On Thursday night, the Dallas Stars showed off the style of play and identity they have quickly become known for, using speed and an aggressive transition game to keep the Chicago Blackhawks on their heels for the better part of the game. While the battle-tested Blackhawks stepped it up in the third period and ultimately won, the game was the perfect example of how the Stars are going to cause all sorts of problems and luckily there was one goal that showed that off perfectly.
In the second period, with the Stars in full-gallup up and down the ice, the third line of Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt gave their team the lead thanks to a perfect breakout play and aggression in taking the play to the net. It's something this line did a lot of last season as well as in the playoffs, and last night was another example of how this line has become so effective.
[Note: We apologize for the quality of the screenshots, this shouldn't be the case for future breakdowns]
It all starts with the left-wing breakout the Stars use so effectively, as detailed by Justin Bourne. Here, Roussel takes the outlet pass from the defense along the wall and bumps it to the middle of the ice, where Garbutt and Eakin are already in full charge.
Garbutt carries the puck into the zone, pushing forward with his speed while Roussel begins his drive to the net. At this point, the Hawks have four players back but already are nearly out of position -- the gap control on Garbutt isn't perfect and it allows him the space to push the defense further back.
Seabrook is able to step up and get his stick on the puck as Garbutt winds up a shot, and you can see above how Roussel has drawn the attention of two forwards while Seabrook is caught staring down the puck.
You can see the play developing better from this angle, as Eakin has floated up high while both Garbutt and Roussel have drown four players to them. The fortunate play here is Keith essentially bumping the puck straight to Eakin; if Garbutt had actually attempted his shot, Seabrook was in good position to handle the rebound if needed.
This all leads to a situation that almost impossible for a goaltender to defend -- the seas in front of him part and from point blank, Eakin fires the the shot across his body and over Crawford's shoulder. It was a full-body snipe by the young center, but the opportunity was created for him by the speed with which the Stars attacked the blue line and pushed the Hawks defense back from the play.
What this also shows is just how similar styles the Hawks and Stars play -- the Hawks were victimized by their own desire to move the puck quickly i
Piece by piece this seems rather simple, but it's the backbone around which the Stars are built -- a fast and clean transition out of the zone and then speed up the ice to put the other team back on their heels. This time it worked out rather perfectly thanks to the speed of the team, along with some fortuitous luck with the puck, and it's a sign of what we can expect even more of this season from the Stars.