The Stars and Sharks came into this game looking like teams looking for answers. After starting the season 7-0-0, the Sharks have faltered in their last nine games, going 1-5-3 and scoring only 2 power play goals in 46 chances. The Stars have had their own struggles on the power play, and their goaltending situation is tenuous at best, as Cristopher Nilstorp and Richard Bachman have failed to impress in Kari Lehtonen’s absense. Which team would break through tonight?
After three days of rest and practice, the Stars found themselves back in Edmonton for the second time in their last three games. The game was not pretty, but as they tend to do in Edmonton (where they’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games), the Stars found a way to win, 4-1.
Despite the three days of rest and practice, the Stars started the game looking lackadaisical. The forwards seemed a step slow, taking an extra second to make decisions, which caused opportunities to be missed. The teams exchanged early power plays, and while both teams looked impressive, neither could score a goal on special teams.
The Dallas Stars came home to face a tough test in the visiting Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks came into the game 7-1-1 and leading the Pacific Division. They’re a team with a renewed focus on getting pucks on the net, something the Stars’ opponents haven’t had a hard time doing. This game would be a good litmus test for the team.
The Stars came out of the gates like a team possessed, putting a ton of pressure on the Ducks. For once, the Stars were the team that was putting a ton of pucks on net, testing Anaheim net-minder Jonas Hiller often.
For the second time in seven nights, the Stars found themselves in Joe Louis Arena, facing the Detroit Red Wings. This time, things were set up a bit different. It was the Stars’ turn to be coming off a back-to-back, the bane of their existence since last year. But this time, they had their best player on the ice, Jamie Benn. In the end though, the same issues that have been hampering this team snowballed into an embarrassing defeat.
The game opened with a bang, as Eric Nystrom fought Jordin Tootoo as soon as the puck dropped, likely as retribution for Tootoo’s hit on Philip Larsen a week ago. The Stars struggled to get anything going in even strength situations, and struggled even more on their first two power plays, seeming content to dump and chase with no success. A frantic series of saves by a stretching Kari Lehtonen saw the puck end up with Jamie Benn at the blue line, who fed a streaking Loui Eriksson for the Stars’ first quality chance of the game. Jimmy Howard was equal to the task though.
That was an important win for the Stars on home ice, in front of a sellout crowd, after a long lockout.
Jaromir Jagr introduced himself to the Dallas crowd in supreme fashion, finishing the night with 4 points from 2 goals and 2 assists. Jagr looked completely in form, charging hard beyond Phoenix’s defense on many occasions and opening up lanes for teammates when the defense stuck with him. I don’t doubt that his work in the KHL during the lockout kept him sharp.
Another 40 year old new addition to the team, Ray Whitney, also had a great night. Ray contributed 2 points from 1 goals and 1 assist.
Aside from the new additions, the Eakin-Smith-Garbutt line looked, dare I say, pesky. They held the puck in the offensive end and won many loose pucks.
While the game was extremely free-flowing in the first period, the referees remembered they had whistles and used them in the 2nd period. The Stars were on the penalty kill 5 times in the period, and paid the price twice.
The Stars’ defensive inexperience has fans worried, and their fears are not misplaced. The Stars gave up 40 shots, and Jordie Benn looked very uncertain of himself. He played tentatively and gave up a bad goal when his errant pass left Kari Lehtonen hanging out to dry. Benn didn’t have much time to wallow in sorrow, as Gulutzan put him right back out there on the next shift. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Brenden Dillon played aggressively and effectively. Luckily for the Stars, Kari Lehtonen was up to the task, stopping 37 shots on the night.
The Dallas Star who is most pleased with this result might not have been in the building tonight. Had the Stars lost this game, the fans would have definitely been thinking about what Jamie Benn could have contributed to the team. Now, Jagr and Whitney have the spotlight and the media’s focus, and both sides of the negotiations aren’t feeling as much heat as they would if the Stars lost tonight. Once Benn does join the team, it’ll be very exciting to see him skating with Whitney and the legendary Jagr.