An edge-of-your-seat game

Wow, what a crazy night against Anaheim yesterday. Although pretty much the first half of the game was boring, the rest of the game was intense up to the point where Dallas had two consecutive power-plays in OT and scored right after they ended.
James Neal has a little two-game goal streak going on, and his timing on last night’s power-play goal was great. Along with Fabian Brunnstrom and Brenden Morrow, he’s got that knack to just sneak up on the crease and pop in a rebound or loose puck right when he needs to.
Mike Modano seems to have borrowed the ageless drought recipe from Chris Chelios and Joe Sakic. His clutch goal to win the game last night was awesome, and he also had an assist, giving him 12 goals and 24 points in 34 games. There aren’t a lot of players in their late 30’s, nearly 40’s, that can play like that.
Brad Richards and Toby Petersen combined for one cool-looking goal to put Dallas on the board. Toby seems to have a knack for inconsistently making passes worthy of Mike Ribeiro. He’d be a much more appreciated player if he could get one of those every other game. And Richards still has a great shot, despite passing a lot more this year.
Overall, it’s great to see the Stars getting a lot more consecutive wins, even if tomorrow the streak will end when the Sharks come into town.



Well. If that wasn’t enough of a Christmas miracle for the rest of you Stars fans, then too bad.

It’s not everyday that we get an 8-2 win on the road, including a James Neal hat trick, and I couldn’t be happier.

Last night I nearly didn’t watch the game because my TV Guide didn’t actually say there was a game on KDFI. However, I checked anyways and came in during the first period. I was shocked to see that the score was 3-0 already. And not 5 minutes after I started watching, Brad Richards made it 4-0. I knew right then that the night was going to be awesome.

Congrats to Andrew Hutchinson on getting his first point of the year, with an assist.

Congrats to Steve Ott, who had a multi-point performance while simultaneously ticking off the entire Leafs team without getting into a fight.

Another first was the biggest story, that of James Neal being the 4th Stars player to get a hat trick this season, and only 2 games after Loui Eriksson got his first career hat trick. Neal actually stole the lead in rookie goals for Dallas from Fabian Brunnstrom, who also scored. Neal now has 11, while Brunnstrom has 10.

Marty Turco also had a strong performance last night, and his 2 goals that he did allow were perfectly excusable. Jason Blake’s goal came off a funky rebound, while Mikhail Grabovski caught a rebound that got away from Turco on the fly and snapped it in with skill.

The biggest surprise of the night was seeing Loui Eriksson go point-less. Of course, it’d be hard to expect another goal after he’d gotten 6 in three games, but it was a little surprising nonetheless.

A warm welcome to Brian Sutherby. I can’t remember seeing him in the little bit of the Ottawa game that I watched, but it’s nice to see him healthy and in a Stars uniform regardless.

Krys Barch had a couple of great fights and his 3rd goal of the year, and Landon Wilson kept up his strong play by getting two assists.

Mike Ribeiro, congratulations on scoring your 100th career goal! Let’s see how close we can get to 200 out of you before the year ends.

Overall, it’s great to see that the boys can pull off this kind of win without the leadership of Brenden Morrow, and hopefully this won’t be the last dominating win we see out of the boys in black and gold.


The OT curse strikes again

What a heartbreaking game against Ottawa yesterday.

Starting out down 2-1, then coming back to get a 3-2 lead, and then when all hope looked lost down 4-3 in the third, Loui Eriksson tied it at 4-4. All that hype died when Jason Smith’s first point of the year slipped past Turco for a Senators win.

Gotta give credit to Matt Niskanen, Brad Richards, Toby Petersen, and Loui for scoring. That made the game alright. And at least we got a point out of it.

However, now I bet the winning percentage the Stars would have to keep up to make the playoffs has gone up from the .625 that I heard from Ralph Strangis earlier.

There are benefits from this type of season though. Developing young players (Brunnstrom, Neal, Niskanen), discovering future stars (Eriksson), and realizing that just about every rookie that we call up is going to get a goal (Brunnstrom, Neal, Wandell).

Good luck Dallas. Try not to make the rest of the year look to bad.


What a night..

I don’t think there’s been a scarier night all year. Not even the first Columbus OT game and the Washington OT game could match the scare of waiting for a final call on a reviewed potential winning goal.

To be honest, I didn’t think Manny Malholtra kicked that puck in. Ralph and Razor weren’t too sure either, but I’ll take it. And the fact that we won in the shootout that followed made it all the crazier of a night.

Loui Eriksson had his first NHL hat trick, making him the second player to get that achievement with Dallas this season and the third Stars player to score a hat trick this year. All three of his goals were in typical Loui fashion, close up to the net, pouncing on a loose puck or rebound.

Matt Niskanen and James Neal combined on a power-play to get a goal. Niskanen was originally given credit when it appeared to be a solid goal from his point slap-shot, but later credit was given to Neal, who tipped the puck in with full Ryan Smyth-flair.

Brad Richards had one heck of a night as well, getting three assists and knocking in a goal with a blind backhand. Richards is still kind of inconsistent this year, although in a somewhat good way. He’s had very few one-point games, but I believe now 10 multi-point games. It’d be nice if he could get points on a nightly basis, but I’m ok with what he’s got so far.

Marty Turco. You could say he had an off night, but then you’d look at his shootout performance and say, that guy gave up 5 goals?

Mike Ribeiro pulled off another fancy shootout goal and it gave the Stars a win. Meanwhile, Richards just walked in and scored, no worries.

Neal also pulled off an awesome win in his first NHL fight, albeit against Derrick Brassard.

Overall, it was good to see the Stars earn consecutive wins, and Loui was the backbone of both. Hopefully we can take advantage of a weak Ottawa Senators team on Saturday and make it 3 in a row.


Eriksson saves the day

Well, what a game that was last night, no?

I can’t believe the Stars managed to pull a win out of that one. Marty Turco definitely had his game on, and Loui Eriksson brought his goal-scoring stick to the rink, notching two goals including the OT winner.

I have to give a lot of credit to the defensive play of the Stars. They killed off a lot of penalties, and also didn’t take as many as they have before.

Toby Petersen continues to go unrecognized throughout the league for his solid play on defense. It’s hard to believe that just last year, he was considered a call-up player who couldn’t stay in the NHL.

I also have to give a lot of credit to Phoenix defenseman Zybnek Michalek, who made half as many saves as Ilya Bryzgalov. There was one play (might have been a powerplay, I can’t exactly remember) where the Stars were getting shot after shot off, and Michalek blocked nearly all of them. The Stars announcers were jokingly wondering what the point was of having Bryzgalov stand there bored while Michalek played goalie. The play then ended on a “rare” save from Bryzgalov.

I still can’t believe how well Loui Eriksson is playing this year. I knew he could score goals, but I always saw him as a second or third liner who would get 10-15 goals a year and keep his spot in the lineup. However, this year, he’s been a key scorer for the Stars, and I can’t imagine getting through the season without him.

Last night’s game was a good effort by the Stars, and I hope we can keep it up and grab a playoff spot.


Avery's Gone

To be honest, I think I’ve been pretty conflicted on the Avery issue.

If you look back to the summer, I put a blog out criticizing Dallas for signing the beast also called Sean Avery, saying that his presence was redundant and he’d just cause trouble for the team.

However, I think later in the year, just barely into the season, I said that Sean was a semi-key player to the team and that his ability to draw penalties would help out.

However, now more than ever do I agree with my summer opinion. The Stars lost a lot of early games (and are still losing more games) because they were/are taking a lot of penalties, and Sean had 77 of those penalty minutes. That’s not actually helping.

What I hope to get out of the Stars A.A. is a return to form. As long as we can start playing hockey like a team, and even climb up the standings a little, it’ll be plainly obvious that the Dallas Stars DO NOT need Sean Avery.

Now the only thing we have to overcome is a season without Brenden Morrow…


The One-Year Wonder

The Tampa Bay Lightning assigned right winger Radim Vrbata to BK Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Extraliga, ending the former Coyote, Blackhawk, and Avalanche's one-summer reign as a desirable skilled player.

Last season, Vrbata shocked many hockey experts by breaking out with a 27-goal, 56-point season to rank as the second-leading scorer for the Phoenix Coyotes. He was an unrestricted free agent over the summer, and when it was announced that he had signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had also acquired Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, and Steven Stamkos, many believed he would be among the offensive leaders on the team.

If I remember correctly, earlier in the year, an NHL Connect blogger sent out a dire warning to those with high expectations of Vrbata, saying "Remember one name! Bochenski!", referring to the erratic Brandon Bochenski, who appeared on the verge of a break-out season leading up to 07-08 after scoring 13 goals and 24 points in 41 games the previous season, including 11 goals and 22 points in 31 games with Boston. However, in the 40 games he played in 07-08, with Boston, Anaheim, and Nashville, he only managed 3 goals and 13 points.

Apparently, the same curse has befallen Vrbata, who had 3 goals and 6 points in 18 games with a -1 rating leading up to his demotion to BK Mlada Boleslav.

In other news, I really wish the Stars had managed to hold on to Brandon (B.J.) Crombeen. Originally one of a trio of Stars rookies to start the season (along with Neal and Brunnstrom), the Stars attempted to send Crombeen to the AHL, but while he was on waivers, the St. Louis Blues picked him up. In Crombeen's 10 games as a Blue since the waiver pick-up, he's scored 4 goals and 6 points, as opposed to the goal and 5 points he had in 15 games for Dallas. However, I expect his story was the same as Neal's, needing time to adjust to the big league's before pumping out the points. He'll be my second-favorite Blues rookie (behind Patrik Berglund) for the rest of the season.


A Win!

Well, I can’t help but be thankful (although, it’s after thanksgiving) for the Stars getting a win tonight against the Avs. It was a very tense game, not to mention the first one that I’ve watched entirely for a while. I was glad to see my man Toby Petersen score a key goal for the Stars, and both Mike Ribeiro and Mike Modano were awesome in the shootout.

Kudos to sniper Marek Svatos. I’m dead serious, if there will ever be any Avalanche players that I like, it’ll be Paul Stastny, who was surprisingly ineffective, and the man who threaded the puck like a needle with 55.something seconds left in the game to scare the heck out of me.

I really, really like the way that Andrew Hutchinson is playing so far. I don’t know if any of you ever saw a blog I wrote two seasons ago about underrated and under-played players, but Hutchinson was one of them, and it looks like he’s fitting in with Dallas better than Sean Avery. I was surprised by his Hutchinson’s reasonable skill on offense, and there were a few key plays on defense that he made.

Modano was great, not only with his shootout-winning goal, but also his stellar play all over the ice. He basically saved one or two goals on his own.

Another little-known player that stood out to me was Chris Conner. I don’t know if anyone here’s ever seen the man skate, but if you haven’t, try and find a complete recording of this game and check out his near break-away in the second period. I am not kidding, he would’ve made every defenseman in the league take a tripping penalty (I believe Ruslan Salei actually did) in order to stop that beast. He also had a few nice defensive plays, including sliding right in front of a slapshot from the point. Great kid.

Fabian Brunnstrom’s very first shootout attempt definitely won’t be something to remember. To me, he’ll probably turn out to be the way Ryan Getzlaf was during his rookie year with shootouts: he won’t score very often because there are no rebounds or passes to tap into the net. That’s how Fabian’s skill works, and it’ll probably take him a little while longer to become as complete of a player as Getzy.

All in all, that was a heck of a game out of the Dallas Stars, and I’m glad that we could get two points out of it.

GO STARS!!!!!!


Avery Suspension Too Long

Hey, the guy ticks me off as much as just about any hockey fan in the world. I wanted him suspended at times, and at times I didn’t.

Here’s the reason why this suspension is too long: it’s at the wrong time.

I’m not the only one talking about it. In fact, most of the buzz for Sean right now is the fact that the NHL, and Gary Bettman, took way too long to take some action against Avery.

I would take the time to go back and look up every incident where Avery should have been suspended, and wasn’t, but I’m sure most of you know the stories already. The Brodeur incident is probably the one that stands out in most people’s minds, especially those hockey fans who haven’t been around for Sean’s entired reign on terror.

Now, they did make an “Avery Rule” disallowing sticks and hands to be waved in front of the goaltender as a distraction, which was Avery’s original action, but they didn’t suspend him at the time mainly because there wasn’t a rule against it.

Oh, but now Avery has finally cracked the NHL’s patience? There’s almost definitely no rule against talking trash about a guy on another team because he stole your girlfriend. I honestly haven’t looked it up, but I’m pretty darn sure Gary Bettman doesn’t feel like getting into the love lives of NHL players.

So now Avery’s gone out and talked smack about Dion Phaneuf because Canada’s wonder-boy on defense decided to date Elisha Cuthbert, one of Sean’s exes. Big whoop. I bet you a million bucks that if Roberto Luongo starts dating Elisha Cuthbert, Phaneuf’s not going to go out in public and call Luongo a crap goalie and other abusive things.

The Avery act has gone on long enough, and honestly, I want him off my team.

What does he honestly add? Fighting? Umm, hello Krys Barch, Steve Ott, and Brenden Morrow. Grit? See above trio. Points? I highly doubt that we wouldn’t have been able to replace Avery’s current 3 goals and 10 points with, say, Brandon Crombeen?

Ah well. I listened to Brett Hull’s press conference regarding Avery’s suspension, and I have to admire the fact that although he’s got strong connections to Sean, Brett did not confirm even the fact that Avery would stick with the team. He merely said the team would discuss Sean’s future with the team.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing an Avery for Crombeen trade, with perhaps another player coming out of St. Louis.

Anyway, if you’ve read this, thanks. I know there are plenty of Avery-bashing blogs out there right now, but this is a perspective from a die-hard Dallas Stars fan. GO STARS!!!


Fabian shows me up again

Well, maybe I should start throwing out crap about Mr. Brunnstrom before every game, because the last time I questioned his skill level, he scored a hat trick in his first game.

In my last blog, I said that one of the ways to improve the Stars' season would be to send Fabian down for a trip in the minors. The next Stars game, he scores the game-winner on a rebound from a break-away.

The Calgary game was a good one, without a doubt. Loui Eriksson also had a goal, and while it was a none-too-special empty-netter, it still shows that he has a nose for the net, and in the end it'll count towards his stats, so it's all the better for him.

Toby Petersen got his second goal of the year, which makes me proud of the Stars for sticking with him as a solid fourth-liner, even though the beginning of his year was relatively unproductive. Although he'll probably only get 10-15 points on the year, any offensive contribution is appreciated by me.

For once, Marty Turco looked alright, making 36 saves and achieving first-star honors. Keep it up, Marty, and you just might reach that level of consistency I was looking for.

Good game boys, let's keep it up.



Alright. I am extremely frustrated with the way the Stars are playing, and I'm sick of the fact that we aren't doing anything to fix it.

Let's face it: Mark Parrish is our new Nik Hagman. Darryl Sydor and Phillipe Boucher play the exact same style of game. James Neal didn't need that time in the AHL. Fabian Brunnstrom probably does need that time in the AHL.

Here's what Dallas needs to do in order to improve this year, and stay strong for years to come.

*1*- +Knock some sense into Marty Turco's head.+
If the man who runs Dallas' net-minding duties can't get his act together, he needs to get out of town. Here's Turco's current stats, straight up:

Season GPI Min W L OT GA SA SO GAA Sv%
2008-2009 21 1,198 7 10 4 72 544 0 3.61 .868

I look at these numbers and grimace. Where's the Marty of last season, who had a 2.31 GAA and a .909 Sv%?

The fact is that even though a good number of those 72 goals against have come from defensive lapses, Marty's game hasn't been at its top and there are a number of times where a goal could've easily been stopped and he just didn't have his head on straight.

Here's a tip for you, Marty, a tip that I hear repeated by everyone from fellow Stars fans to casual hockey fans to Ralph and Razor as the announce games.
STOP HANDLING THE PUCK SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Every Dallas game that I've watched, there's at least 5-1o moments where Turco grabs the puck away from his net to make a risky pass, and I cringe, waiting for the turnover and the empty net goal. Fortunately, there haven't been too many mistakes like that this year, but I've seen them, oh boy have I seen them. Check the Peter Schaefer goal a few years ago, or Richard Park's goal last year that forced the game into OT instead of giving the Stars a 2-1 win over the Islanders.

Another idea goaltending-wise would be to give Tobias Stephan more games. He's been in 5 games so far this year, but only has credit for a win and a loss and has only played 190 minutes. However, his play has looked promising and I'd like to see more of his play in net.

*2* +Send Fabian Brunnstrom to the minors for 5 games or more+
Why not? They sent James Neal to Manitoba for a quick spell, and it worked wonders. Neal has impressed me beyond any expectations I had for him so far. His goal-scoring is incredibly well timed, although his efforts sometimes don't get equaled by the rest of the team.
Here's the deal with Brunnstrom: he wasn't all the way ready. To be honest, I'm surprised he was as good as he was in the beginning of the year. The hat trick was great, but in his next 19 games, he only had 3 goals and an assist, not to mention his plus/minus dropped to an awful -9. I say Fabian needs a good 5 games in the AHL, just to see whether or not he'd be dominant at that level. Worst-case scenario, he turns into a Kirby Law of sorts, dominating the minors but making little-to-no impact NHL-wise. Best-case scenario, he pops back into the lineup like James Neal and starts piling up the points.

*3* +Check up on Dave Tippett+
NO, that does not say fire him. Although I can imagine quite a few Stars fans wouldn't object to a new coach, I can't help but look at the fact that he's so successful, we'd have to lose over 100 games to turn his 235-127-48 record (since being hired) into a losing record. He's a good coach, no doubt about it, but I'm wondering about some of the strategies he's using.
First of all, Dave–Please emphasize shooting! At all times! Power-play, even strength, even on penalty kill chances. During the San Jose game on Friday, I saw Mark Parrish skate into the Sharks zone with what was essentially a break-away (he had maybe half of the ice, a Sharks defender was in the other) and instead of shooting, he pulled back and waited for a pass, which didn't work. Also, a lot of power-play opportunities have failed because our players are not willing to shoot enough.

Now, here are some positives to build off of.

*1* +Loui Eriksson's skyrocketing skill level+
Nobody can deny the talent that we've seen in Loui since day one. However, in his first two seasons, his talent was inconsistent and nobody was sure what kind of player he would be.
HELLO! Think again, folks. So far this season, Loui has the same amount of points (19) in 23 games as he had in 59 games during his rookie year, and nearly twice as many goals (11 to 6).

*2* +James Neal is one heck of a rookie+
You got it, people, James Neal is the man of the future. Right now, we have Modano, Morrow, Richards, and Ribeiro. Soon, we'll have Neal, Eriksson, and Brunnstrom. Specifically of Neal, however, his skill at finding the right moment continues to amaze me. 6 goals and 3 assists in only 18 games, now that's pretty good.

Alright. 8-11-4 isn't a good start. But we had that win against the Oilers the other night, so let's try and build on that boys.

GO STARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Blackhawks ruined my first AAC game

FFTI's debut at a Dallas home game was spoiled by a superb effort from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Man, there were so many mistakes by the Stars, I can't even list them all.

For once, fortunately, none of the goals were the direct result of turnovers. Instead, much of the problem was a lack of willingness by the defense to block shots. I only saw a few players block shots purposely. It was great to see Morrow play the captain's role and take a hard shot right to the foot, stick with the play and get the puck out of the zone, all while on the penalty kill. Too bad not many of the defensemen followed his example.

Turco—I'm still confused as to why everyone but him seems to realize that he'd benefit from staying in his net more often. I know a lot of the fans at the game expressed displeasure whenever he stepped out, and my uncle is just so annoyed by Turco's play in general that he's suggested trading Turco. Honestly, I might agree; Stephan is a good goalie, and there are a good amount of goalies out there who could help. However, it'd be hard to let go of a guy who means so much to the team, but now you can't help but hear the name "Boucher" whenever a player gets off of being traded on the fact that he was a fan favorite.

The atmosphere inside the arena was awesome. Cheering at every Stars hit, save, shot, goal, strong defensive play, successful penalty kill, etc. etc. was a great feeling. And I gotta hand it to the soundtrack guys in Dallas; playing Headstrong by Trapt to open up the pre-game skate was pretty cool. So is the Stars' theme song played and the start of each period.

It wasn't the perfect return for longtime fan favorite Darryl Sydor, but the return of James Neal to the line-up was a smart move; need proof? Check out his excellent rebound capitalization goal.

Honestly, I was too disappointed last night to keep in mind everything I wanted to write, but rest assured, I'll be more specific the next time I'm at a Stars home game. For now,

GO STARS!!!!!!!!!!!


Long time, no post

Sorry if anyone's been waiting for a post from me.

Hmm...alright, so I've got three games to go over.

Well, the two L.A. games were simply not good games. We had some chances, scored on a few of them, but overall didn't play as well as we could have, and ended up losing.

The Phoenix game was definitely more promising. A 3-2 win, including another 2-goal performance out of Loui Eriksson, and a power-play goal from Mark Parrish.
Personally, I'm seeing Eriksson turning into a prominent right winger. The start of his career may not have been quite as superb as, say, Jarome Iginla, but look at Bill Guerin. He had a good 3-4 average seasons before finally becoming a reasonably reliable scorer, and his potential topped out at a 41 goal season with the Bruins in 2002. Eriksson could turn into much of the same sort of player.
Parrish is also a valuable asset as far as goal production. 4 goals in five games doesn't look bad, but I'm hoping that he can keep the scoring up; that number looks that way because of his debut hat trick.

The Stars made a couple of moves in between the time of my writing.

First off, they traded defenseman Phillipe Boucher for Darryl Sydor. This is Sydor's third go-round in a black-and-gold jersey, and I think he'll be able to combine well with Sergei Zubov, just like the old days. Boucher was a great help, and it's sad to see him go. However, he's joined a strong contender in Pittsburgh and he should have a good time out there.

Also, the Stars lost B.J. Crombeen to the St. Louis Blues via waivers, which made me pretty mad. However, at the same time, James Neal was called up the the Stars, so hopefully he can gain from Crombeen's departure. Neal, and fellow rookie Fabian Brunnstrom, could help the Stars out a lot by picking up their production on ice.

That's all for today. Dallas goes up against Chicago tomorrow, and I'll be watching that game with anxious anticipation, and hoping for a win.


Stars vs. LA (Pre-game)

Some Stars fans might look at tonight's schedule and rest in peace, knowing that Los Angeles is a typically easy team to beat.

I, for one, am not so easily assured.

That's not to say the Stars won't win; to the contrary, I think they'll play a great game after several days of rest.

I'm just saying, let's take this game one step at a time. In their past couple of games, L.A. has won due to the strong goaltending from Erik Ersberg and a good power-play.

The Stars' main focus tonight needs to be NOT TAKING PENALTIES!!!!!

There have been many games in just this season where the momentum is even keel until Dallas takes a bad penalty, the other team gets a goal, and the rest of the game slowly goes down the drain.

If the Stars can keep their men out of the box (and if Turco can restrain from over-handling the puck) then the game should be locked up. Dallas' defense has gotten over its annoying tendency to turn the puck over, and is stronger now with the return of Sergei Zubov.

The offense can have a different leader simply depending on who picks up their game. Often times, we'll see superb passing skills from Mike Ribeiro lead to a win; on other nights, the reckless play of Brenden Morrow will lead to a rebound goal or two; and yet on another night we could see the inspired play of Mike Modano lead to a strong performance by the whole team.

Some key players tonight;
*Sean Avery*- If the ultimate super-pest can draw a few penalties, it'll allow Dallas' powerplay many opportunities to gain the lead. His erratic offensive skills could come in handy as well.

*Fabian Brunnstrom*- He might be the only guy on the Stars with enough talent to play on any line. He's helped out defensively on several occasions, and seems to have a Morrow-like knack for getting goals in front of the net.

*Sergei Zubov*- It's a little early to expect anything huge from the Stars' reigning veteran defender, but if he can pop in a goal, it'll boost Dallas' confidence and momentum.

*Marty Turco*- Everyone says it; you can't win without good goaltending. Specifically for Turco, he'll need to take less risks when handling the puck, and the San Jose game should have solidly implanted the risks into his mind.

I'll post tomorrow with my post-game review, and hopefully some video highlights and/or pictures as well.


The Back-to-back Curse Strikes Again

I just had to say something, didn't I?

I was talking to my friend Jamie last night, who was lucky enough to attend the Stars-Sharks game, and as a closing statement, I said "I hope our back-to-back game curse doesn't kick in again, or else you'll enjoy watching your Sharks get a win."

Wouldn't you know it, with 30 seconds left in the third period, Marty Turco had yet another one of his famous stick-handling blunders that gave Patrick Marleau a goal and the Sharks a win.

However, that game wasn't too bad for Dallas. They had a lot of scoring chances, and played some good defense. But Brian Boucher brought his 'A' game, and Loui Eriksson was the only Stars player able to break his shutout, during the third period.

The positive side to Dallas' back-to-back curse is that they always have a good game as well, and that would be the 5-2 win they got in Anaheim on Friday.

Mark Parrish certainly had an excellent debut, becoming the second player this season to score a hat trick in his Dallas debut, following the footsteps of Fabian Brunnstrom, who also had a goal against Anaheim. Brad Richards had the other tally for the Stars, and Marty Turco had a really strong game in goal.

The kind of play I saw from Dallas, which involved lots of physical play, a willingness to drive to the net, and strong defensive coverage. Fabian Brunnstrom continues to impress me with his knack of being in front of the net at the right time. After watching highlights of his play overseas on Youtube, I took him to be a finesse guy with superb passing skills who might occasionally pop in a goal. However, while he still doesn't share the same physicality as resident Dallas net-crasher Brenden Morrow, he's displayed an excellent talent of sitting on top of the crease and knocking in rebounds and/or skilled passes from Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro, Mike Modano, and even Toby Petersen once. If the rest of the team can display that kind of willingness to win, whether on offense or defense, we'll have a more successful season.

Here's some quick food-for-thought that I noticed today;

- Minnesota is doing ok so far this year, but you'd think they'd be a bit more worried when Krys Kolanos has as many goals in the season as Marian Gaborik. The Wild's resident super-star hasn't played due to an injury, and he'd help an awful lot if he came back.

- Is it possible to have two people switch bodies? The Washington Capitals might think so, seeing as the numbers typical of an Alex Ovechkin start to the year are being produced by Alexander Semin. Ovie only has 2 goals and 8 points so far. I don't think the Caps should be worried though; they'll see 35-50 goals out of Ovechking by the end of the year.

- Too bad the Thrashers didn't let Bryan Little play a full AHL year last season; if this had been his rookie NHL year, he would be a strong Calder candidate for sure. With 8 goals and 14 points in 14 games, the talented Atlanta center is outperforming Ilya Kovalchuk and could be the cornerstone of the franchise if Kovie does indeed leave town next summer.


Fistric and Neal go AHL; Mark Parrish joins Dallas

The Stars made some interesting roster moves yesterday.

Youngsters James Neal and Mark Fistric were sent down to the NHL, while free agent forward Mark Parrish was signed to a one-year deal.

I expected Fistric to see some AHL time this year simply because the blue-line in Dallas is over-crowded. Out of Sergei Zubov, who is still out with an injury, Phillipe Boucher, Stephane Robidas, Trevor Daley, Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Grossman, Fistric, Doug Janik, and Garrett Stafford, it's hard to figure out who deserves an NHL spot the most.
I guess Doug Janik will get some NHL time until Zubov returns from injured reserve.

Also interesting will be how Mark Parrish can perform in place of Neal, and where he'll end up fitting on the team. My hope? That Parrish can accept more of a depth role to allow Fabian Brunnstrom to get more ice time, while still playing a productive game.
Here's some potential lines now, with Parrish in the system;


Another option, if the Stars really want to get experimental;


The third way I would put together lines might turn out like this;


Obviously, these aren't the only line combinations that could work. There are dozens of ways the Stars could slip Parrish into the line-up, not to mention that they've been changing up lines every few games anyways.

Focusing on Neal, I think the assignment to Manitoba could actually be beneficial. Although his production largely slowed down because the Stars as a whole slowed down, I still think he has a few things to learn in the game, and perhaps the mentoring of Mike Keane, who's played with Vancouver young guys Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, Rick Rypien, and others. It'll allow him to show his full potential in a full AHL season, while at the same time, he'll be the obvious choice for a call-up if a forward gets injured.

Hopefully, this whole shake-up will turn out beneficial for the Stars, who need to start winning NOW.


Reality Check: Everyone Gets Injured

The New Jersey Devils have one heck of a dilemma on their hands.

Super-human goalie Martin Brodeur went down with an elbow injury, and will require surgery. This means 3-4 months of a Marty-less team.


The Devils have relied on Brodeur since I was too young to know anything about hockey, and their back-up right now? Kevin Weekes.

Now, I'm not trying to say Weekes is a bad goalie; he's in the NHL, that obviously means he has some skill. But he hasn't been the starting goalie for a team since the 03-04 Hurricanes, where he went 23-30-11 in 66 games. Since then, he's compiled a 20-23-3 record as a back-up for the Rangers and the Devils over 4 seasons, including the 2 games he's played this season.

The Devils have several options, and it'll be interesting to see which one they go with.

A) The Devils go with Weekes as a starting goaltender, and give AHL goaltender Frank Doyle some NHL time. Straight up, there's no way Lou Lamoriello will go with that.

B) The Blackhawks need to get Nikolai Khabibulin off their hands, even though he's been a good goalie as of late. He could fit into the Devils system relatively well and have a strong year.

C) Ottawa doesn't know what to do with it's trio of Martin Gerber, Alex Auld, and Brian Elliot, all three of whom are deserving of starting goalie time. The Devils could trade for one of them without giving up too much.

There are other options, of course, but I think one of these three would be the most likely to occur. Thoughts? Random Rants? Feel free to comment.


Two very, very bad games..

The Stars had an extremely rough weekend, losing 5-2 to Chicago and 5-1 to Boston in back-to-back road games.

The Boston game was especially horrendous, in my opinion. The Stars played with the awfulness of a team who doesn't care about the playoffs any longer, rather than a team who just needs a couple of wins to get back on track. Sean Avery and Steve Ott played really dirty games, and although they may have just been trying to help give the team some momentum, it really didn't work.

The Chicago game wasn't nearly as bad. Other than a few turnovers resulting in goals, the Stars did play an ok game. They had a lot of good chances on offense, but Nikolai Khabibulin really had his game on that night.

The Stars play the Ducks on Friday, so they have plenty of resting time, and practice time, until then. Hopefully they'll spark up a little and get a good win against Anaheim, and keep up the momentum throughout November and the rest of the season.


Stars vs. Wild (Post-game)

That's the kind of game fans want to see out of the Stars!

A 4-2 win against the Wild will hopefully spark the Stars into playing some better hockey tonight, and throughout the rest of the season.

Here's some notes from the game:

- During the pre-game interviews, Dave Tippett essentially reinforced the fact that the Stars need Sergei Zubov in the line-up. He talked about how one of the best things the Stars do on defense is pair a young guy with a veteran, and that Zubov and Matt Niskanen were one of the stronger duos using that system.

- You gotta love Steve Ott's personality. When asked about playing on a line with Sean Avery, he said this: "...so look for us to just dump the puck, drive the corner and run some people over." Typical tough guy, but they're key to the team.

- The Morrow-Ribeiro-Eriksson line had a great start to the game, and kept it up the whole time. The opening goal took advantage of a lazy Minnesota defense, and

- Minnesota tried to fight back during the first period with a lot of hitting, and the entire match turned out to be full of hits, although there were no fights.

- Seeing Fabian Brunnstrom on the fourth line surprised me a bit; he had that little bit of chemistry with Toby Petersen on his first goal, but other than that, there weren't many positives. He didn't get very much ice time, although he was given some power-play time, and he didn't have many scoring opportunities either. I'm not sure that he should move, though; every other line looked pretty good.

- Tobias Stephan's first start of the year was excellent. He made a lot of key saves during the game, and some were even spectacular. As for the goals he gave up, they were goals that any goaltender would have given up. Marc-Andre Bergeron just might have the scariest slapshot of any defender (with respect to Zdeno Chara), and Andrew Brunette's fluke goal would've slipped under anyone.

- Brad Richards had a great game, scoring a goal and an assist to bring his season totals up to 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points on the season. He'll be a top scorer in Dallas again.

- Sean Avery's offensive skills only took a few games to click in. After last night's two-assist performance, he has a goal and 5 assists in 10 games.

Like I promised earlier, here's a fun little stats pro-rating thing that would show how the Stars scorers would finish their seasons if they kept up the same exact pace through 82 games. Fabian Brunnstrom, Steve Ott, Joel Lundqvist, Toby Petersen, and Mark Fistric will all be pro-rated based on if they were to play the rest of the season without missing any more games. Doug Janik has only played one game, so he doesn't have anything to pro-rate.

Brenden Morrow----33--57-90--164------
Mike Ribeiro-------9--81-90--32-------
Mike Modano-------32--50-82--32-------
Brad Richards-----25--31-66--0--------
Stephane Robidas---8--49-57--115------
Loui Eriksson-----33--24-57--16-------
Fabian Brunnstrom-50--10-60--0--------
Sean Avery---------9--40-49--271------
B.J. Crombeen------8--33-41--172------
Trevor Daley------16--16-32--82-------
James Neal--------16--16-32--65-------
Steve Ott---------15--15-30--200------
Krys Barch--------17---8-25--98-------
Matt Niskanen------8---8-16--0--------
Toby Petersen------0--10-10--20-------
Mark Fistric-------0---9--9--36-------
Joel Lundqvist-----0---9--9--18-------
Phillipe Boucher---0---8--8--49-------
Nicklas Grossman---0---8--8--90-------

Now obviously, most of those stats (if not all) will be completely different, but just doing that shows some of the flaws in the Stars' game so far through October. For example, this pace would give the Stars 7 different players with at least 90 PIM's. That's an awful lot of penalties.
Also, it's fairly obvious that B.J. Crombeen, Sean Avery, and Mike Ribeiro will score more goals then this. And while Ribeiro might have the potential to get that many assists, I doubt Crombeen and Avery will set up _that_ many goals. It'd also be pretty funny to see Fabian Brunnstrom score 50 goals while only getting 10 assists. Maybe someday he'll get into that range, but I think he's a more complete player and get a little more than just 10 assists.

*Dallas vs. Chicago:*
Tonight, the next up-and-coming team in the NHL goes up against the Stars, and Dallas needs to come out with a win to keep their momentum going.

The Hawks will be led by the heroics of Patrick's Kane and Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and surprising young rookie Kris Versteeg. Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith will hold down the defensive end, while either Nik Khabibulin or Cristobal Huet will be relied upon to keep goals out of the net.

On Dallas's end of the ice, they'll look for scoring from anyone and everyone, while hoping that a young defense can bring Wednesday's performance to the ice and keep the Hawks' sharpshooters away from likely starter Marty Turco, who needs to bounce back from a rough start to the season.


Something just "clicked"

Steven Stamkos apparently decided the best time to play amazingly is when your NHL season is at the brink of dissipating.

In the last of Stamkos's 9 games to prove himself ready for the NHL, he scored two goals against the Buffalo Sabres to lead the team to a 5-2 win.

The first goal was originally inconclusive, but was credited to Stamkos when scorers determined that he re-directed the puck into the net off of Vincent Lecavalier's slap shot. However, his second goal was without a doubt his. Taking a smart pass from Adam Hall on a 2-on-2 break into the Sabres zone, Stamkos slapped the puck past Ryan Miller for the second goal of his young NHL career.

Now, without question, the Lightning are going to keep the young forward up with the big team. He didn't impress during his first 7 games, although that was largely attributed to lack of ice time given to Stamkos by coach Barry Melrose. However, you don't send a player back to juniors after he scores 2 goals in a game, no matter how much he would learn with more seasoning.

The interesting question will be whether or not Stamkos can keep this kind of play up, and whether or not he'll get the ice time he needs in order to do so.

For now, we'll see if Stamkos can wrestle back his "Calder lock" title back from the likes of Kyle Turris, Fabian Brunnstrom, and Derick Brassard.


Stars vs. Wild

Tonight is the night of Antti Miettinen's return to Dallas! Minnesota comes to town looking strong, on the verge of their seventh win early in the season, while Dallas hopes to get off with a win just to keep the balance.

For Minnesota, they must hope that their newly formed trio of Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, and Miettinen can keep up their scoring; Koivu has a goal and 12 assists, Miettinen has 6 goals and 3 assists, and Brunette has 3 goals and 4 assists. They also hope that Nicklas Backstrom can keep up his strong goaltending, and that the defense can hold back Dallas. They'll have to bring the scoring without the help of superstar Marian Gaborik.

For the Stars, they need to focus on not having any defensive lapses. They've given up a lot of goals in their first 9 games, and haven't been able to score many themselves. They'll rely heavily on the offensive instincts of Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, Mike Modano, and Fabian Brunnstrom, while hoping that Phillipe Boucher, Stephane Robidas, and Matt Niskanen can keep the puck out of the defensive end. Marty Turco needs to bring his "A" game.

We'll see which team can come out on top tonight!


Stamkos gets first NHL point *Update* Video Highlight

Steven Stamkos, the extremely hyped up first overall draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2008 draft, has recorded his first NHL point.

The circumstances of it can only point once again to the tried and true saying; More ice time equals more production.

Stamkos, apparently getting some time on the power-play with Vinny Lecavlier and Vaclav Prospal, notched an assist in his 8th NHL game, getting the second assist on a Lecavalier goal in the second period. I'll update with a video as soon as one goes up.

*Update* Well, I have the "official" highlight off that goal, and although it isn't really a pretty play, kudos to Stammer for getting his point anyways. Hard to really see that he helps, but apparently he does, so congratulations.


Dallas vs. Washington

It was like opening night all over again.

The Stars and Capitals trading momentum all throughout regulation, up to the last-minute game-tier by Mike Modano. However, just like against Columbus, the Stars could not capitalize on their chances in overtime, and a sloppy defensive play led to a toe-drag wrister from Alexander Semin that won the game.

The Stars are now at 3-4-2 in their first 9 games of the season, and many Stars fans, often myself included, are wondering what the heck is going on.

I think there are two key problems to the Stars' rocky start this year: defensive play, and forward line combinations. Both problems can somewhat be attributed to injury; the Morrow-Ribeiro duo hasn't found a solid right-winger since Jere Lehtinen went down with an injury, and the defense is still without the veteran presence of Sergei Zubov.

However, now is not the time to make excuses and put the blame on something we can't control.

For example, the Stars defense should be strong, even without Zubov. Phillipe Boucher is a veteran leader as well, Stephane Robidas is a valuable defender who improves by the day, Trevor Daley is capable of quarter-backing a power-play and likes to play in his own end as well, and youngsters Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Grossman, and Mark Fistric are loaded with potential. Right now, it's impossible to blame any specific defender as the cause for the rough play; each one has their own partial excuse. Boucher is coming off an injury filled season last year, and was also injured for most of training camp. Fistric only played a partial season last year as an injury call-up, yet he doesn't appear to need any AHL seasoning. Niskanen and Grossman are young, still learning to play consistently, but definitely deserving of NHL time. Robidas is adjusting to a larger role overall, and it's hard to expect spectacular play out of Daley if he often only gets second or third pairing ice time. For the time being, the Stars can only hope that practice will improve the current group, and that Zubov can be a steadying influence once he returns to the line-up.

The forward group is another story. There aren't enough solid duos or trios to go around. For example; last night against Washington, the line of Morrow-Ribeiro-Eriksson played really well, and had a good game on Thursday against the Isles as well. However, Fabian Brunnstrom has also been great on that line, and he didn't click on a line with Brad Richards. Eriksson and Richards had good chemistry last year during the playoffs. One guy that can't seem to find a consistent place is Sean Avery. Now, I'm not saying he isn't a good player, because he might even be a key player. But other than a few nights where he's managed to either rough it up, and last night, when he scored his first goal as a Star, he hasn't been very effective. He's been shuffled around, but it's been very hard for coach Dave Tippett to find a good spot for him. Another question in terms of the forward line-up is; who will go down once Jere Lehtinen returns from an injury? Toby Petersen would initially be seen as the main candidate, but his play is very underrated. He got his only assist of the season so far on a skilled play to set up Fabian Brunnstrom's first NHL goal, and last night nearly scored a short-handed goal off of a pass from Mike Modano.

Moving past the negative parts of the season, here are some positive notes from last night's game and the season in general:

- It's nice to see a lot of Stars producing early on, despite the losses. Mike Modano especially is having a surprising season; not many people expected 4 goals and 10 points in 9 games. Stephane Robidas is keeping up his production from last year's playoffs; he's got a goal and 6 assists in 9 games. Brandon Crombeen is also producing beyond my expectations; he has a goal and 4 assists through 9 games while keeping up his physical play with 21 PIM's. Brad Richards should also have a strong season, with a respectable 2 goals and 6 points through 9 games, Loui Eriksson has the opposite, with 4 goals and 6 points in 9 games.

- Fabian Brunnstrom has found his job with Dallas; stand in front of the net, and capitalize on rebounds or passes from behind the net. He doesn't quite have the typical power-forward qualities; we've yet to see a particularly notable body check, or goal from on his back, but he's got the finesse skills to score in close, and it's gotten him 5 goals and 6 points in 7 games.

- Tobias Stephan hasn't looked to bad as a rookie so far this year. He's been credited with losses so far, but only because he closes out games that Marty Turco has essentially lost. However, in those games, Stephan hasn't looked to bad; against St. Louis, he only gave up a goal in the 3rd period after Turco gave up 5, and he only gave up one against New Jersey after Turco gave up 4.

- Here's some food for thought: Steven Stamkos has 0 points and is -3 in 7 games. Here's more: it's not his fault. That's right, even the people who are saying Stammer should go back to major-junior aren't blaming Stamkos. Instead, the coaching of Barry Melrose is probably at fault. Through his 7 games, Stamkos has never had more than 14:53 in ice time, and most nights, he doesn't get past 12 minutes. That's hardly the expected ice time for a guy with enough talent to be playing on Tampa's 2nd line. Tampa's only option is to send Stammer back down the OHL, let him dominate for the whole year, and hope that Melrose's brain kicks in and realizes that Stamkos can bring the Bolts a lot of points and some wins, too.

- How about this? Todd Bertuzzi is on pace for 62 goals....and 0 assists. As opposed to captain Jarome Iginla, who is on pace for 62 goals and 106 points. That would definitely be an interesting season for both right-wingers.

- Andy McDonald is on pace to have one of those season typical of Marc Savard and Joe Thornton, where the assists out number the goals 11 to 1. Literally, McDonald has a goal and 11 assists in 8 games so far.

That's all for now. I'll have a special pro-rate stats preview after the Stars play their tenth game against Minnesota on Wednesday.


Dallas vs. NYI

Again, I've been so busy, that this time, I wasn't even able to watch the two games that have passed since my last post. And here's one thing to think about right away; so far, the Stars have always had one good game and one bad game whenever they have back-to-back games. Most recently, the bad game was against the New Jersey Devils. They lost 5-0, and boy, they sure looked like they were in for a playoff-less season.

However, their good game might give the Stars some momentum. A win against the New York Islanders (not that hard, but still) must have felt pretty good to earn. Mike Ribeiro specifically redeemed himself in my eyes, scoring a goal and getting FOUR assists. That game alone brought gave him the lead in points for Dallas. Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson also each had really good games, and Eriksson looks to have a strong season coming up. Marty Turco managed to pull off an ok performance after looking bad in the NJ game, and the defense was definitely a little stronger than it has been.

I love how Krys Barch is all of the sudden a legitimate power-forward at the start of this season. He fights all the time, and now he has two tip-in goals. Obviously, I don't expect him to come up with a 30-goal season...or a 20-goal season....or even a 10-goal season....but he could chip in with 5-6 goals by the end of the year and be a valuable contributor with his physical play.


Dallas vs. NYR; Dallas vs. NJ preview

Yikes! Haven't had a lot of time online recently, so I'll quickly look over some points from the Rangers game, and get a quick preview in on the Dallas-New Jersey game.


- The opening line for the Stars was Sean Avery, Mike Ribeiro, and Loui Eriksson; a line that may have only ever been seen in practice before this game. While that line didn't manage much offensively, it wasn't awful, either. It also allowed Fabian Brunnstrom, Brenden Morrow, and Brad Richards to experiment together; the first result was a nice goal by Morrow on a rebound from a Brunnstrom shot that looked like a very smooth pass.

- Markus Naslund had a power-play goal, proving only one thing: the Stars are still taking way too many penalties.

- Mike Modano is currently scoring at a point-per-game pace. He probably won't keep it up, but does Dallas's main man since the late 80's have another 45-60 point season left in him?

- Both teams had a heck of a game for one reason; they had scoring chance upon scoring chance and never slowed down. The main reason for the Stars winning was the amazing play of Marty Turco; he shut down the potent New York duo of Brandon Dubinsky and Aaron Voros, and filled the highlight reels with his saves.

Dallas vs. New Jersey
At the time of this writing, the game had already started, and the score was 1-0 in favor of Jamie Langenbrunner. Unfortunately, he's no longer a Star. I'll be watching the rest of the game as soon as I can, and I'll post after the end, if I can.


At Least it Wasn't 6-1

Well, the Stars did alright in today's game, that I unfortunately missed seeing. However, I was pleased to check the scoreboard and see both Fabian Brunnstrom and James Neal with goals. Also nice to see Loui Eriksson with a couple of points. The highlights probably sum up any notes I could write down, so I'll leave you to watch those for this game. I'll try and get something up tomorrow.


Just Plain Awful

I almost didn't write this blog, but I promised (at least to myself) 82 games of coverage and I can't skip Thursday night's awful road loss to the St. Louis Blues.

I kid you not, it was terrible. I might be one of the biggest Stars fan out there, and I can honestly say that I couldn't find any bright spots in last night's game. You can't use Barch's goal as a bright spot, because his job isn't to score.


- Right off the bat, John from Stars Live jinxed us (sort of) by rhetorically asking if Brunnstrom would be able to repeat his big performance. The Swede had a few good chances, but obviously he wasn't the only one who couldn't beat Manny Legace.

- A James Neal trademark that will hopefully help the team in the long run; he's got incredible speed, and can hold on to the puck really well. He'll score on that left-side swoop before the year's over.

- The defense was again at fault on Thursday night: Keith Tkachuk's goal came on a turnover, Jay Mckee was left wide open to capitalize on a puck-handling slip-up by Turco, Steve Wagner scored because the Stars weren't willing to step in and take a puck for the team, Eric Brewer's one-timer also could have been blocked, and Yan Stastny had way to much time to shoot the puck on his goal. Penalties were also a big, big, problem; Brad Boyes scored on a 5-on-3, and the Blues had tons of other chances on the power-play.

- The Stars' 4th line played with the most energy last night; Krys Barch scored the only Stars goal, and Joel Lundqvist and Toby Petersen were probably the only Stars with a reasonably good outings.

- Tobias Stephan's second NHL game officially ended with him getting a loss, but he only played the last period, and only gave up 1 goal. That's not too bad, considering the Blues knocked 5 past Turco.

All in all, I was really disgusted with that game. I'm hoping we won't see another performance like this out of Dallas for the entire year, and if the boys can bounce back with a solid game against Colorado tomorrow, they'll be back on track.


Brunnstrom's on fire; Stars get first win!


Maybe I should start bashing the Stars before every game, and they'll all score hat tricks.

Before the Stars-Preds game started, I claimed that the addition of Brunnstrom would cause shaky line combinations to give the Stars trouble. How did he answer me? With a hat trick in his very first game.

The Stars finally pulled out a win, and it couldn't have been sweeter. Mike Modano scored two goals and got an assist, including an empty-netter that gave him 530 goals for his career. Brad Richards had two assists, and Sean Avery picked up his first point as a Dallas Star. But the night belonged to Brunnstrom, who, after being scratched for the first two games and leaving his hype in question, decided that the Stars needed some offense and went ahead and became only the 3rd player in NHL history to score a hat trick in his debut.


- Steve Ott was out with an injury, and the line of Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, and Loui Eriksson didn't mesh all too well. The Stars need to find a way to have every line producing; once Jere Lehtinen comes back, the lines will be more even. I'm seeing:
Krys Barch would be the 13th forward, occasionally playing in place of Crombeen.

- Dave Tippett on Fabian Brunnstrom, pre-game: Brunnstrom is a very respectable guy, he had no problems with being scratched the first couple of games. The only thing he really needs right now is to understand how we play. Once he can play our kind of game, he'll stick for sure.

- One of the main reasons that Brunnstrom played so well was the fact that Dave Tippett wasn't afraid to give him plenty of ice time; he was out on the ice during the Stars' first power-play of the night.

- An interesting line combination that played well last night was that of James Neal, Mike Modano, and Brandon (B.J.) Crombeen. Neal and Crombeen each had assists on Modano's first goal of the night, along with bringing physical play and speed to the game. I'll be interested as to whether or not Tippett keeps that group together; it would be hard to find a sure place for Avery if he does. All of the sudden, Dallas has good depth on the right wing: Eriksson, Avery, and Lehtinen all deserve top-six spots and B.J. Crombeen could easily play in that group as well.

- A few questionable calls were made in front of the net during this game, but the good thing was that the refs kept their original decisions; they didn't review a questionable goalie-interference call on Brenden Morrow that canceled a goal for Loui Eriksson, and when the ref initially called Martin Erat's goal a good one, and then went to a review that was inconclusive, they stuck with the on-ice call.

- Toby Petersen has to be one of the more unappreciated guys in the NHL right now. He got all sorts of ice time last night, from the penalty-kill, to making a killer move around two Predator defenders to set up Fabian Brunnstrom's first NHL goal.

- After starting the season with poor power-play results, the Stars managed a power-play marker in this game after Mike's Ribeiro and Modano set up Stephane Robidas' slap-shot goal.

- Matt Niskanen showed the maturity of an NHL veteran when he stayed on the ice during a Stars penalty-kill despite taking a painful shot the leg. He played later in the game, so the injury wasn't so serious, but a less-experienced player might have rushed off the ice to make sure he wouldn't get hurt. Kind of reminiscent of Glen Wesley back in the '06 Cup Finals, in my opinion. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to prevent Radek Bonk from scoring a power-play goal.

- Three rookies scored their first NHL goal in this match; Patric Hornqvist had one heck of a cool-looking tip off of a slap-shot from Shea Weber. Ryan Jones showed his tough presence in front of the net by not giving up on a wild, bouncing puck, and eventually knocked it past Marty Turco for his first goal.

- Niskanen really redeemed himself, in my eyes, by his defensive play last night. He was one of the weaker-looking defenders in the Stars' first two games, but last night, he had several shot-blocks and defensive plays that really shined.

- Greg Zanon is perhaps the craziest, yet best, shot-blocking defenseman in the NHL. Not once, but twice in last night's game, he dropped down on the ice to stop a shot and was hit in the head with the puck. Both times, he didn't take long to come back and keep playing. He's giving Nashville a real hard time finding ice-time for Kevin Klein.

- Sean Avery isn't the best fit with Brad Richards, in my opinion. He can still play the body-guard role, but several times last night, I saw him recieve killer-passes from Brad Richards and fail to capitalize on them. Loui Eriksson is a much better fit, and we could see a lot of offense from the Stars second line if they go with a combination of Brunnstrom-Richards-Eriksson.

- Speaking of Greg Zanon getting hit in the head with the puck, it was that reason that Fabian Brunnstrom didn't have four goals last night.

Overall, this was a really strong game for the Stars. Despite giving up 4 goals, they never trailed in the game, and played with much more energy than in the first two games. Tonight, they'll be up against the St. Louis Blues. I don't think I can live-blog tonight's game either, but I'll do my best to get you coverage on everything that happened.


NHL Quick-Check + Stars vs. Predators preview

Some news around the NHL:

- Ryan Hollweg has gotten himself suspended again. Personally, I think this is getting out of hand. I mean, some NHL players have gotten longer suspensions (Chris Simon) or suspensions for worse reasons (Sean Hill), but Hollweg is ridiculous. Barely into the second week of the 08-09 season, Hollweg has his second 3-game suspension. This man is going to get himself kicked out of the NHL, and I'm surprised that the Leafs haven't demoted him to the Marlies already.

- I know it's only a few games into the season, but it's always fun to look at the names atop the score charts and imagine what the NHL would be like if those guys led the league for the whole season. Then again, if Aaron Voros (7 points) was leading the NHL in points at the end of the year (along with Brandon Dubinksy, also 7 points), then the NHL might want to check back and see just how useful those rule changes would be.

- Along the topic of scoring leaders, can Keith Tkachuk make a comeback? The old power-forward has 4 goals already for St. Louis, and is on pace for, well, technically 82-84 goals. While that obviously won't happen, it'll be interesting to see if the Blues winger can get his goal-scoring into the 30-40 range for a few more years. He scored 27 goals last year.

- The NHL has decided to get the fan's answer on the ultimate question (no, not the question of life); Who's better? Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby? Fans across the NHL can write their own argument for either star player and have the opportunity for their opinions to appear on NHL.com. I'd write my own piece, but I like the play of both superstars and would only barely come out with Ovechkin on top.

Stars vs. Predators Preview:

- The Fort-Worth Star Telegram is reporting that Fabian Brunnstrom is going to make his debut tonight. But hold your applause, Stars fans—Brunnstrom is reportedly going to play on a line with Brad Richards and Sean Avery. Now, I'm not saying this line combo can't work. But not only does it break up the skilled duo of Richards and winger Loui Eriksson, it also takes bodyguard/agitator Avery off of the Neal-Modano-Avery line that played so well in the opening game of the season. Now, Avery is a new player, so his chemistry can still be messed around with, but Eriksson and Modano have rarely, if not never, played together and won't have much time to learn each other's game. The Stars need a win tonight, and they need it badly. A better line combo choice could have been Brunnstrom-Richards-Eriksson and keep the Neal-Modano-Avery line together. Another option that would have been interesting to see would be Morrow-Ribeiro-Brunnstrom. The Stars have had Steve Ott play the protector role for the intimidating duo of Morrow and Ribeiro, but Morrow is a tough guy in his own right and Ribeiro is no weakling either. Essentially, my ideal line combinations would be as follows:
Hopefully, though, Brunnstrom can prove me wrong and play well tonight. Perhaps another Star will get his first goal in his first game?

- Jason Arnott suffered a hand injury and is expected to miss about 3 games, according to ESPN. This could be seen as very helpful to Dallas; without Arnott, the last Stars-Preds game would've ended up 1-1. Arnott terrorized the Stars by scoring 2 goals, and had so many other scoring opportunities that 4 goals wouldn't have seemed impossible.

- The Stars' defensive play will be under the most scrutiny; it was the main reason for a 0-1-1 start that surprised many Stars fans. I'm hoping that defensive coverage and awareness was the main focus during the Stars' practices, and hopefully tonight will produce better results.

That's all for now. I'll have a blog up after the game, most likely tomorrow, unfortunately live-blogging won't be an option.


Another loss of life affecting the hockey world

Wow. Just after hockey fans were getting over the shock of Luc Bourdon's untimely death, Alexei Cherepanov has an unexpected collapse on the bench during an KHL game. Cherepanov played for Omsk, and last season had excited the NHL by breaking Pavel Bure's rookie record for goals in the Russian Elite League with 18 compared to Bure's 17. He was probably in line for a roster spot as soon as his contract with Omsk was up.

However, apparently, God (or fate, depending on whom you believe) has decided otherwise. In the past year, the hockey world has lost Mickey Renaud, Luc Bourdon, and now Cherepanov to tragic incidents that nobody could predict happening. I could go into the history of incidents like this throughout the NHL's history, but I've depressed myself enough.

Instead, I'll hit a more interesting note: Why does the KHL, a league with so much money, not have the proper medical equipment at the rink? I've seen reports that a defibrillator may have been able to say Cherepanov, and even if they decided to carry him out for speed, the safer option would have been a stretcher, had one been available in the building. I recently read a blog (for the life of me, I can't remember who wrote it, very sorry) about someone who played in an amateur men's league that experienced a shock much like this; another man on the ice had collapsed from a heart disease (may have been a heart attack) and died because the proper equipment could not be found. The blogger afterwards petitioned for the rink to acquire a defibrillator, and was successful. It was a very touching story, and it immediately rose to the top of my mind when I first heard of Cherepanov's death. I'm not going to bash the KHL for neglecting to take care of their players; obviously, they didn't expect anything on such a serious level, and neither did Alexei. However, if there had been a defibrillator, or perhaps other medical equipment in the room, a life could have been saved. This is another incident where professional and amateur sports leagues, players, and building managers need to hear about this, look at their own equipment, and realize that with a few simple upgrades, they could save many lives.

UPDATE: After finding this link on James Mirtle's blog, this may be the saddest story I've ever read involving hockey. Credits to the writers who translated this: Cherepanov's Tale.


NHL Quick-Check

Thanks to Columbus Day, I have today off from school. So, in order to take full advantage of it, here's a look at some news around the NHL:

- The Sharks may have found the perfect balance between an overloaded platoon system (Vesa Toskala and Evgeni Nabokov, especially in 06-07) and over-working Nabokov (77 games in 07-08). Sharks coach Todd Mclellan made the smart move yesterday, going with Brian Boucher in goal even though Nabokov had won his previous two games. The results? Boucher was named second star of the night for the entire NHL after posting a 21-save shutout against the Los Angeles Kings. Sharks rookie Lukas Kaspar made sure Boucher would get his win, scoring the lone goal of the game for his very first NHL goal, and first game-winner as well.

- The New York Rangers were perhaps the one team in the NHL to recieve so many different opinions in the off-season. Some said that acquisitions Markus Naslund, Wade Redden, Nikolai Zherdev, Dan Fritsche, and Dmitri Kalinin would push the Rangers over the top and into the Cup Finals. Others said that the Rangers had simply picked up some past-their-prime players and would collapse because of their lack of skill. Still more said that the Rangers would be the same team as last year, Naslund becoming the new Jaromir Jagr, and the other new guys making no difference whatsoever.
I don't know who will eventually turn out right, but as of right now, it's leaning in favor of the ones who say New York will win the Cup; the Rangers have started their season at 4-0.

- This seems to be the year of losing defensemen. The Flyers have been ravaged the worst, losing Ryan Parent and Randy Jones, two defensemen who would've been in their top-six for sure. Bryan McCabe is out for Florida, and the Blues lost Erik Johnson and Jeff Woywitka. The Maple Leafs lost Jeff Finger for a little while, and the Stars are missing Sergei Zubov temporarily, and I suspect these won't be the only blue-line injuries to ravage the league. On the plus side, we might see a heck of a lot of goals scored throughout the year. I mean, if the Islanders can score five on St. Louis, you never know what might come next.

- Despite all the rumors of the Sedin twins wanting to take off to another team if the Canucks struggle again this year, it hasn't stopped them from playing well. Daniel was one of the 'Three Stars' of the week for the NHL, scoring 2 goals and 3 assists in 2 games, while Henrik has a goal and 3 assists in those same 2 games. These numbers are still following the pattern of Henrik being more of a play-maker while Daniel is the goal-scorer.

Rookie Report: Didn't See Him Coming:
Some of the more surprising rookies of the first week in the NHL-
Rick Rypien- This rookie center for the Vancouver Canucks has taken a long and hard road to the NHL. He recieved call-ups totaling up to 29 games in 3 seasons before 08-09, which I believe cancels out his Calder eligibility, but this year, his performance appears to be paying off. Rypien (pronounced Rippin', like, he's rippin' shot after shot at the net) is tied for the rookie goal-scoring lead with 2 goals in his first 2 games.
Kevin Porter- Originally thought to be too far down on the Coyotes depth chart to make the team, Porter instead jumped into the line-up and has been solid for Phoenix. Currently, through 2 games, he's tied with Kyle Turris for the rookie lead in assists with 2.
Chris Porter- Another young Porter (although I believe the two are unrelated) was a surprise addition to his St. Louis Blues team after only scoring 12 goals and 37 points in 80 AHL games last year. However, he cracked the line-up for the Blues and enjoyed his first NHL assist when the Blues defeated the Predators in their first game.

- On the subject of rookies, what the heck happened to Steven Stamkos??? After playing two games in Europe against the Rangers and displaying potential by ringing a shot off the crossbar, he's been off the map. Sure, it's only the first week, but his team played two weeks ago, and had a game in this past week! With Kyle Turris topping the scoring lists for rookies and several other young guys making big impacts, the Lightning's first overall pick in the 2008 draft better pick up his play (scoreless in 3 games with a -1 rating) if he really wants that Calder trophy.


Phoenix rookies giving the Desert Dogs a chance

Coyotes fans saw it Saturday night against Columbus, and they saw it today against Anaheim;

The young guns are in charge now.

Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker scored their first NHL goals against the Ducks today. Peter Mueller and Keith Yandle scored against Columbus yesterday. Rookie Kevin Porter has two assists in two games, and Viktor Tikhonov looks pretty good as well. The veterans are chipping in as well; Turris assisted on Olli Jokinen's first goal as a Coyote against Columbus, and assisted on one of Shane Doan's two goals today against Anaheim. Steven Reinprecht has 3 assists in two games, and Todd Fedoruk has two assists in the games.

Could this be the start of a very surprisingly strong season for the Phoenix Coyotes? We'll see...


Stars Game 2 of 08-09, Live-blog.

Alright people, I'm going to be attempting my first live blog for tonight's Stars vs. Predators game. I doubt I can update it every time I can add something, but I'll do my best.


6:50- I don't know if this is because of my cable service (Time Warner) or because the Stars or Predators board just made a very odd decision, but apparently, the only place to watch this game is on NHL Center Ice on TV. The free online preview of NHL GameCenter isn't even showing the game. I really can't believe this. Versus isn't showing any games. Fox Sports Southwest is showing football. KDFI is showing some old, two-star movie called Hair Show that I've never heard of. No other local channel in Dallas is showing this game. I'll do the best I can to listen to the audio feed, and write about that, but I'm really outraged at the fact that no TV channel is showing this game unless you're paying however-much-per-year to get Center Ice subscription. This really makes me mad.

7:07- Problem solved! Apparently, Time Warner was showing me the wrong scheduling for FS-SW. I visited the Stars site out of desperation, and it told me the game was indeed on FS-SW, so I re-checked, and now that awesome Stars intro-commercial is on.

7:09- Both goaltenders are or were Stars players, and oddly enough, both goaltenders (Turco and Ellis for those who are new to either team or the whole league) gave up 5 goals in their games yesterday.


- Opening lines for Dallas: Robidas-Grossman on defense, Neal-Modano-Avery up front.

7:13 - Could the Stars already be in trouble? A turnover at Nashville's blue-line sends the puck the other way, where Shea Weber, un-covered by any Star, pounces on a rebound and scores the opening goal of the game. Right after that, Martin Erat gives the Stars a quick scare, but Trevor Daley keeps him from getting a shot off.

- All the Stars lines are the same; apparently the Stars think they'll get enough offense from the groups they have.

7:15 - Well, look who wants to be an offensive defenseman. Trevor Daley pots a goal, snapping a high wrist-shot from the top of the face-off circle.

7:15 - Daley takes a penalty right after his goal, but the Stars' penalty kill appears to be on top of its game.

7:17 - Turco keeps getting scaring me. He's still over-handling the puck, and Phillipe Boucher had to save him from giving up a goal.

7:19 - Dan Ellis makes a nifty little up-ice pass...think he took more than a few lessons from Turco?

7:20 - The Predators just look like they have more overall energy right now. They're fighting harder in the corners, playing better defensively, and passing well. I hope we can get some energy in us somehow-perhaps another Barch fight?

- Unlike last night's collection of rookies for the Blue Jackets, Nashville's lone youngster Patric Hornqvist is so far invisible. He's already been given at least two shifts, and he's done almost nothing.

7:23 - Mike Ribeiro got tripped up by Ryan Suter; he looked a little shaken up, but he's still on the ice, so I guess he's not hurt.

- The Stars had an exceptionally weak power-play against Nashville last year, 0-for-26. So far, after one power-play, it's 0-for-1.

7:26 - Two fights at once! B.J. Crombeen against Greg de Vries, and Sean Avery vs. Dan Hamhuis. Both fights getting broken up pretty quickly, but not half-bad. Jordin Tootoo was actually the original cause, messing around with Marty Turco after a play. Steve Ott and Trevor Daley immediately jumped on Tootoo, and then the two fights erupted. Ott, Crombeen, and Avery are all in the penalty box, and one lady is just absolutely shouting her lungs out at Avery. It's pretty funny, mainly because the enigmatic Avery is just kind of looking at her like, "Who do you think you are?"

7:30 - Apparently, Mr. Avery has been kicked out of the game. Both Brenden Morrow and Dave Tippett don't like the call, but oh well. Sucks for the penalty-box lady, she'll have to waste her breath shouting at Ott and Crombeen.

7:33 - I can't imagine Avery and Crombeen will be the only fighters of this game. Shoving matches are occuring after every whistle.

7:34 - Another Stars penalty, Mark Fistric for slashing.

7:35 - Jason Arnott takes advantage of a rough PK unit (Morrow, Niskanen, Robidas, Barch) to score his first goal of the year. If the game stays at this pace, we might see another 5-4 game, or higher.

7:38 - The Stars really need to catch a break offensively. They're having a really hard time bringing the puck into Nashville's end.

7:40 - Shea Weber came close to giving Dallas a goal bringing the puck around his net. Right after that, Turco makes a nice pass the Brad Richards almost caught up to for a break-away. We're getting to that energy level...

7:42 - Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, and Phillipe Boucher combine for a good scoring chance.

- Jason Arnott's house caught fire. Wow, I hope he and his family can deal with that smoothly.

7:47 - The Stars are still looking slow. They can't seem to get the puck moving, which is probably the opposite of how yesterday's first period went, even though on both occasions, Dallas was outshot.

7:48 - B.J. Crombeen in the box. Nashville is getting way too many chances. However, the penalty-kill still looks strong.


- The Hawks-Caps game is pretty interesting. Alex Ovechkin made up for yesterday by scoring a goal already, and energy player Matt Bradley has scored as well. For the Hawks, rookies Kris Versteeg and Jack Skille have scored.

- Miroslav Satan has a goal for the Penguins against New Jersey. Brian Rolston is shooting a lot.

- Trent Hunter, Andy Hilbert, Sean Bergenheim, and Mike Comrie have all scored for the Islanders, and rookie Kyle Okposo already has an assist. Brad Boyes will probably be the top scorer for St. Louis again; he's got goals in back-to-back games so far. Rookie Alex Pietrangelo is at -1, getting 11:33 of ice time through two-periods.

- Ouch. Whoever does intermission schedule reports for Dallas just said it's already been two periods of the game. Woops.


8:08 - Ralph and Razor are right; the Stars really need Sergei Zubov back. He's old, but he's key.

8:09 - Still making lots of turnovers, but at least we're doing better in our own zone.

8:11 - Mark Fistric really needs to work on his defensive coverage. When Zubie comes back, I'm expecting Fistric to get at least a quick AHL assignment until the next defender goes down with an injury.

8:11 - Nashville takes another penalty. The Stars can't afford to go 0-for-2 tonight. They're keeping the play in Nashville's zone, but they can't get a good pass or shot off. James Neal is getting power-play time, and he doesn't look out of place. Dan Ellis is making some awesome saves.

8:14 - Nashville takes a minor with 2 seconds left on the first one. Technically, the Stars are 0-for-2 now, but they kept the play alive pretty well. David Legwand and Scott Nichol both nearly got short-handed goals, and it took a desperate diving trip from Robidas to keep Nichol from getting a perfect opportunity on a break-away.

8:20 - Brenden Morrow snaps a shot that almost goes in. Can the captain bring the energy? We'll have to wait 40 seconds though, Preds have a power-play.

8:21 - Stars have another good penalty-kill. J-P Dumont gets a great shot off and gives Jason Arnott a rebound to pounce on right after it, though, but Marty Turco comes through with a huge save.

8:24 - Again, Turco makes a risky move to try and play the puck, and almost gives the Preds a goal. He's got to be more careful!

8:26 - Dave Tippett is mixing up the lines, trying to get something going. I don't know that it's gonna work, though.

8:32 - Mike Modano has a great chance to score, but Dan Ellis is just too poised. The Stars only have 10 shots so far, which worries me.

8:39 - Turco gets lucky on a shot that goes high, and Nichol rams into him. Can the Stars turn a goalie interference power-play into a game-tying goal? I hope so.

8:39 - An odd minor called now, Stephane Robidas and whoever #25 is for Nashville both called for hooking at different incidents, so it stays a 5-4. The Stars really need to use this power-play to get a goal.

8:43 - Stars get lucky on a 3-1 right after the power-play, Scott Nichol fanned on a shot.


- Montreal destroyed the Maple Leafs 6-1. Sorry Leafs fans, your team isn't invincible after all. Alexei Kovalev, Roman Hamrlik, Alex Tanguay, and Guillame Latendresse all scored for the Habs, and Sergei Kostitsyn came through with a 2-goal performance. Jason Blake scored the lone Toronto goal.

- Johan Franzen scored two goals, and Valterri Filpulla scored the opening goal as the Red Wings topped the Senators 3-2. Alex Picard and Nick Foligno scored for Ottawa.

- Keith Tkachuk couldn't rally the Blues, and Bill Guerin put the icing on the cake as the Islanders beat the Blues with a final score of 5-2.

- Nik Zherdev, Blair Betts, Freddy Sjostrom, and Michal Roszival all scored for the Rangers, as Sarah Palin's puck drop did little to help the Flyers, who lost 4-3. Scott Hartnell, Simon Gagne, and young leader Mike Richards are scored for Philly.

- Alex Ovechkin potted his second goal of the night, and Brooks Laich popped in the winner as the Caps came back from 2-1 to defeat Chicago 4-2.

- David Booth came out as a hero, scoring the Panthers opening goal, and also knocking in an overtime winner as Florida beat the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2. Stephen Weiss also scored for the Cats, as Slava Kozlov and Jason Williams couldn't get the Thrashers another win.


9:02 - Despite his non-presence, Barry Trotz is keeping Patric Hornqvist on the top line. He managed a shot that got blocked, but I still don't see too much special about him yet.

9:07 - Both teams are moving pretty slowly, but it's most worrying that the Stars are still missing that jump on the puck.

9:09 - Morrow and Ribeiro are both giving their all towards another Stars goal, but they can't get anything past Ellis.

9:10 - James Neal is getting all sorts of ice time. He's a great player, but Tippett needs to be careful about overplaying him and ruining his rookie year.

9:12 - The Stars, on the penalty-kill, are still letting players get way too close to Marty Turco. Jordin Tootoo got in 3-4 rebound shots before Nicklas Grossman finally knocked him away.

- As someone who has a bad reputation with me for knocking out Stephane Robidas a while ago, I'm loving how Jordin Tootoo keeps getting dropped by Stars players.

9:14 - Toby Petersen was ever so close to a goal with a deflection on Robidas' shot fomr the point.

- Funnily enough, James Neal's #18 jersey has me thinking I'm seeing #10 have a lot of good shifts. Not that Morrow isn't doing good, but you get my point...

- I love how Time Warner is telling me I'm watching College Football, UCLA at Oregon. So odd...

9:22 - Good job by Brad Richards to keep fighting for the puck in the middle of the ice, he drew a penalty. With about 7 minutes left, the Stars need all the shots they can get.

9:28 - This game might be over. Steve Ott takes a high-sticking penalty with about 4 minutes left. If they can kill it off, and score a goal with just over 2 minutes left, it'll be great. However, look at last night's game. The Stars scored 2 goals in about 3 of the final minutes, but then lost with 21 seconds left in overtime.

9:31 - Definitely over. Jason Arnott scores his second goal of the night after the puck bounces off him onto his stick and into the net. It'll be awfully hard for Dallas to come back from 3-1 in 3 minutes. There's a chance, but it's a small chance. However, maybe the desperation energy will kick in.

9:36 - The Stars pull Marty Turco in hopes of getting goal. Can they do it? I really hope so.

9:37 - 37 seconds to go. It's highly unlikely that Dallas can get 2 goals, but they are definitely giving a strong effort with the empty net, taking a lot of shots.

9:39 - The game's over. Personally, I blame the Stars....for letting Jason Arnott and Dan Ellis leave as free agents. Honestly, the entire game belonged to Arnott and Ellis. Ellis's only goal allowed was through a screen, and he had a countless number of skilled saves through the whole game. Arnott's two goals and one assist led his team, and led to the win.

The Stars have started the season 0-1-1, but I think the main reason for tonight's loss was fatigue. The Stars looked tired for the entire night, and struggled defensively, like yesterday. I'm sure that Dave Tippett will be running plenty of 2-on-1, 3-on-1, 2-on-2, and 3-on-2 drills, especially focusing on covering that third man in. Hopefully, with some rest and practice, Dallas can come out and get a win against Nashville at home on the 15th.

Game 1 of 08-09 for Dallas (frikkin CBJ)

Well, amazingly enough, the Stars' first home game of the season turns out to be a loss.

After some insane trading of goals in the 3rd period, Rick Nash won the game for the Blue Jackets with less than a minute left in overtime.

Here's some of the things I noticed last night (rough notes translated from my phone).

- Dave Tippett on the Stars' play during the pre-season: Our record wasn't that great, but we use the pre-season to test our younger players and now that the season has started, the guys know that it's time to get serious.

- The opening ad for the Dallas Stars' 08-09 season was awesome. It spent a lot of time focusing on how important the fans are the team, which is something the entire NHL needs to focus on.

- I haven't noticed it before, but the fan tradition of shouting 'Stars!' every time the word 'star' or 'stars' comes up in the national anthem is awesome. Some people might criticize Stars fans for not respecting the national anthem, but I think it's just another great way to show team spirit. If the Kelowna Rockets sang the U.S. national anthem before games, it'd be great for their fans to shout 'Rockets!' if they wanted to.

- Right off the bat, both teams were playing rough and fast, which is exactly the kind of hockey I love. Players like James Neal, Jason Chimaera, Loui Eriksson, and others showed exactly why their foot-speed got them to the NHL, especially on several break-away chances for Eriksson and on Neal's tip-in goal.

- The Stars really seemed to control the puck well throughout the whole game, and although they ended up losing in OT, it was due to the passing skill of the team, and Mike Ribeiro's puck-handling skill for the tying goal, that let the Stars stay in the game after going down 1-0 and 4-2.

- Dave Tippett went with these lines up front: Morrow-Ribeiro-Ott, Lundqvist-Richards-Eriksson, Avery-Modano-Neal, and Barch-Petersen-Crombeen. The idea of having at least one defensive/enforcer-type player on each line (Ott, Lundqvist, Avery, and the entire fourth line) seemed to work fairly well for the Stars. I was especially impressed by the play of Neal, Avery, and Modano. The three players, each of whom play differing styles, clicked really well. Modano's speed, although limited at his age, and passing skill seemed to work with Neal, whose crash-the-net scoring style has many hockey experts thinking "Morrow pt. 2." Avery provided a sort of bodyguard presence, getting into several shoving matches, but at the same time, his unpredictable offensive abilities would occasionally kick in and give the Stars a good scoring chance.

- Brenden Morrow's offense was at it's usual level; he hit the post on one play, had several shots, and ended up scoring the tying goal in the second period to make the score 1-1.

- The first power-play unit of Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro, Modano, Stephane Robidas, and Brad Richards didn't connect on its first opportunity, and it looked like they had a little trouble moving the puck around. The Stars do need to work on their power-play a little, but it usually ends up with midde-of-the-pack numbers, and an annually strong penalty kill will help even out the rough patches. The second chance for the power-play was strong though, with Morrow scoring a goal.

- The defensive pairs of Grossman-Robidas, Fistric-Boucher, and Niskanen-Daley were a little interesting to me. I think Tippett was trying to go younger players with more experienced ones, but I'm not too sure that the lines were as strong as they could be. However, Nik Grossman and Robidas were a solid pair all of last season, and looked alright tonight. Robidas is still consistently becoming a two-way defender, and he looked good assisting on Neal's goal. Mark Fistric and Phillipe Boucher made a real nice shut-down pair, but Fistric is still young, and may need a little more time in the minors, whereas Boucher is still coming back after an injury-filled 08-09 season where he only got into 32 regular season games.

- Loui Eriksson continues to impress me with his offensive play. He didn't score last night, but had several break-away chances, and was on top of the puck all night, battling hard in the corners, and doing his best to give the Stars some offense. He'll be another great Stars winger, and the announcers (Ralph and Razor are still great) even compared him to Jere Lehtinen.

- Marty Turco was solid, despite giving up 5 goals. He had several incredible saves during the game, and it's hard to believe that he won't have another amazing year.

- Sean Avery played his usual style, getting up in players faces. When I first hear that the Stars had signed Avery, I had thought it was pointless. We already had Morrow, Steve Ott, and Krys Barch bringing a tough physical presence to the team, and even rookie B.J. Crombeen fights a lot. However, Avery's pest factor is something that he's practiced for a while. I still see him as very similar to Steve Ott, as each player can fight, get in the other team's face, and occasionally back up his actions with a goal or an assist. However, I think Avery will fit in pretty nicely with the team, and he should have a good year.

- I was very surprised to see a lack of Fabian Brunnstrom in the lineup. I mean, obviously Neal and Crombeen are talented young players, but I was really into all the hype that the entire NHL was giving to Brunnstrom. However, if he couldn't secure a roster spot straight out of camp, he may just turn into another undrafted free agent out of Europe who can't secure an NHL job. I really hope he doesn't.

- Mike Modano really seemed to slide in the third line role without a problem. He's been one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL for a long time, and even at his age, he can bring the speed and passion that many Stars players don't.

- Jakub Voracek looked really good on the ice for a rookie. Even though the only people to originally catch his first NHL goal were the Stars play-by-play men, anyone could see that he can play smart offensively. His positioning and timing for that goal seemed like those of a seasoned veteran, and he'll probably be a great NHL player. It was funny to hear the ref say that Voracek's goal was "good" before confirming that it was an actual goal. I'm not sure if he was just stating his own opinion, or if he just thought that it was a goal, but I got a laugh out of that.

- Krys Barch and Jared Boll had one heck of a fight during the first period:

I am probably one of very few people in the hockey world that likes Krys Barch. I know he'll probably be a pure fighter for the rest of his NHL days, but he's just one of the guys I enjoy watching fight. He's got that killer 'grab-hand jab' that we'll probably be seeing used by a lot of NHL players this year, and he's not bad with his other hand either. Boll and Barch had another fight last year, which Boll completely dominated, to be honest. I'd definitely call this second one a win for Barch, so they're even for now. I'll try and keep track of their record if they fight again this year.

- The Blue Jackets will definitely have a more physical blue-line, led by Mike Commodore. Sean Avery got absolutely creamed entering the offensive zone from a clean check by Commodore, and we'll probably see a lot more Commodore hits as the season progresses.

- Stephane Robidas can just click with anyone. On one penalty kill, he rushed the puck into the Columbus zone and almost combined with Joel Lundqvist for a short-handed goal. Pascal Leclaire, who's on his way to becoming a premiere goaltender, stopped Lundqvist on that play, and had several other crazy saves, including one with the chin of his facemask.

- James Neal's first NHL goal came off of a great deflection, and it only helped prove that he'll be another Brenden Morrow-type player.

- Kristian Huselius showed that he can provide plenty of offense, capitalizing on a poor rebound left by Turco, and just pounding it in the net. Rick Nash, you're not alone.

- The Stars definitely had some trouble with their defensive coverage; Andrew Murray's goal only came about because he was wide open right in the middle of the ice. The Blue Jackets forward (I can't remember who) made a smart pass, and Murray had all the time in the world to pop a backhander past Turco.

- Rookie Derick Brassard scored his first goal of the season (he had a goal in 17 games last year), and that nearly toppled the Stars there and then. Right after Murray's goal, Brassard picked up the puck in the corner and made a smart move to, maybe even deliberately, bank the puck of a Stars defender and into the net past Turco.

- The Stars finally caught a break late in the third period, when Stephane Robidas took a slapshot in the point, and Brad Richards, in the typical power forward spot despite being more of a finesse player, had the puck bounce in off his shin and into the net.

- That break brought the life back into the Stars, and Mike Ribeiro proved how much of a leader he can be by out-skating and out-stick handling most of the Blue Jackets on the ice before making a nice pass to Trevor Daley, who slammed a one-timer past Pascal Leclaire to tie the game and eventually send it into overtime.

- The Stars were re-energized by both goals, and controlled the puck well during overtime. James Neal had a really nice opportunity, swooping into the offensive zone, but there were too many bodies in front of the net for him to get a good shot off. Mike Ribeiro's skilled puck control almost led to another goal to win the game, but to no avail. With 21 seconds left in the game, the Stars had one last fatal defensive slip that led to Nash's break-away game-winning goal.

Despite the loss, though, I think the Stars had a really good game. A lot of the forwards found their groove on a line, and the Stars brought back the combos of Morrow-Ribeiro and Richards-Eriksson, really good moves in my opinion. Hopefully, tonight against Nashville, the Stars can bring some better defensive coverage on the ice, protect the front of the net a little better, rush the offensive zone with the same intensity, and come out with a win. I'll be watch that game, and I'll let you know in a blog tomorrow how it turns out.