Well, here we are. I think even the most stubborn amongst us have to admit it: That's the season, right? To some, it's felt like a done deal for over a week but that loss last night extinguished that last little bit of hope I was keeping alive down deep in a secret place. This missing the playoffs two years in a row bit feels like uncharted territory for Dallas Star fans. It's certainly not enjoyable.
When teams across sports get to this point in their season, they invariably do the same thing: Turn an eye toward the future and start adjusting their on-ice/on-court/on-field lineups to reflect that mind set. In other words, start the quarterback you've been grooming. Call up the kids from AAA that might help you next year. Start that rookie point guard. And in the Stars situation, what do they do? They've already gone to Kari Lehtonen. We would be talking Vishnevskiy if not for the trade. So there's not much, really. No fan-friendly "See, look at what's coming for next season" kind of decisions to make. That makes this a little harder for me, personally. I'd be curious to know what you all think.
The game last night was, by most accounts, not all that bad. It's just always something, though. The offense didn't click enough last night, and the Flyer goaltending might have been just a hair better. Still, Lehtonen has done much these last two games to shake at least a few doubts heading into the off-season, provided it continues.
Ott was good, obviously. Pre-Olympic Karlis Skrastins made an appearance. Daley and Woywitka had "one of those games," and I don't know how I'm liking this Benn/Neal thing. I might need a little more offense, guys.
In the mean time, enjoy all the quotes and thoughts on the Flyers first win in Dallas since 1996...
Broad Street Hockey is pleased with the effort from their third string goaltender:
Welcome back Brian Boucher! In his first start since December 21, 2009, Boucher came back strong, with plenty of great saves in this one. He officially stopped 27 of 29, but there were more than a few great saves in there. He was a little rusty, but that was expected. All in all, a great game by Boucher. Which makes us all wonder, why was this guy unable to get a single start in 3 months?
The Flyers won in Dallas for the first time since 1996, and it came as a result of two pretty ugly goals. First, Simon Gagne plugged away in front, eventually poking one past Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen. Mike Richards tied the game up later on a nice breakaway, only to be followed up with Scott Hartnell having a puck go in off his pants. That would prove to be the game winner.
ESPN Dallas was in the locker room after the game last night:
OK, so we've pretty much extinguished any playoff talk with the Stars at this point. In fact, for the first time this homestand, coach Marc Crawford wasn't asked about the playoffs and didn't mention the playoffs at any point after Thursday's 3-2 loss to Philadelphia.
You can tell that the team has adjusted expectations based on the reaction in the locker room Thursday. Basically, it was perceived as a moral victory. The Stars did some good things in this game, yet came out on the losing end. If they were in the playoff hunt, that would be devastating. But since they're not, it was acceptable.
I don't know if I'm at the stage of being pleased with the effort yet.
That Mike Ribeiro turnover that led to the Simon Gagne-Mike Richards two-one-on that Richards finished off was a big turning point. That got the Flyers going and I thought they picked it up after that. After that it came down to one play and that was Jeff Carter getting the wide open look from the slot and the puck going in off Scott Hartnell. The Stars had some good chances after that, but Brian Boucher made some nice saves to protect the lead.
A game after Ribeiro just destroys the Sharks, he does something that's just so maddening. He was all alone out there. There was no help. He really is a gunslinger. You take the bad with the good, I suppose.
Asked if he sensed the loss of another injured goalie had put the Flyers in a mental funk, coach Peter Laviolette was succinct with his answer.
"If we go down that route and start feeling sorry for ourselves, we'll be out of the playoffs pretty quick," he said before the game. "You need to fight for what you want."
What they want is a high playoff seeding. (And, if they are being honest, a first-round matchup that doesn't include Pittsburgh or Washington.)
"You need to play good hockey down the stretch. If we don't, we'll be in trouble," Laviolette said. "If we do, then we'll know we'll make the playoffs and have an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. The ball's in our court."
Dallas was solid in a bunch of areas and probably was the better team overall. Brian Boucher was probably a little better than Kari Lehtonen in net, and Dallas didn't take enough advantage of the mistakes that Philadelphia made.
But, honestly, that was aggressive, confident, fun hockey out there.
Can the Stars expand on it and become better? Can Lehtonen gear up to a higher speed and come up with huge saves (stopping Mike Richards on that second-period breakaway could have really changed this game)? Can the players forget the mistakes and forge ahead with confidence that this system will work if they truly believe in it?
Post game notes from the Stars PR department:
- Steve Ott scored his 14th and 15th goals of the season for his third multi-goal game of the season. His last two-goal game came on Jan. 12 against the Flyers.
- Brad Richards earned his 58th assist of the season. He has 2-9-11 points in his last nine games and points in three straight (1-4-5).
- Loui Eriksson earned his 36th assist of the season and his third in the last two games (0-3-3).
- Nicklas Grossman earned an assist for the second consecutive game, tying his career-high point streak.
- Jamie Benn picked up his 16th career assist.
- Kari Lehtonen has stopped 73-of 78 shots over the last two games (.936 save percentage).
Quotes from Stars PR/ Dallas Morning News
"Carter got a shot from up there, and I kind of lost it. It hit somebody and went in, kind of a lucky bounce for them. We had some good chances but their goalie came up big when needed. That was the difference."
On being 0-9-1 against the Flyers (ouch)
"I know. Nobody asked about it before, so I thought maybe you guys didn't know. It was pretty close again, we just were not able to get the win. It's a good thing that they're not in the same conference."
"I thought we needed to have the same effort that we did against San Jose, and I think for the most part that we did just that. A few bounces didn't go our way but I don't think we can be disappointed in the way we played."
"I thought that we had a great start. We got pucks in behind their D, and made them turn, and had a lot of possession in our offensive zone, and I think any time we can get off to that good of a start and get pucks to the net, it gives us a great chance to be able to win the game."
"That's almost like playoff hockey, the type of game it was tonight. It was a close match, and just the little errors like turnovers and not getting pucks deep are what cost us."
"I benefited from some great passes. Grossman just gave me a wide open net. Benn laid it on the table for me to hit."
"I hate losing as much as anybody. But when there's pride in losing and character in losing - that's what tonight was. Every single line I thought played very well. I thought the goaltender, Kari, played great. The d played good. A couple of breakdowns obviously in a couple of instances, but it's pretty tough to be super upset when the guys put so much pride and character into it."
"Our defensemen did a real good job. They knew they had their real good shot-blocking penalty killers out there in Laperriere and Betts. Ribby did a good job winning the job and we made real good decisions with the puck. We got the puck to where it needed to be. It's a scrambling type situation. The goalie made the save and then they got a couple of blocks from their defensemen in front of the net."
"I thought the good things we did tonight were when we got the puck behind their defensemen and made their defense turn. It allowed our forwards to establish a forecheck and we did end up getting some sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Ultimately it led to some very good puck movement on the goals."
"It's a game of inches right now. There are probably five or six shifts tonight that we'd like to have back. We have to continue to try to execute almost as well as you possibly can."