James Neal is a revelation. Pressure situations seem to make him better. He scored a goal in his very first NHL game. He scored a goal in his first game back after being sent to the minors back in November. And in a game in his home town (essentially) and against the team he loved as a kid and in front of a crowd of family and friends, he goes out and scores a hat trick. Where did we find this guy?
I don’t really follow prospects when they’re prospects, but I do remember names, and he’s one that kept cropping up as someone the Stars were really high on. The same with Loui Eriksson. They’re players that outsiders wonder what the Stars see in them, but the scouts insist, and the coaches are patient, and violá. Scorers.
Trevor Daley is another of those guys and he is really shooting up the charts right now. I think he’s really blossoming now as a two-way defender. They reined in his offensive derring-do to build his defensive game, and now they’re letting go of the reins and he’s taking advantage of it. He got 2 assists in the game and he was often all the way down at the goal. When you have a defenseman like him, and defensive forwards like Eriksson, the shift really can play as five, instead of three and two.
Speaking of Eriksson, he didn’t get a point in this game, but I don’t even care. He’s still great! Brad Richards got a goal and I think Eriksson should get an assist on it, just because he’s perked Richards up so much.
The whole game was great last night. The forwards were all over the Toronto players. They had no answer for the forecheck and really no answer for the shots on goal. Toronto had one shift in the Dallas zone and all the rest of the game belonged to the Stars. I think the old Turco could have gotten a shutout, but you take what you can get these days. Two goals-against is practically a shutout these days.
All the lines worked beautifully. Maybe it was just Toronto making them look like that, but I think Otter on Ribeiro’s wing is a wonderful idea. I think Ribeiro likes the growling, mean energy that Ott brings, because it’s a lot like what Morrow brings. James Neal playing with Modano and Lehtinen sure worked out, too.
Here are the lines:
Neal – Modano – Lehtinen
Petersen – Richards – Eriksson
Ott – Ribeiro – Brunnstrom
Barch – Sutherby – Wilson
Three goals from the top line, one from the second line, three from the third, and one from the fourth. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Fabian Brunnstrom’s goal was a thing of beauty. If Razor hadn’t pointed it out, I wouldn’t have realized that his sticking his left leg way out to the side was to protect the puck. I would have just thought it was one of those weird turns that they make where they stop on a dime and whip around and their toes are up in the air… Robidas does it all the time. On the replay you can see that the defender is trying to reach around to poke the puck off his stick, but he can’t because Brunnstrom’s leg is so far to the left of the puck. That’s a goal-scorer’s move right there.
I feel for Nik Hagman. The Stars know they chose the wrong guy to give $3 million to, but nothing can be done about it now. I hope the Leaves have some good years while he’s there. He’s having a pretty good year so far, just as proof that the last two weren’t flukes. Sigh. Water under the bridge, I guess.
Anyway. That game was the perfect sendoff for the Christmas break. The Stars are back at .500, and we’ve moved up another notch in the standings. We’re only three points out of 8th place. Sure, there are a lot of teams that have to drop back in order for us to step over them, but we’ve got time.
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.