The Stars recorded a shutout. A SHUTOUT. I didn’t even think it was allowed the way the Stars have been this season. It may have been boring, but to be honest, I’d take a 1-0 boring win from this team most nights because it shows that they are capable of getting their defense and goaltending in sync enough to record a win in a tight defensive game.
Kari Lehtonen did some good work at times and turned away 30 shots in the shutout. While the shots against might not be where the Stars would like them to be, you can’t argue with the result – at least for tonight.
The first 20 minutes of the game were played fairly evenly, with both teams generating some chances and getting a power play chance one aside. Since nobody scored in the first period, here’s a few things I noticed from specific players:
· Jamie Benn is a pretty good penalty killer. It’s too bad he’s on a team with such a historically bad penalty kill as nobody will ever talk about how skillfully he can kill the opponent’s ability to generate offense on the man advantage.
· Jamie Oleksiak had several moments in his own zone where he got close to the blue line along the boards, the puck came towards him, and he just stopped skating. He would try a short chip pass to get it past a pressuring Sharks player and quite often failed at it. He’d probably have more success if he were to just corral the puck and skate it out. Those turnovers at your own line are momentum killers and often can trap your own guys in the zone too long, extending their shifts and giving the opposition more chances to score against you. (In other words: stop doing that.)
· Devin Shore made a very good poke check at the top of Kari Lehtonen’s crease as he was trying to cover the shot from the circle and didn’t get over in enough time to cover the net squarely. Saved a sure goal against on that play.
· Holistically, the Stars struggled to connect many clean passes until late in the period. Then they connected too many on the power play, effectively moving the puck but never quite looking like they were a scoring threat even though they had the advantage in manpower.
Second verse, much the same as the first except that the Stars managed to actually score a goal! It was the only one in the period, and resulted in a score many fans are not as familiar with this season: 1-0 Stars heading into the third period.
· Remi Elie seems to be an everyday NHL – or pretty close to it. His decision making with the puck is most often poised, something the Stars have lacked at times this season. He also doesn’t look completely out of place on the top six units. With the potential holes the Stars will have in their forward group next season, Elie may be a homegrown talent they can use in the lineup to focus efforts on acquiring a player of greater need this summer.
· Patrick Sharp may not be putting up a lot of points, but he still does a lot of the little things that makes players successful at this level. One can only hope that some of these younger players are picking up on those things from the veteran forward.
· Curtis McKenzie brought home the bacon from his favorite place: the opposing goaltender’s kitchen. He drove to the front of the net and was rewarded with an excellent rebound. That seemed like the only way Aaron Dell was going to be beat tonight, as his positioning stopped may quality chances by the Stars through nearly 40 minutes of play.
Once again, fairly boring period. True story: I didn’t even write about the third period until after the clock hit zero. I mean, we’ve seen the team find every way to lose the game this year, why would I think tonight would be different?
For once, I’m happy to be wrong. They shut it down and got the win.
One fun note: Radek Faksa, Devin Shore, and Remi Elie seemed to record minutes in situations where the Stars were getting pressured but looking to make the score stand up. Big responsibilities for those younger players. While we expect Faksa to be out there at the end of the game, seeing guys like Elie and Shore shows that they’re starting to earn some trust with the coaching staff with their play in the defensive zone.