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Afterwords: A Win Well-Deserved

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Stars finally got rewarded for their hard work, and it was fun to watch. What more could you have the temerity to ask for?

Detroit Red WIngs v Dallas Stars Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Stars won! This is a good thing to have happened, and in no coherent order are some words:

As much as we talked about Mattias Janmark’s absence last year, these last three games (and tonight especially) really show how irreplaceable he is on this roster. To have lost him (and others) right before the season was gutting last year, and to have him in addition to some of the other new faces this year is almost an embarrassment of riches. We say “almost” because the team is 1-2, but one would have to think that the record...

...The record will improve if the Stars keep playing like this. No, they weren’t perfect, and there were some oopsie-doopsies tonight. Ben Bishop lost his net a bit on the second goal, and his ill-executed pass up the ice must have made Marty Turco smile just a bit. It’s amazing what you can forgive when your team wins, though. After all, Bishop just knew how to make that save, or at least get a quick whistle. We’re all still rebuilding trust with Stars Netminding, but this is a good start...

...A good start is something Hitch is known for, both in terms of his tenure with a team and the hockey game itself. But Dallas really has looked good so far this year, and I remain petulantly optimistic that they can be a significant player in the Central Division this year. A lot of that is due to Hitch and Ben Bishop, but Alex Radulov...

...Alex Radulov is a wonder to watch. The broadcast had a lot of fun showing his shifts and his work ethic tonight, and I was right there with them. It’s a joy to watch a player with the tenacity of Cody Eakin, the hands of Ales Hemsky, and the physicality of...a big, grumpy player who is good. I dunno, kinda losing the handle on this whole thing, but speaking of losing the handle...

...The Hanzal (sorry) goal was satisfying, both because there’s no guarantee he’s going to score right off the bat (not that his game leads with points), and because the Stars deserved to put this game away and get a nice bit of goal horn relief. The dogged defense of Dallas wasn’t just led by Hanzal, though, who has looked good (if a bit different that the rest of the forwards, both for his size and his different play style). There was also Tyler Seguin’s goal (just go watch it over and over and over again, it’s beautiful), Esa Lindell’s newfound aggression and sort of playmaking, and Tyler Pitlick...

...Tyler Pitlick is wearing Patrick Eaves’s number, but he was basically the old Pit Bull Line wrapped up in one, tonight. He was everywhere (so was Radulov, we may have mentioned) and getting to the puck, and it was a real crowd-pleaser of a night for Pitlick, who promises to be a steal for Dallas if he can play 70 games a season. But we haven’t even mentioned the defense other than Lindell...

...Other than Lindell, the defense also looked functional. John Klingberg looks sassy and mojo-ful, which is Optimum Klingberg in my book (does Honka’s presence maybe push him? This is pure guesswork, and probably insulting to Klingberg’s work ethic, so I’ll withdraw the insinuation). Julius Honka is also a big (not that big) X factor on this defense, someone who feels kind of like a Lamborghini idling through a parking lot right now. Once he’s unleashed, he’s going to become a focal point of the other team’s game plan really quickly (as Klingberg always is). But then, his partner was Jamie Oleksiak, who was also solid tonight, so let’s not pretend Honka is operating in isolation. Hitch sheltered his third pairing as coaches do, but given the night Stephen Johns had...

...Stephen Johns had a few moments to forget tonight, and you saw them all. At some point in the first, I just sort of realized that my huge expectations for Johns after his debut in Dallas have been somewhat tempered, and maybe more than that. Johns still has tools, and he still seems like a player you protect in the expansion draft (as Dallas did), but you’d like to see him start to iron out his game and move on to whatever stage of development Lindell has entered, because that would be really nice to get back to that stage with Johns. The question with him and Oleksiak will always involve hockey IQ and playmaking intelligence, and a team only gets so much time to make a decision on a player. It’s a big year for both of those guys, but Oleksiak certainly had the better night tonight (though he also played the fewest minutes of the defense as well, which makes me suspect Hitch also watched the video from last game). Anyway, it’s fun to watch this team, and I’m curious to see what lineups get rolled out next. Radek Faksa...

...Radek Faksa and Jason Spezza are just gravy right now—seriously, what kind of second power play has Honka, Spezza and Hanzal? That’s amazing—and we of course understand what gravy means for a team that was eating dry, cold turkey for much of last year. We are, through three games, watching a Stars team that is fast, assiduous, talented, and deep. The skeleton key for Dominant Stars could be said to be halfway assembled, given how well the forward lines have been rolling (whatever manifestation they choose). As the defense continues to sort itself out, just think about the fact that Hitch is playing Seguin and Klingberg in the defensive zone with an empty net at the other end. We might be seeing the next stage of something really special, or at least a lot of fun to watch. The only way to find out is to keep watching, and that suddenly doesn’t seem so bad at all. Tonight made me realize that, after last season, I had begun to forget what it was like to be pleasantly surprised.