What a way to start off the NHL season. The Dallas Stars kicked off the 2011-2012 season with a solid win against, what should be, one of the best teams in the West. The Stars did not do it with much flash, but played a sound and steady game to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 last night in downtown Dallas. The house was rocked, the electricity was there (even if there were also quite a few Blackhawk fans, and the Stars played like most would hope they would.
While the game was not a pretty win or a big statement to the world, it was exactly how most of us had hoped the Stars would start off the year. Kari Lehtonen carried the team with a stellar effort in net, stopping 37 shots and looking like he would hold onto the shutout until Chicago got a goal with 13 seconds to go. A couple of times in the 2nd and 3rd the Stars got caught in their own zone for extended periods of time, Lehtonen stood tall and also got help from his defense. While the Blackhawks offensive talent showed a times last night, the Stars and Lehtonen were able to shut them down and go a perfect 4-for-4 on the PK. After how bad the PK has been the last two years, it was nice to see them working as a unit and killing off penalties all night.
All off season it seemed like everyone kept saying that for the Stars to have any success Jamie Benn would have to step up and help “replace” that one guy that left and the Stars were not going to be able to win without. Through one game, Jamie did it. Last night he scores the Stars second goal off of a humongous blast from Sheldon Souray, created a few chances throughout the night, and then puts Niklas Hjalmarsson in the glass and breaks it in the 3rd period. Only one game, but the myth of Benn continues to grow.
Tonight the Stars and Blackhawks square off again, this time up in the Windy City at the United Center. Glen Gulutzan will be looking to start his NHL coaching career off at 2-0, or at the very least come back home with one point tonight. While I know we would all love for the Stars to take tonight’s game as well, it will be very hard to win tonight. The Blackhawks are back home to start the season, and that building is a madhouse. Along with that you know they will be looking to make up for last night’s effort. What should be the matchup to watch is the battle between the pipes. The Stars have chosen to start Andrew Raycroft in net, avoiding starting the season with back to back starts from Lehtonen and another game Monday night. But the Blackhawks have decided to throw Corey Crawford out for a second straight night after he stopped 31 of 33 shots last night. So while Raycroft is a lesser goalie, he will be rested and Crawford will be trying to match the solid performance he had last night.
The puck drops at 7:30PM CST again tonight, but make sure to tune in to TXA-21 tonight as all Saturday games this season will be carried by them. Adam Burish will be in the lineup tonight for the Stars, great news as well all know that he provided a great boast when in the lineup last season. He should be a welcomed part of the lineup tonight, as the 2nd game of back-to-backs in these little home-and-home sets is always a little bit chippy and rougher. No word on where we will be in the lines, but I’d expect him to slid onto the 3rd or 4th and probably Peterson sit down.