Game Review – 10/03/09 (DAL vs NSH)

by Chelsea

Game Reviews are back! Because games are back! Because the season has started! Finally!

Game:

The Stars opened their season at home against the Nashville Predators and the Opening Night roster held a few surprises, especially for anyone who hadn’t been keeping up with training camp. Two rookies made the final cut: Jamie Benn, playing RW with Morrow and Ribeiro, and Tom Wandell, centering the fourth line with Barch and Brunnstrom. Mark Fistric, expected to finally get his first full year in the NHL, was a healthy scratch for newcomer Jeff Woywitka. Jere Lehtinen (injured) and Brian Sutherby (healthy scratch) did not play either.

Anyone that made it to both the Battle of the Stars and Opening Night might have noticed that the Texas Stars put on a better show when announcing the players, complete with flares and flames. The Dallas Stars just… stuck their Ice Girls on the ice and had them wave their poms around. Woo.

Anyway, eventually the puck dropped and the Predators started playing. The Stars found themselves on the PK and then scored on before two minutes had even passed, at which point it seemed to sink in that the season had started and it was time to play hockey.

Something worth noting: Wandell featured on the first PK unit for most of the night, and looked very good. His unit (with Modano, Robidas, and Skrastins) seemed to push the play to the perimeter and force the Predators into puck battles, while the second/third one (with Ott and Petersen) allowed more plays to develop before managing to break them up.

Though they outshot (14-9) Nashville and were handed a full minute of 5-on-3, the Stars were unable to capitalize and left the first period down 1-0.

Perhaps the most important play of the game for the Stars came about five minutes into the second period, when Sullivan threw the puck past a very floppy Marty Turco to put the Predators up 2-0.

This is important because this was the point last season when the Stars tended to crumble. Turco didn’t look sharp, they had missed out on a few golden opportunities (Ribeiro hit the post only a minute earlier on a chance to tie it), and nothing seemed to be going past Ellis.

Maybe it was having Morrow back, or because it was the first game of the season, or thanks to Crawford’s aggressive system, but Dallas responded admirably to the challenge. With half a game left to play, they dug in and put on the pressure.

Nashville’s Patric Hornqvist got a shot off at 15:46 from 57 feet out. In the following four minutes, the Stars limited the Predators to a single missed shot, while their only two shots were blocked  and never reached Ellis. It was Brunnstrom, flying down the wing, who finally cracked the defense and got a shot on net at 19:48 in the second. The rebound popped out in front of the net to James Neal, who scored in an Orr-like fashion with only 10 seconds left.

The third period started with the Stars racking up takeaways, shots on goal, and hits. Morrow drew a hi-sticking penalty 3:45, and it was during the following power play that the Dallas pressure finally paid off.

Only 15 seconds into the PK, Ellis attempted to clear the puck up the center of the ice. Eriksson, ever attentive, flew through the slot and nearly took it right off his stick. In his hurry to get it out of danger, Ellis flung the puck straight to Neal, who did not hesitate to tie the game.

For the next 8-9 minutes, Ellis made up for his fumble by pulling his team through two more Stars PPs and holding the tie while Dallas pushed for the win. It wasn’t until nearly 13 minutes into the third period that the Predators even got another shot on goal.

As overtime neared, the officiating got a little iffy, handing Richards a slashing penalty (really?) at 19:25 in the third.

The Stars hung on until 1:14 in OT, when it was evened out by a hooking call on Martin Erat.

If the call on Richards wasn’t frustrating enough, the officials really blew it in overtime when they managed to rob Neal of hat trick and the Stars of a win. They mistakenly assumed Ellis had the puck and blew the play dead far too quickly. In reality, the puck was free, and Neal had jumped on it and shoveled it into the net.

OT turned into a shootout. Ellis stood strong while Turco got a little floppy, Crawford put out some questionable shooters (injured Modano and not-so-great-at-shootouts Eriksson over Morrow, Benn, or Ott?), and the Predators skated away with the extra point.

Notes:

  • The three game stars, in order: Ellis, Arnott, Neal
  • The Stars outshot the Predators 40-26. Brad Richards led the team with 8 SOG.
  • Dallas had an impressive 20 takeaways, compared to Nashville’s 7. The only skaters not credited with at least one were Barch, Neal, Ott, and Richards. Matt Niskanen led the team with 4.
  • Fabian Brunnstrom looked pretty good. He was the only player to end up a +1 and assisted on Neal’s first goal.
  • Surprisingly, Loui Eriksson ended up with no points and the only player to be a -1.
  • Morrow looked a little rusty and Benn looked a little disoriented at times (including one point where he couldn’t find the puck despite it being right at his feet), but overall that line was solid.
  • The Stars struggled on faceoffs, only winning 30 out of 67.
  • Stephane Robidas caught J.P. Dumont with his head down in the first period with a hit that removed him from the game entirely. However, the Tennessean is reporting that he was not seriously injured.
  • Conclusion: We expected the Stars to spend a few games adjusting to Crawford’s new system, breaking old habits and implementing new ones. It really only took them about half a period before they started to click as a team, and overall the effort was really impressive. There were some impressive, well-planned rushes that were a nice change from Tippett’s dump and (try to) chase.

SHR +/-:

Stephane Robidas: one for the hit on J.P. Dumont and one for showing so much concern when he realized he was hurt; +2
Matt Niskanen: one each for confidence and competence and one for holding his own on special teams; +3
Trevor Daley: one for utilizing his speed well; +1
Mike Modano: one pity point for getting hurt already; +1
Brenden Morrow: one big happy WELCOME BACK! point; +1
Jamie Benn: one congrats! you’re playing with big kids now! point; +1
James Neal: three for each goal, one for his lost hat trick, and one for reminding us how awesome he is; +8
Loui Eriksson: one for being good in puck battles, one for forcing the Ellis turnover, but minus-one for being the only Stars player to finish a -1; +1
Tom Wandell: one for being great on the PK and one for the SH breakaway with Skrastins; +2
Steve Ott: one for not gooning it up; +1
Alex Auld: one for getting all excited during the shootout; +1
Marty Turco: two for looking considerably better than last season but minus-one for losing it towards the end of the shootout; +1
Karlis Skrastins: one for pleasantly surprising us and one for the SH breakaway with Wandell; +2
Mike Ribeiro: one for scoring in the shootout; +1
Brad Richards: two for the assist, one for leading in shots with 8, and one for having hair; +4
Fabian Brunnstrom: two for the assist and one for being the only player to end with a +1; +3

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2 Comments to “Game Review – 10/03/09 (DAL vs NSH)”

  1. I love that B-Rad gets one for having hair. =)

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