Last week, the Dallas Stars played their ideal game on opening night running the Pittsburgh Penguins off the ice. The Stars stifled Sidney Crosby & Associates, got solid net minding, and capitalized on scoring chances.
The follow up performance in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche was a comedy of errors in the second half of the game as they gave up a 3-1 lead. Defensive errors and conservative offense sunk them in their division opener.
Now we look forward to Week 2 in Stars' hockey. What is on the menu?
Tuesday 10/13/15 - Edmonton Oilers @ Dallas Stars
Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, and the Edmonton Oilers visit the American Airlines Center tonight. The Oil have started slow failing to pick up a point in games against the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators. The defense has seemed to show improvement from last year, averaging 2.50 goals against per game so far.
The excitement for the Oilers in the offseason was understandable, given their lottery victory and expected improvement from a young roster. The improvement appears to be there after good showings against the Central division champs and runners up from a year ago.
All of the talk was about McDavid, but the sneaky part of the Oilers improvement came behind the bench with the addition of former San Jose Sharks' coach Todd McLellan. His fingerprints are all over the team already, and Edmonton is a dangerous squad.
The Stars will expect to win this game, and they easily could. A fast start from Dallas will be vital to crushing the dreams of a young team trying to find their footing in the league. McDavid is going to have a break out game in the next few weeks; hopefully it isn't tonight at the American Airlines Center.
The Oilers rely on a speed and skill-based game. The key to victory tonight will be the gap between forwards and defensemen. Allowing the Oilers to hit the blue line with speed will give them space to play a free flowing game. Stifle the youngsters and force them to dump and chase.
Player to Watch: Cam Talb... Just kidding. Please watch No. 97 Connor McDavid.
Thursday 10/15/15 - Dallas Stars @ Tampa Bay Lightning
This one will be fun. Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop and the rest of the defending Eastern Conference champions host the Stars on Thursday night.
Last year, the Stars were the second highest scoring team in the league, behind only these Lightning. However, during their playoff run last year the Lightning showed the ability to slow down the game and put a team in the grinder. This is not your typical offense-only fireworks show.
Victor Hedman is a popular choice to make a run at a Norris Trophy this year. The Lightning are entering a window for a championship, and with the Stamkos contract expiring this year, it will be their last chance to make an aggressive move for a championship before the salary cap gets tighter. Windows open and close fast in this league.
This team looks ready to take the league by storm, and will be the best opponent the Stars have faced this season.
Much like the Pittsburgh game last week, the key to this game is quick and efficient zone exits, pushing Tampa's offense outside, and staying out of the penalty box. The Lightning power play can score in bunches. This is a balanced team. Mistakes from the back line will be punished.
Player to Watch: No. 27 Jonathan Drouin. After a disappointing rookie year, Drouin looks ready to make his mark on the team. He is very slippery and creative.
Saturday 10/17/15 - Dallas Stars @ Florida Panthers
Florida is a dark horse pick to make a run at an Atlantic Division playoff spot. Last season, the Panthers battled until the last week of the season only to narrowly be left out of the Eastern Conference tournament.
It was a strange start to the season for the Panthers, winning on opening night by a score of 7-1 at home against the Flyers, and getting shut out two nights later to the same team in Philadelphia. So, you can tell me what that means.
By the way, former Stars great Jaromir Jagr still plays hockey at a high level. Despite the presence of the 43 year-old immortal, this is a young team trying to discover their game at the NHL level. This is a game playoff teams win on the road.
Everyone remembers the sleepy game last year that cost the Stars - Tyler Seguin for 10 games. While motivation shouldn't be an issue this early in the season, this will be Seguin's first crack at the Panthers since he was hurt. He probably would love to have a huge game against the young Panthers.
The key to this game will be pushing the pace and quickly turning over the Panthers. A more mature team, the Stars will have the advantage in an up-and-down game rapidly transitioning from defense to offense. Florida is a sneaky good cycle team and allowing the Panthers to slow down play will not bode well for Dallas.
Player to Watch: No. 5 Aaron Ekblad. The Calder-winning defenseman from last year looks like the real deal. This kid is fun to watch.
This is a lunch pail week for the Stars. Playoff teams get 4-5 points in weeks like this, and the ability to take care of business against two young teams is important. Different styles of hockey will be required for each opponent. It should be a fun week of hockey and getting to watch Connor McDavid, Steven Stamkos, and Aaron Ekblad in one week is a real treat.