You hate to put too much into one win, but that was a huge one.
Not only did it come against the defending Pacfic Division champ, it came on the road in a very hostile environment.
In beating the Sharks on Monday, the Stars had gut checks on several levels and passed all of them with flying colors.
_ They were 1-5-1 on the road in the West, and they went in and won on the road in a sold out arena against a team that really wanted that win. Heck, it seemed like they raised their game to meet the intensity and had much more energy because of the crowd (as opposed to a lot of the empty buildings they have been playing in).
_ They were 3-for-49 on their road power play, but they scored a huge power play goal to tie the game after earning a second period man advantage in a game where the refs had swallowed their whistles. I really think that when you work that hard for a power play chance and then finally get a payoff, it is a sign to the team that scoring with the man advantage is not a fluke at all. It is a reward.
_ They came out and had the better start _ and that was key after getting plowed by Phoenix in the first period Saturday. We have observed for much of this season that this team has indeed learned lessons from previous mistakes. It watches film, it works on things in practice, and then it executes and improves. That's a great sign that the coaching staff is doing a good job of addressing weaknesses and that the players are listening to what the coaching staff says.
_ Andrew Raycroft showed that he could be a solid option if Kari Lehtonen's back is a problem. The word is that Lehtonen feels great, that he has treated the problem and that he should be ready to go Thursday in a home game against the Sharks. Still, by playing the last four games in six days in four different cities and going 2-2-0, Raycroft showed he definitely can carry the load of a No. 1 goalie if he needs to. The shootout wins against Carolina and San Jose were things of beauty _ displays of patience and hard work and intensity.
_ And then to see Brenden Morrow take a puck square in the face and then come back with those two big plugs up his nose, breathing through his mouth and wearing a huge fishbowl of a cage...that was the stuff that great hockey is made of. Morrow, Mike Ribeiro and Jamie Benn were the best line on the ice, and they set the pace early for the Stars. And it was fairly clear that the Stars were shaken when Morrow had to leave to get his broken nose doctored. But the fact he put so much into the game (a regular season game that was the fourth in six nights in four different cities) forced his teammates to put in the same amount of intensity. And that was a neat thing to watch.
The Stars could have easily lost this game in a shootout, and then there probably wouldn't have been the same feelings of excitment and pride...but there should have been. This was a game about testing yourself, and the Stars certainly found out they can raise to a challenge.
Now, when you mix in the two points _ especially against the Sharks, and especially on the road, and especially with a power play goal, and especially with a strong performance from Raycroft in net _ well then you get a game that people will look back on and hope that it meant a great, great deal.
The team needs to continue winning, obviously, but Monday's game is a sign that you can be fairly hopeful that they will.