Antti Niemi, Dallas Stars Shutout Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Opening Night
A 37 save shutout and 2 assists. Not a bad debut.
Not being very accustomed to such overwhelming positivity, it's difficult to know where to begin.
The Dallas Stars did not have what anyone would call a successful preseason. The goaltending did not appear to be particularly fixed. The special teams were not very special. The dynamic offense was never really put together and given a chance to shine. It was an ugly 1-6.
So when the puck dropped this evening against a stacked Pittsburgh Penguin lineup, it was hard to know what to expect.
How about a 37 shot shutout? How about 2-for-5 on the power play? How about a goal for rookie Mattias Janmark on his first shot of his NHL career? How about zero shots on goal for Sidney Crosby?
Those things were hard to see coming- And boy, are they welcome sights for a team that needs to get off to a quick start this season.
Things did not start so well as the Penguins out-shot Dallas 10-4 in the opening frame and the Spezza and Seguin lines struggled to get puck to the net. But a spark and a cushion came from the trio of Janmark, Ales Hemsky, and Antoine Roussel, who would combine to score the game-winner less than two minutes into the game.
A seemingly rejuvenated Hemsky would add a second point to his night five minutes into the second on the power play with a spectacular highlight reel goal through a screen that beat Fleury high to the left corner.
Antti Niemi assisted on both goals, but that was just a sliver of what he would contribute in the end. Any doubts about who the man will be in net moving forward are firmly put to bed after this one, as Niemi withstood a Penguin onslaught in the game's final frame. His save total counted 37 when it was all said and done, and the save percentage a pristine 1.000%.
The guess is we'll see him in the pipes on Saturday, no?
Now you may ask why it was necessary for him to face 37 shots, and that's a fair question- The Stars led the game in what Lindy Ruff will call quality chances for most of the evening, and the Pens only out-attempted Dallas 66-61 on the night, so the shot disparity may not tell the story tonight. Two pipes behind Fleury were also struck.
The defense may not have been stellar, but it has time to come together if it plays in front of goaltending like that.
A huge statement win tonight for the boys, and we'll have more on this one tomorrow...
- Jamie Benn scored. Twice. The officials were not impressed with this one...
no goal AND Benn gets a penalty pic.twitter.com/1kHs1w1acN— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 9, 2015
A couple of minutes later he would deflect a Jason Spezza shot/pass for the Stars' third goal. He does not look 100%, and he went to the locker room in the third period after taking a shot, so we'll double check that tomorrow. He has some work to do to get up to his usual outstanding self, and an injury would not help.
- Mattias Janmark was the best player on the Stars in the first period, and the goal was well earned. You who could not see the preseason are witnessing the output of his strong training camp. We'll look for that to continue...
- This is awesome:
Hemsky goal pic.twitter.com/BEYiwR2cyZ— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 9, 2015
- Good showing from the home crowd tonight. There were lots of Crosby jerseys, sure, but there were mostly Stars fans. Much more than a Hawks game. And I am sure all those Pens fans are looking forward to watching their Patriots on Sunday.
- John Klingberg made a lot of plays tonight. Defensive ones, which is where the team needs him the most to step up. The offense will take care of itself, seemingly. If he can be any kind of rock back there it makes life easier for everyone.
- The power play was 2-for-5 and could have done more damage. We'll see if that is sustainable, but there's so much talent there it's hard to believe it won't be in the top third of the league this season.
- Vern Fiddler knows where the fountain of youth is, and I want someone to follow him to it.