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Dallas 3, Pittsburgh 6

I’m just speechless.

SEVENTEEN goals against in the last three games. Seventeen!

This is a problem with the entire team. The goaltending is not helping cover any mistakes and the defense and the forwards are making a lot of mistakes.

And Marc Crawford is doing nothing about it. The so-called system is obviously not working. Just because it’s a system doesn’t mean it can win games.

The players have no confidence. How could they? They aren’t scoring and they aren’t defending. Crawford makes no adjustments to help them. I don’t know what he’s doing.

He scratched Mark Fistric in favor of Woywitka. Fistric is the one defenseman we have right now that can actually defend! Fistric is a plus-13 and the next best plus-minus is plus-3. He actually helps defend the net. Skrastins is having a terrible run of games, yet he was out there for 20 minutes.

He insists on putting Barch on Modano’s line when Barch can’t catch a simple pass or even stay on his skates. Fabian Brunnstrom may not be the toughest guy out there, but he could take a pass and send it back without falling down.

I checked out the recap from the great Mike Heika and here’s Crawford’s assessment of the game:

“I think we elevated our game today, and we have to keep looking for improvements,” Crawford said.

I don’t think “elevated” means what he thinks it means.

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Dallas 5, Chicago 4

That’s the only reason I’m condescending to write about it. Otherwise, I’d still be holding out for a streak of some kind. I’ve run out of W-L-W-L jokes.

A day before the game, I was pretty optimistic because they had lost the previous game and that means a win. But then I started thinking about how good the Chicago Blackhawks are these days and by the time the game started I assumed they’d lose.  I should have gone with my first instinct.

The first period was pretty impressive by the ‘Hawks.  Most of the way through it I was pretty impressed by the Stars for not being down by 5 or 6 goals.  The Stars actually took the lead, even though they had already given up 20 shots.

Mike Modano opened the scoring with that cool same-leg shot he breaks out every once in a while.  I think it’s one of my favorite moves.  Here’s my opinion: the reason Modano does so well these days on the power play is because he has somebody other than Krys Barch to pass it to him.  I’m sure Barch is a nice guy, but I think at the very least, Brian Sutherby should playing on the 4th line, if Modano has to stay there.  If he’s only going to play for 5 minutes, why isn’t Sutherby playing?  He can fight if need be.  Just because he doesn’t have fights scheduled for weeks ahead of time, doesn’t mean he won’t fight.

Obviously Modano should be on a higher line, but I agree that Wandell is pushing his way up there. It’s not really that Modano is dropping as much as Wandell is climbing.  But Modano needs somebody that can catch and/or make a decent pass.  I think Sutherby is better for that.  Heck, if they’re too full of defensemen, Fistric could be one of Modano’s wingers.

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Dallas 2, Nashville 3 (SO)
3 out of 4 penalties killed

Hockey is finally here. There have been lots of things that wanted to make me feel like that, but opening night at the American Airlines Center seems to be the only thing that worked.

My lovely sister (in Keller) went to the game with me and we met up with Myra and Hub and Kid from Laughs 2 Loud. Our seats for our partial plan are really pretty good. They’re right at the top of the escalator and it’s one of those jagged sections so we don’t have a lot of people in front of us. I’m going to enjoy that spot.

The game didn’t start out too well. It was only a couple of minutes into the game before Jason Arnott scored the first goal. It was a lucky bounce, but kind of disheartening there for a few minutes. It didn’t help when they scored again just a few minutes into the second period.

I thought the Stars really picked it up after that. They seemed to have quite a bit more time in the offensive zone and did a lot of good defensively — lots of puck stealing by the Stars — but I was still surprised when I saw they had 40 shots on goal during the game. Dan Ellis, the Preds goalie (and a former Stars goalie prospect), did a fantastic job against the them. He was the main reason they couldn’t score in the second half of the game.

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Cedar Park Center

I took a rare hockey road trip this week and took in the Battle of the Stars game Wednesday night with my sainted mom and dad.

We drove from their tiny little town over to Cedar Park, TX, to check out the new Texas Stars arena and the future Dallas Stars. (We might have also checked out a few new housing developments we saw along the way. We’re notorious house-hunters.)

For dinner, we picked a random burger place because we didn’t want to stray too far from the arena once we found it. It turned out to be some of the best burgers we’ve had in a while. If you’re ever in Cedar Park, you should try Moonie’s Burger House. The homemade hamburger buns alone are worth the trip.

The game was fun. There were the regular Stars we all know and love, and then on the opposite end of the rink were all the kids from training camp that we’ve been hearing so much about. Both sides looked in good shape.

The 5-1 score looks more lopsided than it really was. The Texas Stars had some good play on defense and they had a few good chances on Turco. Alex Auld started in goal for the kids, but they switched the goalies out in favor of Climie and Krahn at the halfway point or so.

When the Dallas Stars scored, they played the goal song and there was some reasonable cheering. I got the impression there were mostly Dallas fans in the arena. But when the Texas Stars got their goal, the place went NUTS! So it seems there’s a good start on a fanbase for the AHL team.

My parents had a good time at the game. They enjoy a good sporting event in general, but I think I might be wearing them down on hockey in particular. About five minutes into the game, after a ref got crunched against the boards, my dad said, “I think if I were one of those referees, I’d want a stick, too.”

It was a fun game to watch and the perfect tune-up to get ready for Saturday night’s game. I’m ready now. Nervous, still, but ready.

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Mike Heika talked to Marc Crawford after Tuesday’s game about the “spotty” play of the Stars.

“We are going to correct the things we can and go back and reinforce the system’s strong points of play, but we are also going to demonstrate some patience as well. It’s going to take a constant reinforcement to get it.”

I think this is a good plan, this demonstrating some patience, but I don’t know if we’ll really see that when the games start counting.

The Dallas Stars got such a terrible start last season that they’re determined this one will be good. But if they’re still trying to learn the system and trust their own creativity and end up losing some extra games, I wonder if the coaching staff will bail on the whole patience thing and just play the half of the team that is already getting it.

I don’t think it will behoove guys like Fabian Brunnstrom to lose playing time because he might make a mistake. Or if he isn’t scoring like crazy in the first few games.

The same goes for the young defensemen like Niskanen and Fistric. Really all of the defensemen are going to need some patience.

Of course, I can’t see any of this new system yet, or how well anybody is playing it. I’m just going by what Mike Heika says, essentially. It just sounds, from the quotes I’ve been reading, that it’s pretty different from what our veterans are used to.

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Pay attention, boys.

Pay attention, boys.

I finally went to a training camp practice today and it was great fun. Myra and The Kid joined me for the second hour and we analyzed the X’s and O’s together.

Mostly I took pictures, but not very good ones. I have a new camera and I don’t know it very well, so I’ll need some practice with it. I do know I need to override the shutter speed, first thing. Every picture was just a little blurry from all the movement.

This was the first time I’ve seen Marc Crawford run a practice and the main difference from Dave Tippett was that I could hear that he was talking. Tipp’s voice was so low, even when he was yelling, it didn’t escape the rink. Crawford’s probably yelling at the same volume, but he’s WAY up the register.

I followed Mark Fistric around a little bit and he looked pretty good. They did a lot of drills I’ve never seen, of course, and one was for stealing pucks and breaking up passes and Fistric did well. Kind of surprisingly, Krys Barch was doing a good job of poking the puck off the coach’s stick before he had a chance to try to get it past Fistric.

(R to L) Sitting, sitting, standing, working.

(R to L) Sitting, sitting, standing, working.

Fabian Brunnstrom was in the second practice and while they were waiting for the Zamboni to finish re-surfacing the ice, we got to watch him practice his stick handling. It’s fascinating to watch. He was doing his school figures during another lull and carrying the puck backwards and forwards in circles. Before the drills started, I caught him working on a trick shot (although I hate to call it a trick shot because I can see how it could come in handy plenty of times) where he flips the puck one-handed, back-handed, top shelf.

You’re never so good you can stop practicing, kids.

I have a feeling, that started the last month of last season, that we’re about to see what all the hubbub was with Bunny. I expect to see him take off this season.

Crawford had them doing what I decided was a “get back” drill that was fun to watch. They simulated losing the puck in the offensive zone, then racing back to take it away from the forward before he got a shot off. It really showed how Nick Grossman is an underrated skater. He and Fistric both had no problem getting back.

Trevor
Trevor Daley, of course, was just flying around all the time. That guy can skate.

Other than that, there were a lot of kids I didn’t recognize without a program. It won’t be long now until the real games get started.

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I’m going to attribute it to the long off-season, but I am going to need more work to be able to follow what’s going on.

First, the Tampa Bay game last night, broadcast on Tampa radio (online) really shone a light on how out of shape I am. It’s hard to follow on radio as it is, for a TV girl like me, but it’s even harder when it’s a crazy stranger calling the play-by-play. I’m a big fan of Dan McDowell’s “Homer Call of the Week” bit on the Ticket, and the Tampa guy would be a perfect candidate. He just about blew out my computer speakers when Tampa scored and when Dallas did, he just said, “Score.”

Still, I was grateful for a chance to hear the game. It sounded like Brad Richards was really into it. He had a goal and a shootout goal, and I hear that he was all over the ice. Just the stories about him and how he’s 100% healthy and 100% on board with the new system make me assume that he’s just beaming all the time.

This could be very good for us. If Morrow and Ribeiro continue with their top-line-ness, and Brad and Loui are the 2-punch, it could be very good.

I’m listening to the game against the Avs on Denver radio and while the play-by-play guy is a little more normal, Peter McNabb is the color guy and he is not my favorite. Far from it, in fact. But, you take what you can get.

The score is not in our favor as I listen, but I can’t tell why that is. I’m easily distracted. He’s mentioned Beaudoin several times, and pronounces it differently each time.

I think I need a few more workouts, maybe a couple of play-by-play listening drills before I’m ready for the start of the season.

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