Dallas Stars Opening Night Overreaction: Stanley Cup or Bust!

It's impossible to look at a single game and learn anything, but where's the fun in that? Are the Stars an unexpected Stanley Cup favorite, or are the wheels coming off this young season? Why wait for sample size, let's leap to conclusions right now!

First, a disclaimer. This is an article about feelings; the raw stuff. Triumph, defeat, failure, and joy. There's no filter, and I have no interest in measured, stats-driven analysis. All I care about is that, last night, the Dallas Stars fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a glorious and terrible game, one that left me exhilarated, confused, and angry. All at once it told me everything, and it told me nothing. So let’s celebrate opening night with a healthy, full-bodied freak out. Just pick your favorite absolute and off you go.

I know now that the Stars cannot possibly, under any circumstances, reach the heights predicted throughout the long, tortuous offseason. I know this because:

1 - Good gracious the first goal was soft. Downy soft. Like a pillow. I know Kari spent the rest of the game in beast mode, and I know that 2 goals on 24 shots is actually quite good. Still, man, viscerally, Duncan Keith from the boards, that cannot happen. The entire calculus of this team depends on getting exactly that save at exactly that moment. It didn't happen tonight, hello Big L.

2 - And it could have been worse. When the Stars had the puck, things were fine. Crisp, quick passing, constantly changing points of attack, beautiful. Then Chicago got the puck, made a play, and setup shop in the Dallas zone. Cue scramble mode. It was telling that the Hawks were outshot 34-26, but still seemed to come up with a scoring chance whenever they needed one. All of the sudden, it was the closing minutes of Game 6 versus Anaheim.

3 - Speaking of Game 6, something happened tonight that also happened that night: Benn + Seguin = 0 goals. The entire top line, point of fact, was blanked at even strength. I mentioned calculus earlier, and how Lehtonen making saves was a part of things. The other part? Seguin and Benn playing Top This while throwing crooked numbers up on the scoreboard. Didn't happen tonight, neither did a win, and that's no coincidence.

Except that's just half the story.

The Blackhawks finished last season one goal away from having the honors of decimating the New York Rangers for Lord Stanley's Cup. That same Chicago team just staggered out of the ACC counting their lucky stars a few breaks fell the right way. Play the same game ten times, as the saying goes, and Dallas wins how many? Seven? Eight?

Which means tonight was a fluke. A good omen. The bad will work itself out, the percentages will correct, and the parade will commence as scheduled this spring. Thanks to tonight, I know beyond any doubt this Stars team is destined for greatness because:

1 - Even as I type this sentence I'm terrified somehow, some way Antoine Roussel is going to find out I said something negative about the squad, he's going to strap on a pair of roller blades, skate down to Austin, and slap the taste out of my mouth. If tonight is any indication of what we're going to see out of the Eakin/Garbutt/Roussel unit this season, opposing coaches might as well cross their first lines off the board. There's no point expecting anything out of those units. They could probably use the rest. Slam a door in the Chicago locker room and half the defense probably flinches. Did you see Garbutt draw a penalty? No retaliation! And Cody Freakin' Eakin, the Ginga Ninja, the sound of the pipes on his goal was so sweet I might make it my ringtone.

2 - Speaking of expectations, welcome to Dallas Mr. Spezza. If you don't mind, I'll just pencil in a point per game, a humming power play, and a handful of "was that guy even open?" passes on a nightly basis. Give it a month, and Dallas' power play probably chips in 2 or 3 goals on a night like this one. Opposing defenses are going to have to alter the way they play against Dallas, the risks are simply too great. Spezza's composure with the puck, furthermore, gives the Stars a fearsome balance to their offense. Tonight, Spezza (and Ales Hemsky as well) did everything Stars fans hoped they might.

3 - On that note, the rest of the league should be terrified of Dallas' offense. Yes, they only scored twice, but Corey Crawford played out of his mind. Stars forwards also left chances on the ice (go a foot wider, Vern), and damaged the irons. Their pace of play was staggering, and clearly disrupted a Duncan Keith / Brent Seabrook-anchored defense accustomed to having their way with opponents. Tonight was a bitter pill, sure, but think about the nights the shots are falling.

Throw it all together, and tonight gave us sure signs we should panic. Fire the flares, put out the life-boats, women and children first. We also got signs something special was brewing; plan the parade special. A rational person would say the answer rests somewhere in between, but where’s the fun in that? So play the home game. Take off your own filter, draw some hasty conclusions, and vent!