The Dallas Stars have turned the collective North American head with a game one victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Dallas was physical, they were dynamic offensively, they were poised in the third period, they received quality goaltending, and the defense was solid. It flew in the face of what the hockey world thought it new about Lindy Ruff's squad.
Now they have to find a way to repeat it. In the afternoon. On national television. Another chance to take advantage of last-change while they still have it. A factor that was key in the regular season matchups between the two.
"I didn't get caught up in the matchups," Ruff said after game one. "I wanted our team to play. There was matchups at times in the night that I looked for and there were times I just wanted us to play because at the end of the night, I don't think we're a real good team when I start matching line for line. It takes too many of our guys out of the game."
That was echoed on the other side as Tarasenko remarked "Whoever you play against you just need to be ready and be yourself on the ice."
Who he played against was often the Fak 'Em line where Alex Hemsky has found his purpose here in Dallas and where Radek Faksa has found a convincing landing place in the National Hockey League. I'd mention Antoine Roussel, too, but lack of news about Tyler Seguin has the national media doing it round the clock.
The contributions of the trio were the story of game one- To win a game where Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, and John Klingberg don't score is a bit of a luxury. Or rather to turn it around, losing a game in which the Blues hold those super-stars to nothing is a missed opportunity. Potato-potato.
(You'll have to imagine I said the first potato and the second potato differently)
From potato-potato to tomato-tomato, or the Stars' twin Finns in net. Both received their turn in round-one. Kari Lehtonen's results on Friday speak for themselves, and Ruff spoke highly of the likely game-two starter-
"There's some calmness to his game now and I think the team feeds off of that calmness," Ruff said of Lehotnen. "I think he feels good about his game and his numbers are good. His numbers are all good. We just hope that winning a series does for him what it should do to other players."
Kari has a chance to take a stranglehold on the number-one job once and for all with another victory today. Lose, and it's business as usual with the possibility that Niemi could tap in for game three. It's nice to have options- An unquestioned lead-dog at this point would be even nicer.
Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie were re-called from the eliminated Texas Stars over the weekend for extra bodies, though neither figures to play this afternoon. Patrick Eaves is nursing a bruise thanks to friendly fire and is officially questionable.
Lindy Ruff seemed to take the mystery out of it on Saturday, however, confirming that Val Nichsuhkin would get re-enter the lineup.
"I think every time he steps on the ice, he works as hard as he possibly can," Ruff said of Val. "He's been responsible. I think there's always some frustration with not producing. There are a lot of good players that are still in the playoffs, or that are out of the playoffs, that weren't able to produce. It's not an easy gig."
Brian Elliott was the one making the gig that much harder Friday night in making 40 saves in a loss- See "Elliott saved a goal while facing backwards in net" for one of the many examples.
Elliott was outstanding- The Blues contend that the rest of their game was not, and that Dallas had little to do with it.
"We kind of waited to see what Dallas was going to bring," noted Star-Killer Kevin Shattenkirk told STLTODAY.com. "We just waited to see what their style of play was going to be and we never really said, ‘Let us play our game and see how they react.'"
A coach's post-game message to his players is usually fairly easily observed from what said players echo to the media. That being the case- Ken Hitchcock's view of the proceedings Friday was seemingly that the Blues can dictate to Dallas if they execute.
"They were winning a lot more battles. Whether that was them being really engaged or us not that engaged, David Backes deliberated, "they won more puck battles and a result of that, created more offense and had the ice tilted towards our net."
Whether it was the Stars being engaged or the Blues not, he says. The subtlety is...well there isn't much. And there's only been one game. The fun is only going to ramp up, but the Stars need to continue to take advantage of home ice. Ruff says he's not doing much matching, but Hitch will in St. Louis to get Dallas' shot total down.
We'll see you back in just a few hours for the game thread, antacids and communal hand-wringing. Happy game two. Again.
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars defeated the St. Louis Blues, 2-1, on Friday night to take a 1-0 series lead in the Second Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After a scoreless first period, Stars forward Antoine Roussel (1-0=1) netted the contest's first goal in the second period to give Dallas a 1-0 lead going into second intermission. In the third period, Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk tied the contest with a goal (1-0=1) but Stars rookie Radek Faksa would answer with his second game-winning goal (1-0=1) of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 31-of-32 shots faced, recording his fourth win of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and his third-straight victory on home ice at American Airlines Center.
WHAT DOES THE FAK-SAY?
Stars forward Radek Faksa registered a game-high two points (1-1=2) on Friday night against the St. Louis Blues and now has points in two of his last three Stanley Cup Playoff games (1-2=3). His two points in Game 1 set a new postseason career-high for the forward and marked his second game-winning goal this postseason. Faksa recorded his first career game-winning goal (1-0=1) in Game 1 of the First Round against the Minnesota Wild. During the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the rookie shares first in the NHL and leads the club with two game-winning goals, along with ranking first on the team with a 51.7% faceoff percentage (60-of-116). The native of Vitkov, Czech Republic has skated in seven career postseason contests and has recorded four points (2-2=4) with a +3 plus/minus rating. In 45 games during the 2015-16 regular season with Dallas, the forward notched five goals and seven assists for 12 points (5-7=12). Selected by Dallas in the first round (13th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft, Faksa made his NHL debut this season on Oct. 17 at Florida, recording one hit, one block and one shot in the contest.
LEHTS GET LOUD
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 31-of-32 shots in Game 1 against the Blues to lead the Stars to a 2-1 victory at American Airlines Center. Lehtonen improved his 2016 postseason record to 4-1 and has recorded a win in five of his six career home playoff starts in a Stars uniform, including two shutouts over that span. In the First Round against Minnesota, he started four games with a 3-1 record, registering a .911 SV%, 2.27 GAA and posting the first road playoff win of his NHL career in the Game Six at Minnesota. The native of Helsinki, Finland has appeared in 13 career postseason contests with a 6-7 record, recording a .892 SV% and 3.15 GAA. During the 2015-16 campaign, he posted a 25-10-2 record, a .906 SV% and 2.76 GAA in 43 games, tied for second most among NHL goaltenders with three assists (0-3=3). Lehtonen finished the regular season on a 9-2-1 run from March 4 - April 10 with a 2.38 GAA, with those nine wins being tied for the second-most in the NHL over that span.