5 Minutes Alone - Dallas Stars and Hockey Musings
Sunday, November 26, 2006

Catching up with the Stars

I'm sorry that I've been a little lazy updating this site lately. The holidays and all that implies has taken me away from my duties. Consider this a catch-up post. I won't break down every game extensively, you can read the game stories just as well as I, but I will point out notes of each that I thought were interesting.

11/17/06 - The Dallas Stars went into Atlanta looking to end the scoring drought. Getting help from unexpected places did just that as the line of Mike Ribeiro, Patrik Stefan and Matthew Barnaby combined for 7 points in the 5-3 win. Game Highlights here.

11/18/06 - From one scoring machine to another as the Stars headed to Carolina to face the defending Cup champs. The Stars looked a step slow most of the night and that caused them to get into penalty trouble. Any time you give a team, especially one as loaded with talent as the Hurricanes, 10 chances on the power play they will find a way to hurt you. Carolina did just that as they rode Eric Staal's hat trick to a 5-4 win over the Stars.  Game Highlights here.

11/20/06 - The Stars returned home to face their old nemesis, the Colorado Avalanche, in front of a nationally televised audience on Versus. This game started the way that seemingly every game between these two has started lately... with Colorado coming out with their hair on fire and jumping on the Stars. They did it again Monday night when they went up 2-0 just minutes into the game. That led to Marty Turco being pulled which seemed to inspire the troops as their captain, Brenden Morrow, potted 2 goals before the end of the period to tie it. Morrow would leave in the 2nd period with a groin injury. The game was exciting to watch and see-sawed back and forth but behind a good backup performance by Mike Smith (16 saves on 18 shots), the Stars rallied back to win 5-4. Game Highlights here.

11/22/06 - Next up was the Nashville Predators. This game lost some of it's luster when Jason Arnott was injured earlier in the week and would not be making his return to Dallas. The Stars were also a bit banged up as Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen did not play. Rookie Mike Smith got the start in net as a reward for his strong performance against Colorado a few days earlier. He showed his appreciation by stopping all 17 shots faced in shutting out Nashville 1-0. Jeff Halpern scored the only goal for the Stars capping off a very active and productive game for him. Game highlights here.

11/24/06 - Division rival LA came to town on Friday looking to reverse their fortunes against the Stars this season. The Stars had won all three previous games this season and Friday was no different. Riding a strong night fueled by a former Kings defenseman the Stars won 5-3. Philippe Boucher's first career hat trick was impressive considering what all he's had on his mind. He had to be playing with a heavy heart as both his parents are ailing back home. (His dad is battling cancer and his mom is recovering from heart surgery back in Quebec). Again Mike Smith was in goal for the Stars giving Turco almost a week off. Brenden Morrow and Jere Lehtinen returned to the lineup for the Stars, however Morrow again left the game. We'll have to wait and see if he'll play Monday against Detroit. Lehtinen scored his first goal, an empty-netter, in 10 games. Hopefully that will get him rolling a bit.

Mike Modano's assist on Boucher's second goal (Mike's 2nd assist of the night) gave him 1200 career points in 1200 career games. How's that for consistency? Here's a video reminding you to vote for your favorite NHL players in the 2007 All-Star Game to be played in Dallas.

The Stars begin a three game road trip in Detroit on Monday, followed by back to back games against Chicago and Washington on Wednesday and Thursday. Goalie Marty Turco will almost certainly be in goal tomorrow night as he's had enough time to work out whatever bad habits crept into his game. Look for him to look sharp in Detroit where he'll be playing in front of a lot of family and friends (Turco attended the University of Michigan).

The three game trip is important as the Stars need to pick up all the points they can. They currently sit 3rd in the Pacific Division with 32 points (16-6-0), behind Anaheim's 38 points (16-2-6) and San Jose's 34 points (17-7-0). Don't fret too much though, the Stars have played 22 games while the other two have played 24.


Posted by brandon95ag at 12:25 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 26, 2006 12:39 PM CST
Thursday, November 16, 2006

Puck luck, or lack thereof

The Dallas Stars continue to struggle putting the puck in the net this week as they've lost 3 of 4, potting a total of 3 goals in the process. The only win in that stretch was a 1-0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes last Thursday.

It's not as though they're not getting their chances. They're out-shooting and getting the majority of the scoring chances on most nights, but they just aren't getting the bounces.

Not to take anything from the opposition, but the Stars have made goalies look good lately. Last night it was Rick DiPietro and the NY Islanders as the 25-year-old puck stopper shutout the Stars with 35 saves on the way to the 3-0 Isles win. The Stars attempted about 30 shots toward the net that weren't official shots on goal being either blocked or missing the net.

The game was frustrating to watch as the Stars would play entire shifts in the offensive zone pumping shot after shot toward the net only to see the Islanders break out and score at the other end. The Stars also didn't cash in on several power plays against the 27th ranked penalty killing unit.

Whatever the issues, they need to figure out something quickly. A weekend jaunt to two of the most explosive teams in the Eastern Conference awaits. Tomorrow night the Stars will skate into Atlanta to face the Thrashers who possess three of the top 4 point producers so far this season. Marian Hossa leads the league with 30 points, followed by Ilya Kovalchuk and Vyacheslav Koslov tied for 3rd with 26 points.

Saturday night it's the defending Cup champs Carolina who have Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney in the top 10 in points.

If the goal drought continues, Marty Turco will need to be stellar in net for the Stars to have a shot against those teams.

News & Notes:

First and foremost, congratulations to the Hockey Hall of Fame class of '06 - all-time wins leader among goalies Patrick Roy, legendary Miracle on Ice coach Herb Brooks, forward Dick Duff who was finally enshrined after 34 years of waiting, and Calgary Flames co-owner Harley Hotchkiss. Roy was a no-brainer and it's about time the Brooks got his due - it's just too bad that it's 3 years after his death.

The weekly John Buccigross column at ESPN.com. This one is pretty Eric Lindros heavy with an excerpt from Bucci's upcoming biography of Kieth Jones and a Q&A with the "Big E".

On Wednesday the NHL announced a partnership with YouTube to begin providing highlights and other clips. They become the first league to do something like this and I think it's a great move. Not only will it help this blog out by allowing me a quick and easy link to highlights, but it will expose the excitement of the NHL and the skill of its players to a whole new audience. Hopefully they'll use this avenue to produce some feature stories too. It's always been my belief that hockey players are some of the real "good guys" in professional sports. They do so much for charities, both in their hometowns and in the towns in which they play. Features would help people to identify with the players and it's always easier to root for someone you identify with.

Be sure to tune into the Dallas Stars - Colorado Avalanche game on Monday on Versus. The network will be trying out "rail cam" for the first time, and if all goes well the technology will be used in the All-Star game in January. Should provide some interesting angles for replays. It'll probably have much the same visual effect of some of the sky-cam shots the NFL uses. Pretty cool, as long as it's not over-used. 

Why today doesn't suck in puck history

November 16, 2001 - Steve Yzerman scored twice, including the 650th goal of his NHL career and Brett Hull had two assists for his 1,200th career point in the Red Wings 8-3 win over the visiting Minnesota Wild.

Posted by brandon95ag at 6:18 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 16, 2006 6:42 PM CST
Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Sky's not falling... yet

The Dallas Stars will wrap up their road trip tonight in Phoenix as they take on the struggling Coyotes. This game could be just what the doctor ordered as the Stars have suddenly found it hard to put the puck in the net. The Coyotes are next to last in the NHL killing penalties at 74%. The 'yotes are also 24th in the league in goals scored and dead last in goals allowed. Add to that formula the fact that Mike Modano has solid career numbers against the Phoenix franchise and reportedly received a one-on-one talking to from coach Dave Tippett following practice yesterday. Look for Mo and his line mates to come out on fire and have a solid game.

The Stars also will be putting a premium on having a solid first period. Throughout the early part of the season they've had several games where they've started sluggish. Often it hasn't shown on the scoreboard but they've had a few instances on this trip where it has. 

In the 2-1 loss to Vancouver on Monday night, the Stars' backup goalie Mike Smith allowed a goal from center ice to open the scoring in the first. After knotting it at 1 in the second thanks to a vicious slapper from Eric Lindros the Stars received some payback for the Oilers game. With 2 minutes left in regulation Brenden Morrow was called for a questionable elbowing penalty. The Canucks would score on the resulting power play with less than a minute remaining to send Dallas back to the bus without a point in the standings. 

Not to take anything away from Vancouver's big offseason acquisition, Roberto Luongo. He was stellar in goal... especially late when he absolutely robbed Mike Modano while the game was still tied.

The slow start and hot opposing goalie trend continued the next night in Calgary. The Flames jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first with a bit of a soft goal by Tony Amonte following a bad turnover by Antti Miettinen. Marty Turco probably would say that he should make that save and after watching him early this season, on most nights he would've.

Miettinen atoned for his mistake by firing a wicked wrister past Miikka Kiprusoff early in the 2nd period to tie the game. It didn't stay knotted for long though as Amonte scored his second goal of the game less than a minute later on a deft deflection in front of Turco.  The Stars battled to tie it but Kiprusoff turned them away and an empty netter late by Kristian Huselius gave the Flames the 3-1 win.

The 2-game losing streak is the first such streak of the year so far for the Stars. No need to panic. Go out and throttle Phoenix tonight like you should and you'll come home no worse than 4 points behind Anaheim in the division and with a respectable 2-2 on the roadtrip.

News and notes: 

Good feature on Jere Lehtinen at NHL.com. Jere has long been called one of the most under rated players in the league and it's nice to see him get some recognition. He surely doesn't seek it out. He's a quiet guy who just lets his play speak for him and it speaks volumes. The only thing I'd nitpick in the article is where it lists his favorite bands. Apparently Slayer is a little known local Dallas band. Huh... who knew?

Prior to the Stars game on Tuesday night the pregame show had a feature on new Stars center Jeff Halpern. He's proven himself to be a valuable addition and one that was probably overlooked when he signed with the addition of Eric Lindros and the return of Darryl Sydor. Halpern is a very versatile player... strong on face offs and can score as well as defend. His smarts (he attended Princeton) and his leadership (was a former captain in Washington) will do nothing but help this team. One of the cool things about the feature though had to do with what he's doing for his new teammates and his new city off the ice. They showed the nice new plush monogrammed robes he bought for all the guys by way of introducing himself into the room. His community contribution just proves again that hockey players are great in the community. There are several players on the team that buy tickets and give them to charities, but the American-born Halpern is providing 4 seats to every home game (not in the upper deck mind you... down low... over $100 per ticket) to members of the armed forces injured in battle or to families who have lost loved ones in the military. Way to go Halpy!

Why today doesn't suck in puck history

November 9, 2001 - Luc Robitaille scored a power-play goal for the 600th goal of his NHL career, becoming the 13th player to reach the 600 goal milestone, and Dominik Hasek recorded his first shutout with the Red Wings, in a 1-0 win in Anaheim. (Facts provided by the Hockey Hall of Fame.)



Posted by brandon95ag at 5:09 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 9, 2006 5:47 PM CST
Monday, November 6, 2006

Another week, another two wins.  For a team that was picked to finish mid pack in their own division, not to mention the Western Conference the Dallas Stars just keep quietly rolling along and gathering points.

It's not always easy, and as this week showed... sometimes it takes a little luck - but a win is a win.

The first game of the week saw the return of Bill Guerin to Dallas with his new team, the St. Louis Blues.  Bill was one of my favorite players when he was in Dallas, but I was happy to see that he didn't come back to haunt his old buddies as the Stars rode a solid game to a 4-1 win. To start the game, it looked as though coach Dave Tippett's unusual step of giving the team 2 days off after their last exhausting stretch would backfire as they were once again sluggish out of the blocks. But once they got their legs under them they played a solid game and took it to the Blues behind a great game by big Eric Lindros. Big E has had a pretty solid start to the season in terms of setting up his teammates but he hasn't found the net all that often, but that changed Wednesday as he scored twice and played a physical game all night - even getting into a scrap near the end of the contest.

Mike Modano also continued his strong start by getting his 8th goal of the campaign in the second period. Modano is now 7 goals away from the magical 500 goal plateau (a level only Joe Mullen has ever reached among American born players). Once that falls, he's only 3 away from becoming the most prolific goal scorer among American players. A milestone was reached however on that Modano goal as Jere Lehtinen recorded his 400th career point.

Friday night in Edmonton was a memorable tilt for different reasons. The 3-2 win gave Marty Turco sole possession of 2nd place on the franchise wins list. Turco's 146th win passed Cesare Maniago and he's now only 14 behind Eddie Belfour. It definitely wasn't an easy win though as it took a blown call by veteran referee Mick McGeough to give the Stars the regulation win.

The Stars appeared on the way to victory when Trevor Daley got his first of the season to give them a 3-1 lead in the third. However, the Oilers scored with the extra-attacker with a 1 1/2 left to close the gap and then with seconds left had a face off to the right of Turco. Oilers center Shawn Horcoff won the face off clean back to the point and after Turco made the initial save, crease crasher extraordinaire Ryan Smyth poked the rebound past Turco much to the delight of the Rexall Place crowd. But what they didn't see was McGeough skating out of the corner across the ice from the play waving his arms frantically. McGeough incorrectly thought that Horcoff had passed the puck back to the point off the face off with his glove and not his stick and blew the play dead as soon as the Oilers player on the blue line fired the initial shot. (Game highlights here. And as a little bonus... here's a video of the national anthems from the game taken from the crowd... nice to see there were some Stars fans in attendance)

The crowd and coaching staff in Edmonton were irate, and with good reason. These things sort of have a way of working out though. The Stars a couple of weeks ago were on the other end when a couple of goals were called back because the referee blew his whistle early.

The road trip continues tonight as the Stars face Vancouver. It's the first game in another 3 games/4 nights span as the Stars will head to Calgary tomorrow night and then finish up the trip on Thursday in Phoenix. All three teams have their own struggles going on right now so hopefully the Stars can play their game and come away with points at each stop.

Why today doesn't suck in puck history

November 6, 1995 - Rangers Mark Messier scored his 17th career hat trick in the final period to reach the 500 goal mark and added an assist as New York won 4-2 over the Flames, in New York. Messier became the 21st player in the NHL to collect 500 goals. (Facts courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame.)

Posted by brandon95ag at 5:28 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 6, 2006 6:27 PM CST
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stars run record to 9-2, but not satisfied

During a week that saw the Dallas Cowboys dominate the headlines with their normal drama, the Stars quietly ran their record to 9-2, winning 2 out of the 3 games they've played since my last post.

While the team has to be excited with their place in the standings, especially with division mates Anaheim and San Jose off to similar scorching starts, they indicated this week that they're not satisfied with the way in which they've been getting the wins. In the three wins, the Stars were outplayed for the majority of the time but somehow found a way to win. As Stars analyst Darryl Reaugh is often fond of saying, "they can't all be oil paintings."

On Monday night while most of the city was focused on the events in Irving, the Stars hosted the Vancouver Canucks. It was the final game of a 3 games in 4 nights set and the Stars played like it. They seemed a step behind most of the night, but behind a strong game in net by Marty Turco (with a little help from Sergei Zubov on the last save of the game) the Stars pulled out the 2-1 win. (Follow the link in the game story and check out the game highlights  Pay close attention to the end where Zubov gets his stick in to stop a puck from trickling over the goal line and tying the game as the final seconds tick off.)

Next up was a showdown with the hated Detroit Red Wings. The Stars again found themselves behind quickly after a lackluster beginning. They battled back, but were unable to put the puck home when they needed to - on a crucial 4 minute power play in the 3rd - to get back in it. The Red Wings are the only team in the Western Conference that Marty Turco has a career losing record against, and that trend continued as the Wings and their throng of fans left the American Airlines Center with a 4-3 win. (Click the highlights link in the game story to view. Note the Mike Modano goal early in the game. That was vintage Modano. He looked 10 years younger on that play as he picked up the puck at the defensive blue line and blew down the ice to split the defense and beat Dominik Hasek to tie the game at 1.)

The Stars then hosted the LA Kings who are struggling this year. Since it was the 2nd game of the rare back to back home games, Marty Turco got the night off. Rookie backstop Mike Smith who had never before been scored upon in this league (he was 1-0 with a shutout coming in), surrendered his first goal 45 seconds into the 2nd period but he was good enough to give the Stars a chance, and new Star Jeff Halpern took the opportunity to bang one home late in the 3rd for the 3-2 win. (Again, check out the highlights on the game story page).

The Kings game was another game in which the Stars looked fatigued and lackluster. Nothing really was going on until Steve Ott and Matthew Barnaby got the crowd, and their bench, into it in the 2nd period with back to back scraps. Unfortunately Steve Ott fell awkwardly after being tagged pretty good on the chin by Tom Kostopoulos and broke his ankle. He had surgery on Sunday and is expected to miss the next 8 weeks. Not exactly the way Coach Dave Tippett wanted to work some of his reserves into the lineup but now it looks as though Patrik Stefan and Mathias Tjarnqvist will get a chance to play. There are options in the minors for Tippett, either Loui Eriksson or Jr. Lessard could get a call up if the first two don't provide what the coach is looking for.

Up next for the Stars is the return of Bill Guerin on Wednesday night. It'll be interesting to see how Billy G. is received. Ideally, would love to see the Stars dominate the game and get an easy win with Billy getting a goal late to a huge round of applause. We'll see how it plays out.

After that little get together the Stars will make their first Western Canada roadtrip this year to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

News and Notes:

On Tuesday, the NHL announced that Marty Turco is the recipient of the 8th Annual NHL Foundation Player Award. According to the league, the award is given to a player "who applies the core values of hockey - – commitment, perseverance and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community."

Congratulations Marty! This is no surprise to those of us who have seen firsthand how Turco interacts with fans, and especially kids. I've attended the last two Stars' training camps and have watched as Turco brightens the days of young fans. He takes time to sign, take pictures, even getting down on a knee or squatting to get on their level and really converse with the young fans. "Turks" seems like a genuinely good guy and this is one of the reasons I'm really hoping he can get that playoff monkey off his back. He deserves the success.

Why today doesn't suck in puck history 

October 31, 1942 - Rookie Maurice Richard played his first NHL game with the Montreal Canadiens. He wore #15, and picked up his first NHL point (an assist) 36 seconds into the game, a 3-2 win for over the Bruins, at the Forum.

October 31, 1983 - Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky became the first player in NHL history to get seven career hat tricks before age 21, when he scored three times (and added an assist) in an 11-4 win over the visiting Quebec Nordiques.

(Facts provided by the Hockey Hall of Fame)

Posted by brandon95ag at 6:14 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, October 31, 2006 6:23 PM CST
Monday, October 23, 2006

Still rolling

Record at 7-1

The Stars continued their impressive beginning to the season by adding 2 more wins over the weekend. Both were very interesting games for different reasons.

Friday night's game with Chicago looked to be all but over. The Stars were playing their first game at home after 4 games on the West Coast in 6 days. That first game back from spending a week on Pacific Time is usually a difficult one. All the excuses seemed to be there. It was an off night for Marty Turco, and the team appeared snakebit. No matter what they did, something always went against them. They had a goal called back that was clearly over the line when the whistle blew, but apparently the referee lost sight of the puck and "intended" to blow the whistle before he did. Entering the final period the Stars were down 3-1 and nothing in the first half of the period seemed to hint that they were going to mount a comeback, but with about 6 minutes left the Mike Modano found himself in front of the net to get a gift goal when Brian Boucher got crossed up behind the net to cut the lead to one. After that, the game tilted a bit toward the insane. Jere Lehtinen would tip home the tying goal less than a minute later only to see Martin Lapointe score on a breakaway to take the lead with 4 1/2 minutes remaining. Not to be outdone, the Stars came roaring back again as Mike Ribeiro scored to again tie the game with 1 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The game looked to be headed to OT and the Stars' specialty, the shootout, when Philippe Boucher got a shot through from the point that gave the good guys the lead with 20 seconds remaining. The team held on for the thrilling 5-4 win. (Game highlights here)

Following that roller coaster game the team boarded their charter for the desert to face the struggling Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night. This game was all about Mike, or guys named Mike rather. Mike Smith, the Stars young rookie backup goaltender was making his first NHL start Saturday and he got all the support he would need from his teammates who share the same name. Mike Ribeiro (who is proving to be a great addition to the team) scored in the first, Mike Modano tallied in the 2nd to give the Stars a 2-0 lead heading to the third. After defensemen Philippe Boucher and Darryl Sydor scored in the 3rd the only suspense left was whether or not young Smith would get a shut out in his first career start. His mates worked hard in front of him and brought it home for the 4-0 win, making Smith the first rookie goalie to record a shutout in his debut since Montreal's Yann Danis did it on Oct. 12, 2005. (Game highlights here).

The Stars are set to face Vancouver tonight at the American Airlines Center. For selfish reasons (fantasy league) I'm hoping for a 1-0 Stars win with Jere Lehtinen getting a power play goal off an assist from Sergei Zubov. Gotta love Fantasy Hockey... I have both goalies going tonight, and Zubov and Lehtinen.

Other news and notes:

The Dallas Stars are great when it comes to community relations, here's a nice story about the guys helping out with a literacy program in the Dallas area.

Watch Marty Turco's interview on ESPN News talking about his and the team's great start, and the entertaining NHL commercial that he shot recently.

The Philadelphia Flyers GM Bobby Clarke resigned on Sunday, then coach Ken Hitchcock was fired in a shake up in the City of Brotherly Love. As much as Hitchcock can be an abrasive coach and can be subject to being tuned out by his players, I think this failure is on Clarke. He assembled a team full of big, strong, and slow players coming out of the lockout - evidently believing that the NHL wasn't serious with all this "new rule enforcement" talk. That's a gamble he lost, and it all came to a head last week when the Flyers were drilled by the speedy Buffalo Sabres 9-1. Watching that game, they were lucky it wasn't 15-1. Good luck to Hitch finding employment elsewhere. I'm thinking a guy with his track record has to find work somewhere. By the way, rumor has it that Mike Keenan might take over both vacated roles in Philly. If the players thought they had it rough before.. wait until "Iron Mike" takes over.

Why today doesn't suck in puck history

October 23, 1998 - Mark Messier scored his 600th goal as Vancouver won 5-0 at Florida. Messier became the 10th NHL player to reach 600 career goals and the 4th to get 600 goals along with 900 career assists. Garth Snow recorded his 4th career shutout in the game. (Facts courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame)

Posted by brandon95ag at 6:16 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, October 23, 2006 6:41 PM CDT
Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stars off to hot start

After getting off to the 2-0 start the Stars headed out on the road for their first real trip of the season. Before the season, I peeked at the schedule and thought with the way the begging of the year looked (5 of their first 6 on the road) that I would be happy with a 4-2 start. Well, the Stars bested even my optimistic hopes, as they went 3-1 on the trip. Now they'll return home tomorrow night against the surprising Chicago Blackhawks who boast the NHL's leading scorer Martin Havlat (7 goals already).

The trip began with 2 games in 3 nights in LA against the Kings. The first one was a solid, if not dominating 4-1 win. Kings coach Marc Crawford challenged his team's manhood practically following the game and you knew that they'd come out hungrier in the 2nd game. They did, but it didn't make much difference in the outcome, as the Stars again cruised to a 4-1 win.

The games with the Kings were merely an appetizer though, as the real meat of the trip lay ahead in games against Anaheim and San Jose. Wow, what exciting games they were. Dallas played solid against the Ducks and looked to be on the verge of escaping with a 1 goal win, but Jeff Halpern failed to win a defensive zone faceoff with 20 seconds remaining following an icing and the play ended with newcomer Chris Pronger slamming a shot from the point that deflected twice before beating Turco to tie the game. Although it was disappointing to allow Anaheim to steal a point in the standings you knew if they could get it to a shootout then the Stars had a great chance at another victory. The script in the shootout looked very familiar, Sergei Zubov and Jussi Jokinen were automatic and Marty Turco made the stops he needed to to give them a victory. One of Turco's saves though deserves special mention. The first shooter of the shootout was Anaheim forward Ryan Shannon who pulled off a spectacular spin-o-rama move that seemed to have Turco sliding out of position, but he smartly let his stick trail behind and Shannon couldn't elevate the puck on his backhand and shot it right into the goal stick for the save. Check out the video here. The combination sealed the deal for Dallas and gave the Stars the 4-3 win.

The main course was served up Tuesday night in a great game against the San Jose Sharks. It's rare that you'll hear me describe a 2-0 loss for the Stars as a great game, but this was everything that the NHL wants with this "new NHL".  After a first period that was pretty penalty heavy and looked like two teams sort of feeling each other out like prize fighters in the early rounds... the game took off in the last 2 periods. The heavyweights threw haymakers the rest of the night with the only damage being done by the Sharks as San Jose took a 2-0 lead to the 3rd period. Dallas came out with purpose in the 3rd period but just couldn't get a puck by Evgeni Nabokov, who would make 32 saves in the game. At least a handful of saves were of the "beauty" variety, none more so than the pad stacking post to post sliding stop on Jeff Halpern who looked to have an open net to shoot at, but Nabokov slammed the door and effectively ended any thoughts the Stars had of getting back into the game. It's disappointing that they lost, but the team has to be pleased with their effort. They played hard and they didn't look like a team playing it's 3rd game in 4 nights against a rested opponent. If the team rolls that effort out most nights this season, the Stars will have a very successful season.

News and notes:

Marty Turco was named one of the NHL's "3 Stars of the Week" for the first week of the season. The NHL is doing something different this year in naming their honors. In previous years, they would name an offensive and defensive player of the week but this season they're using the "3 Stars" method in keeping with the tradition of naming the top 3 players of the game at the arenas. Turco's solid week (5-0-0 record, 1.56 goals-against average and .948 save percentage - not to mention his sweet assist on Darryl Sydor's game winning goal on opening night) earned him the well deserved honor.

Why today doesn't suck in puck history

Wow, today was a busy day in hockey history. Normally I only use one fact, but these are all pretty big milestones that happened on this date.

October 19, 1966Rookie Bobby Orr played his first NHL game and picked up an assist as the Bruins beat Detroit, 6-2 in Boston Garden. Exactly 12 years later (10/19/78) he picked up the final assist (#645) of his NHL career, as the Chicago Black Hawks won 6-2 over the Minnesota North Stars.

October 19, 1957 - Montreal's Maurice Richard became the first player in NHL history to score 500 career goals. It came in his 863rd career game as the Canadiens beat Chicago, 3-1.

October 19, 2000 - Adam Oates became just the 12th player in NHL history to score 900 career assists, when he picked up two goals and two assists to lead the Capitals to a 5-2 win over the visiting New Jersey Devils.

(Facts courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame)

Posted by brandon95ag at 6:05 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 19, 2006 6:22 PM CDT
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Solid home opener

Stars down Devils 3-1

On Saturday, the Dallas Stars added to their streak of successful home openers by beating Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils before a sellout crowd of rabid Stars fans. The 3-1 win made Dallas undefeated in it's last 8 home openers (7-0-1).

Led by Brenden Morrow, making his first home appearance as Captain, the Stars played a solid game. They did get themselves into a bit of trouble in the first by taking penalties, but unlike the season opener in Colorado they didn't allow a goal. In fact, they scored one. Stu Barnes found Niklas Hagman streaking up the left side of the ice and fed him for a 1-0 Stars lead midway through the opening period.

In the 2nd, the Stars stood up for one another, and stuck the puck in the net to give them a comfortable 2-0 lead. Brenden Morrow banged one home from the slot just seconds after a Stars power play had ended aided by a beautiful feed from new Star Mike Ribeiro who slid the puck out front from behind the net for the primary helper.

About halfway through the period, the Stars showed a bit of their team toughness and togetherness as Trevor Daley jumped in to stick up for a teammate. Devils center Erik Rasmussen pushed Sergei Zubov from behind as the Stars defensemen went to gather a puck along the boards. Zubov went down in a heap and Daley seeing his partner lying on the ice, jumped Rasmussen. When all was said and done, Daley got 2 for instigating the fisticuffs, 5 for fighting and a 10 minute misconduct leaving the Stars with only 4 defensemen (until Zubov would later return). The Stars did surrender a goal on the ensuing power play, but NJ would never get closer.

The 3rd period was a tight checking carefully played stanza by the Stars but they broke through with about 2 minutes remaining when Brenden Morrow took a puck at the side of the net and placed a perfect no-look backhand pass into the slot for big Eric Lindros who put away the game, and his first goal as a Star.

(See game highlights here)

All in all, fun night at the American Airlines Center. Well, at least on the ice. Thankfully we had the arena's master of in game entertainment telling us when the Stars were on the power play, or else I would've thought I was at a Mavericks game with all the hip-hop and lame pop music being played. The "in-arena experience" has been a pet project of the Stars brass for the last couple of years at least and it's annoying. Hockey fans don't need gimmicks to bring them to games (gee wonder who will win the bottle race tonight!).

The 2-0 start is just what the doctor ordered as the team heads out to the west coast on a tough 4 game divisional trip this weekend. The boys will play 2 straight against the LA Kings whom they had considerable trouble with last year on Thursday and Saturday nights. Then will make the short commute on Sunday to Anaheim to play the Ducks and their stout defense. The trip will finish next Tuesday in San Jose.

We'll see where the Stars stand as they return home from this trip. I've watched several of the early season games featuring all 3 of those teams and the trip definitely won't be an easy one. The Kings have Rob Blake back on the blue line and have an exciting rookie in Anzee Kopitar who's been lighting the lamp early. The Ducks have a stellar defense with Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer always on the ice. Oh yeah and they still have the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne. And those experts who didn't predict Anaheim to represent the West in next spring's Stanley Cup Final have been picking San Jose who return a solid goaltending duo and the offensive juggernaut that is Scott Thornton and Jonathon Cheechoo.

Why today doesn't suck in puck history

October 10, 1995 - Blues' Brett Hull scored four goals for the second time in his career as St. Louis won 5-3 over the visiting Oilers. It was the 24th hat trick of Hull's NHL career. (Facts courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame)


Posted by brandon95ag at 5:54 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 6:07 PM CDT
Friday, October 6, 2006

A measure of redemption

While Wednesday's opening night victory over the Colorado Avalanche didn't fully erase the pain of being knocked out of the playoffs by them, it sure felt good to get the best of the Avs again. The man who took a lot of the blame in the Stars' early exit (whether deservedly so or not) was outstanding in net, as Marty Turco kept his mates in the game despite being bombarded through 2 periods. Then in OT he made a play that few goalies make as he fed a perfect pass to Darryl Sydor who had just left the penalty box to spring him for the game winning breakaway goal.

The 3-2 win was reminiscent of last year's opener against LA, only this time the comeback wasn't quite as severe. In the first period it was all Colorado though as the Avs fired 22 shots on goal, aided by 8 minutes of power play time. It was on the power play where they scored the only 2 goals of the night, making good on both penalties in a 2-man advantage.

Turco stood tall, and at times on his head as the old hockey adage goes, to give the Stars a glimmer of hope entering the 3rd period still trailing by only two. That glimmer turned into a full ray of sunshine barely two minutes into the period as Mike Modano and Loui Eriksson scored to knot the game at 2.

At the end of regulation, Darryl Sydor chopped the stick of an Avalanche player and was called for slashing as time ran out. Having served his time, he left the box and began to skate across ice to the Stars bench when Turco noticed him and hit him perfectly at the opposing blue line for the breakaway game winner.

(Check out the highlights of the game)

The Stars will now return home to open the home schedule tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils, and familiar face Jamie Lagenbrunner. (The Devils roster also contains former Stars Brad Lukowich and Richard Matvichuk who is on injured reserve). Should be a rowdy crowd. Hopefully the team will feed off the crowd and get off to a fast start, unlike the lethargic beginning to Wednesday night's contest.

After tomorrow night, the Stars will head out on a tough divisional road trip as they play two games against the Kings before facing off against the new look Anaheim Ducks and the dangerous San Jose Sharks.

Notes & Observations:

1) A healthy Eric Lindros can take the Stars a long way this year. He assisted on Modano's goal in the 3rd Wednesday and almost set up another one to Modano later in the period. For a man of his size, he's got great hands, especially in traffic, and still has the skills that made him such a dominating player. He had a solid first game as a member of the Stars and if he continues to play this way will prove to be a steal by GM Doug Armstrong.

2) Matthew Barnaby will be a fan favorite in Dallas. The on-ice audio stuff of him that Versus showed during the broadcast was great, as was the shot of him screaming to his teammates on the bench before the beginning of the 3rd. This team needs a guy like him. He also got into a classic Bam Bam type scrap in the game in which he was content to let his opponent tire himself out, all the while shaking his head telling the linesmen to stay out, and then getting a couple of shots in toward the end.

3) Newly acquired center Mike Ribeiro should make his Stars debut Saturday night as he has obtained his immigration clearance. Where he'll play is still up in the air. He practiced Thursday in between Jere Lehtinen and Jussi Jokinen but that could be due to Modano missing practice will getting treatment for back spasms. However, it's possible that Tippett intends to use Ribeiro to center that line and let Modano skate with Brenden Morrow and Eric Lindros - a trio that had some success against Colorado in what was a dominating 3rd period for the Stars.

4) Congrats to Loui Eriksson on scoring his first NHL goal. The kid was all smiles after banging home a layup set up nicely by a beauty of a feed from Stu Barnes from the corner. He will have to enjoy the memories of it from Iowa though as he has been sent back down to the minors to clear room for Ribeiro on the roster. Looking forward to seeing him back soon.

Why today doesn't suck in puck history

October 6, 1992 - Mario Lemieux began a team-record 12 game goal scoring streak in the Penguins' 3-3 tie against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. (Facts provided by the Hockey Hall of Fame)

Posted by brandon95ag at 5:46 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, October 6, 2006 5:55 PM CDT
Wednesday, October 4, 2006

82 Reasons to Watch

Interesting read over at the NHL official site as one of their writers, Shawn Roarke, offers up 82 reasons to watch hockey this season.

Gotta love opening night. Watched the banner raise in Raleigh and caught "O Canada" for the first time in the Toronto opener. Also got to see the greatness of Molson Canadian and Tim Horton's commercials. (The Molson commercial began running last year after the lockout... this is the one that ran during).

Just 90 minutes until the Stars begin their journey.

Posted by brandon95ag at 7:27 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 7:38 PM CDT

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