a much better puck possession game than at times during their recent losses.
You want the proof? Have a look at the lovely Fenwick chart over on Extra Skater. Barring that brief Flames flurry at the end of the 1st period, the Stars led throughout the game in possession stats, and, during the 10 minutes of 5v5 played while the score was tied, the Stars held a whopping 21-8 advantage in Corsi. More of that please.
Big stories before the game were of course Kari Lehtonen's return, and the debut, finally, of Kevin Connauton, playing on a line with Sergei Gonchar. And despite Kari's impressive showing, and Connauton's not disappointing first game, the stories by the end of the game were definitely Chiasson and Jamie Benn. And although neither managed the hat trick, continued strong performances by them will not go amiss.
Again no depth scoring for the Stars (besides an assist for Shawn Horcoff on Brendan Dillon's goal) which is becoming a concern. But the top two lines are beginning to live up to their promise. Chemistry is a beautiful thing. Said Chiasson of his scoring: "Those two goals were great plays by Whits. That first one I think he was the only one who saw me in the whole building." [Sports Day DFW]
One of these days other teams really should start taking notice of him...
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Some thoughts from Razor on Jamie Benn's captaincy, from before last night's game. [Razor with an Edge]
Now, I missed this live, and I'm very sad I did. Turns out fighting does have a place in the game. For comedic value. If only all fights were called by random visitors to the announcer's booth: 'Is that red hair on him? No wonder he's getting his... arse kicked.' [Graham's Week in Sports]
So the Stars are bad in back-to-backs. We all know this. But how bad? And why? Has it always been like this? And is there hope for the future? I want answers! [Pegasus News]
San Jose were close to starting the season with points in ten straight games. How close? Oh, about .8 seconds away. [NHL.com]
Manny Malhotra is looking out for his AHL teammates... on and off the ice. Read this article, and then everybody together: 'Aww... isn't that sweet?' [Puck Daddy]
And lastly, I'm rapidly becoming convinced that the NHLPA has a sweepstakes out on who can give up the most embarrassing goal this season. Yet another contender from last night. [Puck Daddy]