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Monday, October 10, 2011
Thoughts on a 2-1 shootout win over Phoenix

By Mark Stepneski

Some thoughts after the Dallas Stars defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in a shootout Monday at American Airlines Center.

*From a points standpoint it was good. Points are the bottom line and two points are better than one or none. Points are just as important in October as they are in March. They all count the same towards the total at the end of the season and with how tight things could be, two points here or a point there could make a huge difference. The Stars found a way to get two. It wasn’t a Picasso out there, but there is no column in the standings for style points.

*As far as the Stars’ play, it left something to be desired. It’s a process. It’s only the third game of the regular season. Give some credit to Phoenix. The Coyotes played well. Very well. It was a good response to their season opening 6-3 loss at San Jose. As Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said after the game, the team still has some work to do.

“I'd say we've got a lot of work to do. I think our habits need to improve. We have to have the ability to play a game that when people watch they go, 'I know what these guys are all about.' Quite frankly, we aren't there yet,” Gulutzan said. “I thought we worked very hard on the PK, I thought we did a real good job. I thought Kari (Lehtonen) was real good. But the rest of our game needs some work. Our power play, which I am in charge of, was atrocious."

*The power play definitely was a sore spot. It was 0-7 and generated just 6 shots. It is 1-14 on the season and it needs to get better. Again, some credit to the Coyotes, who were very aggressive on the penalty kill and goalie Mike Smith’s puckhandling was pretty effective as well.

“I think we have to revisit it and I think we have to revisit our work ethic on the power play because we don’t win any battles,” said Gulutzan.

*The penalty kill was very good. It went 6-7 and is now 16-18 on the season. It came up big in the third period, despite allowing a goal, and the kill on the four-on-three in OT was huge as well.

*A big part of the PK and the Stars pulling two points out of this game was Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 40 of 41 in regulation and overtime and then two of three in the shootout. Gulutzan and defenseman Alex Goligoski both said “Unbelievable” when asked about Lehtonen. Vernon Fiddler offered this:

"He's obviously setting himself apart from other goalies in the league. I haven't been here long, but you can see why. You need that kind of effort every night to compete in this league and contend for a playoff spot. It's nice to see that he is playing so well. I played against him a few times and I knew he had a lot of skill, but not this much."

*The Stars have been outshot 110-79 over the first three games. That an average of 36.7 shots against to 26.3 shots for. I believe I’ve pointed out that Gulutzan’s Texas Stars team could give up quite a few shots, but a lot of times there weren’t a lot of quality shots. Gulutzan emphasized that point again after Monday’s game.

“I am not that concerned about shot differential. The way we play is we’ll give up a few shots, but as long as they’re from the outside. I don’t like the ones that come from the inside,” Gulutzan said. “That’s one of the beauties of having good goaltending, you can give up shots from the outside. We don’t want to give up A chances. That’s what I am most concerned about. We’ll give up the shots from the outside, but we don’t want to give up the A chances. “

*On the game-tying goal, which was credited to Loui Eriksson, it was once again a Sheldon Souray shot from the point that led to the goal. Souray is making an impact here early in the season. He now has three assists in three games.

*Finally, a thought about the crowd. It was announced at 6,306. That’s the smallest crowd ever for a Stars game at the American Airlines Center. The smallest crowd since the team moved to Dallas. The 5 p.m. start didn’t help. Neither did the Rangers-Tigers ALCS game going at the same time. It will get better. But it will take time.