WOW! Finally something to cheer about and even put to paper ... or web page, as it is! The Dallas Stars shut down and defeated the mighty - and much hated - Detroit Red Wings! If nothing else comes of this season, we can celebrate this night as our (mini) Stanley Cup victory!
Clearly, the Stars have had very little to be happy about so far this season. That goes for the fans as well. Morrow is gone for the year. Zubov is back on IR ... maybe for good??? Lehtinen cannot stay healthy. Ott got hurt during a fight ... again. Robidas took a puck to the face which broke his jaw and required oral surgery. [He will miss a few games but let the record state ... he is one unbelievably tough SOB! We've seen him take some monster hits and jump right back into the play ... but this man actually played the last half of the game Wednesday night with a freaking broken jaw! I cannot imagine the pain.] Lundqvist, Fistric, and the list goes on. Top that off with the Avery saga and Marty Turco not playing at all like the all-star goalie he has proven himself to be, and I'd say my original statement about having very little to be happy about is actually quite kind!
I'll be honest ... as I drove to the game tonight I fully expected that a 4-1 loss would be a blessing! I sincerely did not want to get obliterated by the champs in our barn. In fact, I simply went to yell at a few Wings' fans and boo their goals! Most certainly the two teams have taken far different paths since that exciting Game 6 in Big-D last May. Detroit went on to win the Cup and continues to demonstrate what, when, how, why, etc. - while Dallas continues to battle the vicious and massive injury bug, Sean Avery, and a superstar goalie that has apparently sprung a leak. The Stars are literally rolling out a team that is half NHL and half minor league. Allow me to name the 20 players on the Stars' bench tonight - Turco, Modano, Richards, Ribeiro, Eriksson, Barch, Petersen, Sydor, Daley, Brunnstrom*, Grossman^, Niskanen^, Parrish^, Janik^, Neal*, Wilson*, Wandell*, Conner^, Hutchinson^, and Stephan.* Those names with * are rookies and those with ^ are either sophomores, minor-leaguers, or veterans without a home until Dallas picked them up. For those non-math majors out there that means out of a 20-man roster, the Stars dressed a whopping NINE veterans. Also out of 20 players, nine are 25 years old or younger. Healthy scratch is not currently part of the vocabulary around these parts.
So considering that background story, I think it is very simple to understand why even the most loyal fans (of which I am one) would have the simple hope that our team's performance tonight was not used as NHL training film material! On the contrary, however, it turns out that any training film material from this performance would be in a most positive light. Like I said before, I sat down in my seat expecting the worst. Before the season I marked this game on the calendar. I was angry it was so deep into the season considering the battle that took place in May. The Stars wanted another crack at those Wings and I wanted some revenge ... especially for Draper's cross-check to Brendan's mouth (which I will not forget about until he is properly called out for it!). But the season has not unfolded as expected and this game had seemingly lost its luster. Then, unexpectedly, at the end of the National Anthem, a feeling came over me ... a feeling of positivity that I had not even come close to having any time leading up to this game. I looked around the arena and realized the place was packed (though, granted, there was a lot of red). All of a sudden I was back at the Western Conference Finals and my attitude had done a complete 180. The rosters no longer mattered and I started to think that we could beat these guys! The Wings scored first and the Stars squandered almost 2 full minutes of a 5-on-3 power play ... but after the first period it was only 1-0. As the game progressed our under-manned and under-talented team shut down the likes of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Holmstrom, and Hossa. I loved the experiment (more of a "screw-it" plan Z!) of 5 forwards playing the power play! It did not produce a goal but a broken play helped by Modano's hard work did. A rookie playing in only his second game tied the game with his first career goal. Then a prized free-agent rookie absolutely undressed the all-world defenseman, Captain Lidstrom, and fired a blazing shot past Conklin for a 2-1 lead. It does not happen very often, but Lidstrom was forced to bend down and pick up his jock! Ribeiro iced it into an empty net and the little Stars finally had something to celebrate! In fact, the majority of the arena was standing during the last few minutes of the game ... just as they did during that magical run last spring! Oh, and by the way, Marty had 37 saves including some of the spectacular variety.
I only wish I had a bookie in Vegas and had called to put money on the Stars! As the old adage goes ... any given team on any given day can beat any other team ... and that was the case tonight. All of the cliches are appropriate ... if only for a night ... David slayed Goliath! Some sweet revenge and quite possibly the kick-in-the-butt our goalie and our team needed. Boy was it fun knowing that all those red jerseys left the arena stunned and sulking ... especially the two sitting directly behind us! We really loved the fact that they COVERED THEIR JERSEYS WITH SWEATERS BEFORE THEY LEFT!!!
Some quick words on Mike Modano. If there has been any bright spot on this team before tonight's win, it has been the play of #9. It has been fun to watch the young guys get better ... but it will never get tired watching Mikey Mo fly around the ice. It looked funny at first, but putting young wingers with him has actually made him play better. It is almost like he feels the need to show them he's still got it ... and he most certainly does still have it! Congratulations on 1300 points ... quite a remarkable feat! Keep lacing 'em up!