The Stars’ first two games have given their fans a lot to think about. A thrilling 4-3 victory on opening night had them on Cloud 9, but then a 0-1 loss had the fans second-guessing their elation. Tonight’s 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings should have them feeling a bit better.
A big question coming into tonight’s game was whether or not the Stars could get any offensive production outside the first line. That question was answered early in the first period when the second line of Ryder, Eakin and Whitney netted a goal. Eakin, who took Wandell’s spot in the second line, gained possession of a loose puck and shuttled it to Ryder, who took it across the ice and whipped a no-look shot past Jimmy Howard.
Eakin was extremely impressive tonight, winning loose pucks, pestering opposing players and facilitating the offense. Eakin picked up his second point of the night when he got the second assist on Ryder’s second goal of the night.
Those two goals got past Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, but he was a stone wall for Detroit tonight. The Stars had many good chances, including 17 in the second period, but thanks to a number of ridiculous saves, Detroit was able to stay within striking distance for much of the game.
Kari Lehtonen was equal to the task. Kari was fantastic, even as the Dallas defense broke down in front of him. Dallas allowed Detroit 16 chances in the third period, while only mustering 5 of their own. A puck finally got by Kari with 3 seconds left, but it was too late for Detroit by then. The Stars are lucky that Lehtonen seems to be in midseason form despite the long lockout.
Also impressive tonight was Trevor Daley, who was charging the opposition’s net all night. He was standing next to the goal when Ryder’s goal when in, and he created a shorthanded chance for Loui Eriksson by speeding into open space and stretching the defense. The Stars need an agressive defenseman, and I think Daley can fill that role, albiet in an a-typical way for a defenseman. The Stars can encourage this behavior from Daley by giving him neutral zone draw opportunities (as opposed to defensive zone draws), and there were signs that they were doing that tonight.
Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillion looked improved tonight and will only benefit from the increased on ice time they’re seeing. Still though, the Stars’ defense gave up 40 shots again, which is a number I’m sure Glen Gulutzan will be looking to reduce.
Considering the Red Wings were coming off a back-to-back and are struggling mightily defensively, it might be easy to dismiss this win a bit. But there were definite signs of improvement, it was a win on the road, and a win without their best player, Jamie Benn. There is still a lot of work to be done, but there are some encouraging signs as well.