There once was a time when a one-goal lead wouldn’t be enough to ensure a win by the Dallas Stars. Heck, there were times when three goal leads were never safe.
Maybe this year will be different?
The Dallas Stars won their first game of the season tonight in what was basically a one-goal lead (with goal number four being supplied via an empty-netter at the end of the game). While the craziness that usually incurs when a team pulls the goaltender for an extra attacker was going on, I never really felt that this lead was going to evaporate. My Fitbit can even prove it – nice steady heart rate of 60 beats per minute through the end of the game.
It could be a false sense of confidence in this team, but the defensive effort was there tonight in my mind. It wasn’t always pretty, and they did stumble twice, but I’ll take a goals against of merely two and dance away with a win, personally.
One thing that was quite noticeable from the start of this game was the pace at which the Dallas Stars came out against the Detroit Red Wings. They got the game off to a fast start. Even better was the fact that most of their offensive zone entries were controlled carry-ins, or dump-ins that they were able to retrieve with relative ease.
It definitely helped set the tone of the game.
The Stars had a strong period on the back of John Klingberg. He scored the first goal of the night off of a nice effort and some space the Red Wings gave him. He then assisted on a brilliant pass to Tyler Seguin who was able to blast another home. Like that, the Stars had nearly doubled their goal scoring effort from the first two games combined.
Unfortunately, the Stars and Red Wings both can no longer boast of being tops in penalty killing with 100% kill rates. Neither team had allowed a power play goal before tonight, and now they both have. Dallas continues to make some butter on that power play unit, with far fewer opportunities on the man advantage tonight than the Red Wings had.
I’m not sure what the Stars have been feasting on between periods one and two, but they’ve been shot-volume kings in the middle frames so far this season. They’re averaging 17.7 shots on goal in the second period alone through three games. Logic says that is bound to regress, but for now it’s a mindboggling statistic.
The Stars gave up a power play goal on the rarely seen 4-on-3 man advantage, after a series of infractions by Brett Ritchie and Seguin. Mattias Janmark, however, would later return the Stars to a two-goal lead off a bullish rush straight at the net of Petr Mrazek. They do say good things happen when you go to the net, and Janmark continues his great start to the season as well. I must say it’s nice to see that for him, as he missed all of last season with a degenerative knee injury. Oh, and remember when he was a Red Wings prospect? Me neither – that’s how well he’s fit into Dallas since general manager Jim Nill traded Erik Cole for him and Mattias Backman.
Overall, the third period was much of the same. Dallas had a number of chances in front of Mrazek, but as the period wore on it seemed that Detroit found their groove a little bit more. The Stars did break down in front of Bishop, with two Stars colliding into one another and putting themselves just enough out of position to allow the Red Wings to bring the score within one again.
The rest of the period was a flurry of activity. The Red Wings threw a lot in front of Bishop, and the team kept icing the puck away. With the rule change this summer where coaches can’t call a timeout after an icing, that could have really come back to bite them. It seemed like Seguin and Jamie Benn were on the ice for 75% of the last 2+ minutes of the game. Luckily, they were able to get the puck out just enough thanks to a great effort from Alexander Radulov (who literally cannot buy a goal if he offered the hockey gods $100 right now). Janmark would eventually corral the puck for a cross-ice pass and an easy tap-in by Martin Hanzal to seal the game.
· It’s not old yet to see the singular focus and thirst for the puck Alexander Radulov shows in his game. He does a lot of yeoman’s work for the top trio for Dallas. Now if he could just get rewarded for his efforts...
· Ben Bishop is quite often like having another puckhandler out on the ice, and the team hasn’t quite adjusted to that yet. He’ll be a nice advantage at times once he and the team can work their communication out on that front.
· I thought Remi Elie had a nice showing tonight. He hustled after the puck and was a big part of his line’s success in cycling the puck in the offensive zone.
· It may just be an “eyeball test” thing, and it’d be hard to really quantify it, but it just feels like this team plays very differently in front of Ben Bishop than it does in front of Kari Lehtonen. Maybe it’s because Bishop seems to make key saves at key moments in a more confident manner. Maybe it’s confirmation bias as I watch the game and see a better overall defensive effort than in other games. But I have to think that if you have confidence that the man between the pipes will come up with a save when you break down in front of him, that you’ll play with more confidence in front of him accordingly.