Over the next month Blackout Dallas will be keeping tabs on the Stars currently overseas participating in the 2012 IIHF World Championships. Check back every few days for a complete look at how each Star is performing for their respective countries. Note: Through two games, Richard Bachman has not played for Team USA, so he is absent from this post.
Jamie Benn – Canada
Jamie Benn, playing in his first World Championship, started out in a big way for Team Canada. Benn opened the scoring for Team Canada in their opening game against Slovakia, a goal that proved to be pivotal in the closer than expected 3-2 victory. He’s found himself playing on the top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and having significant time on Canada’s first power play unit. Obviously Benn has impressed Canada Head Coach Brent Sutter and has been given and opportunity to shine. Unfortunately, Benn saw a slight reduction in Canada’s second game against the United States, most likely the product of a tight contest and Benn being shutdown by the American defense. He had no shots, but kept an even plus/minus for the game.
Kari Lehtonen – Finland
The Big Fin has suited back up for his home country and has shown right away that he’s one of the top Finnish goaltenders in the world. His first outing against Belarus was a 21-save shutout, shutting down a Belarus team that, admittedly, is not very strong and does not feature any NHL stars (outside of Mikhail Grabovski) to bolster their lineup. Lehtonen was given a rest in Finland’s second game, but backup Petri Vehanen kept Slovakia scoreless, making Finland the only team through the opening weekend of play to have not allowed a single goal. Looking at the big picture, this tournament is crucial for Kari Lehtonen. The Stars are just a couple pieces away from returning to playoff prominence, and Lehtonen has historically had issues with his health and stamina. This tournament will act as a surrogate for Lehtonen, giving him the experience of playing deep into May. Every Stars fan should be watching Team Finland closely to see how Lehtonen performs.
Loui Eriksson – Sweden
Loui Eriksson has become a staple on Team Sweden, and for good reason. The Swedish team is always among the favorites and thanks to some early playoff exits (*cough* Red Wings *cough*) the team is more loaded than usual. No problem for Loui though, as he has made an impact in both games played. In the opening tilt against Norway, Eriksson buried the Norwegian’s hope of a comeback and scored a 3rd period power play goal, sealing a 3-1 victory. Eriksson switched to play maker the next day in a game against Czechoslovakia, assisting on Johan Franzen’s early first period goal, and adding another assist on Nicklas Kronwall’s second period goal en route to a solid 4-1 victory for the Swedes. Eriksson’s 3 points leads Team Sweden, and puts him just one point behind USA’s Max Pacioretty for the tournament lead.
Alex Goligoski – United States of America
Alex Goligoski is yet another Stars player, much like Jamie Benn, who has found himself and playing top minutes and reaping the benefits of the opportunity. In their opening game against France, Goligoski was behind only Captain Jack Johnson in ice time with 22:06. On top of this he added two assists, the first one a beautiful feed to Kyle Okposo who scored on a breakaway. In the United States second game against Canada, Goligoski saw his ice time drop, but he put 5 shots on net and held a positive plus/minus through both contests. Goligoski, who the Stars traded for in exchange for James Neal and Matt Niskanen, had a disappointing year for the Stars, maligned by injuries and inconsistency, but much like Lehtonen and Benn, this experience is going to go a long way in helping him grow as a player.
Philip Larsen – Denmark
Philip Larsen has not had as much of a glowing opening weekend as the other Stars, producing no points and having a -3 rating through two games, but the young Danish defenseman is just that, young and growing. This is his second World Championship run, and after a successful season with the Dallas Stars, Larsen’s potential is quickly growing and has the ability to turn into one of the Stars top defenseman over the next few years. He’s another guy to keep an eye on.
Be sure to check back on Wednesday for the next round up of the World Championships! Only the United States games are televised so keeping track of all the happenings can be a bit tricky, but Blackout Dallas has you covered. LIKE us on Facebook and FOLLOW on Twitter!