Passing the Test
Earlier this summer, I highlighted that the first two games of the Dallas Stars' season would be one of the toughest tests. A tough win, and a tough loss. By my indication, they made a statement and passed the test.
In the first game, Kari Lehtonen tended the nets and played out of his mind to the tune of a 2-1 victory. He made 26 saves on 27 shots, and the only Chicago goal came with less than a minute to play. He made several key stops to keep the Stars in it. Two of them came in succession against one Marian Hossa as he got his own rebound.
Some of the new guys factored in on the new game plan, which is aggressively defensive. Michael Ryder had three shots, and third-line center Vernon Fiddler had four shots. Leading the team with five shots (and a goal) was Alex Goligoski. Sheldon Souray also tallied an assist on Jamie Benn's goal with a clapper that sparked a huge rebound, and subsequently, a tap in.
Jamie Benn scores on the rebound — AP
Benn showed in these first two games that he will be a force to be reckoned with. Interestingly enough, he showed his force in only 14 minutes of ice time. Perhaps his biggest showing of force was slamming Niklas Hjalmarsson through the glass early in the third period.
In the second game, the Stars fell 5-2 in the Hawks' home opener on the following night. Andrew Raycroft came in to play goalie, and didn't fare too well with 26 saves on 30 shots. He made a couple of huge saves on Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger, but he couldn't stop the onslaught of the Hawks' offensive prowess.
Andrew Raycroft makes a huge save on Jonathan Toews - Reuters
A lot of the simple statistics in this game said a lot. The Stars felt a ton of pressure from the home opener crowd and the storm of the Hawks as Andrew Brunette scored 8:06 into the first period, and the Stars only shot two shots Corey Crawford's way in that frame.
Consequently, the Stars' big guns were limited, and many of them were -2, including Loui Eriksson, Steve Ott, Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski. I suppose in this case, take the split of the home and home, and move on to the much-weaker-than-normal Phoenix Coyotes.
Thankfully for the Stars, they don't have to worry about Ilya Bryzgalov. The Eastern Conference has to do that now.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Steve Ott
Steve Ott had glorious amounts of chances against the Blackhawks and converted a goal. He had a couple of marvelous open ice hits to intimidate the Hawks. That's typical Steve Ott. Sooner or later, he will convert on more of his chances.
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