Last night, the Dallas Stars won their second game in a row, in a shootout, against the Florida Panthers. There were a few warts along the way, but a few highlights as well. Hell, at this point in the season I don’t care if it was all warts. They won; it counts, on to the next game. A few things did stand out.
1 – Literally dozens of fans were on-hand to watch the festivities
No amount of creative camera work could hide the large swaths of empty sheets. More than anything else, the situation is an indictment of the dreadful management of Florida’s other franchise, and a cautionary tale against the impact of tanking for picks. Hopefully, the fact fans finally have a team worth watching will begin to repair some of the damage.
2 – Jamie Benn is not an area of concern
Dallas’ captain has been its best player right when the Stars needed him most. No, this season does not seem destined to end in the way we all imagined, but if Stars fans can take one comfort, it’s the fact that year two of the Captain Jamie experiment has been, in many ways, just as revelatory as year one. Maybe better.
3 – Are You Not Entertained?
All those complaints about Trevor Daley; the desire to see names like Nemeth, Jokipakka, and Klingberg on the lineup card? That was last night. Didn’t it look just a little bit like the Dallas defense with Daley? Goal one was a lousy change, goal three saw Patrick Nemeth turned around, and after a strong first frame turnovers became a serious issue. With all of that said, last night’s unit had size, pace, and when they were right, the ability to move the puck. Hope springs eternal, I suppose.
4 – Kari Lehtonen: 25 minute goalie
There were certainly saves, even a few good ones. A flurry just before Florida tied it was a high point, but once again the body of work was impossible to ignore. Three goals on 14 shots is not going to get him out of Coach Lindy Ruff’s doghouse or get the Stars anywhere close to the postseason. Goals two and three did have plenty to do with poor plays up the ice, but neither felt like saves we haven’t seen Kari make before. The brutal truth is that, offensively, this team is elite, and defensively, this team is adequate. If the Stars could say the same about their goaltending, we might be projecting first round matchups at this point.
5 – The Kids Are Just Alright
Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie have been more noticeable lately. They’re banging bodies and around the play. McKenzie scored last night, Ritchie the game before. Both are evolving and contributing, but neither seems fully finished at this point. That’s not a bad thing. Even contributing is a lot to ask of young men with limited NHL experience. The hope is that these are the minutes that prepare them for brighter futures.