Stargazing: Stars Avoid Clean Sweep, Beat Kings 4-1

OK, first of all, where has that power play been all season long?

The power play that has crisp, clean, tape to tape passing. The power play that has guys screening the goaltender in front, and a booming shot from the point (Richards? really?). The power play that even wins faceoffs to start? Yes. THAT power play. Where has that been?

Too little too late, of course, but finally a win against the L.A. Kings to avoid the clean six game sweep. Instead we can now say that they "collected points in four of six" against L.A., even though they lost five games to them. It's the kind of ridiculously stupid thing only NHL fans can say.

The only pleasure left to the bereft Stars at this point is playing the role of spoiler in the West, influencing playoff seeding they won't be a part of as they go. Last night was no exception as Los Angeles has dropped down to 7th place, narrowly avoiding 8th because Colorado lost. The Red Wings, meanwhile have vaulted from the race for 8th all the way to 6th, and sit only one point back of Nashville, whom they beat last night. With so many teams seemingly backing their way in, Detroit is now looking like the hottest thing going (apart from Phoenix.)

Weird. Anyway, let's enjoy some news, quotes and notes from a Stars victory while we still can...

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The only good thing about playing the Kings is that they have probably the most abundant source of team info in the league: LA Kings Insider. Dustin Brown said this:

(on the need for urgency late in the season…)
BROWN: "We need urgency from every aspect of this team. Coaches, players, trainers, we all need to get that mindset. Ultimately, it lies on the players, and that’s the most important thing, but as a group, a team, here, everyone involved, we all need to have the mentality, that urgency, and we haven’t had it. Again, that’s unacceptable."

And then Terry Murray responded:

(on Brown’s comments about the need for more urgency from everyone…)
MURRAY: "I’ll have to have a talk with him and ask him how the pecking order goes here. I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t have an answer. You’ll have to go talk to him some more. Did he explain any more to you? I don’t know what he means by that."

The following is a term I don't care to use much on this blog, but here it goes: "lol"

He'll have to "ask him how the pecking order goes." Sounds like Mr. Brown was about to be put in his place.

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Meanwhile, the eternal battle rages on in the DMN comments, and Mike Heika weighs in a bit. What will they (the commenters, not Mike) do when Marty is gone?

I'm not sure how a game in which the Stars score four power play goals can turn into a discussion about who is the better goalie, but that seems to be how this blog is going these days.

I will fully admit that Kari Lehtonen is playing very well right now and his ability to calmly make a big save at the right time is having a positive influence on the Stars. But I would warn against anyone getting too high and mighty over this debate. Goalies tend to have bad performances now and then, so giving the goalie too much credit tends to bite you when you have to start giving the goalie too much blame.

And this blog could use a lot less blaming, it seems.

You have to feel for him there. How can people turn a game that did not feature one second of Marty Turco into a discussion about Marty Turco?

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Mark Stepneski recounts the action, explaining the greatness of Brad Richards:

Another solid game for Kari Lehtonen. His save on Jack Johnson with LA on the power play and the Stars up 3-1 was big. Kings score there and who knows how it plays out. Kings get some momentum and the game changes. But Lehtonen made the save. He’s looked very, very good here recently.

Another big game for Brad Richards, who had three power play points (two goals, one assist). He’s tops in the league in power play points (38), tied for tops in power play assists (26) and is tied for 6th in power play goals (12). I think this means he’s pretty productive on the power play. He’s also been very good on faceoffs lately and has been helping out in that area on the penalty kill. 

He also has playoff race stuff you might want to check out if you're still, you know...holding on.

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They're actually sweating it a little bit over at Jewels From the Crown:

The Kings do their best to make Calgary relevant. They're not the only team sucking right now (Colorado?), but it might seem like it to the Kings faithful, so-called. Rich Hammond's Calgary/Kings magic number is looking more and more meaningful. Not that it ever was otherwise. I just found it highly unlikely that the Kings would have trouble getting to 95. What is that magic number now? 8. Eight points in total, made up of either Kings points for or Calgary points-blown. However, see "tie-breakers" below, because there is a way that 7 is the magic number, provided they get there the right way.

I don't think there's any way the Kings don't make the playoffs, but worrying about it isn't the way you really want to be heading into the tournament. Something tells me the Sharks might actually make the second round this year.

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Friends of Defending Big D, Pro Hockey Talk, think the Stars uniforms are boring:

...

For the Stars, I guess anything's better than the "Mooterus" but their jerseys seem pretty non-committal too. Would it be too insulting to Minnesota fans to look into a design that mimics those old North Stars designs?

Click on over for lots of uniform talk.

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Quotes from Mike Heika:

Marc Crawford:

"We had a little more energy tonight than LA,'' Crawford said after giving his players Friday off to get some jump in their legs. ``We won a lot of races to the puck, all the 50/50 pucks. We did a great job of killing penalties. Everyone looked like they had a good jump. We were fortunate to get a few bounces, but when you work hard that pays off for you and the pucks end up in the back of the net. We were the first to the puck every time. It made a huge difference. These are tough games for everybody. We needed to gut it out and I was very happy with our performance tonight."

On Lehtonen:

"He looks comfortable in the net now,'' Crawford said. ``It takes a while to come back from an injury like he had, and I do think we're seeing what he can do when he gets a little more into his rhythm. He's a big guy and a drop-and-stop goaltender. He looks big in the net right now, that's for sure.''

Kari Lehtonen:

"I think I'm at my best when I'm playing large and using my frame, and I felt I did that tonight,'' he said. ``You want to be simple and let the puck hit you, and then make the saves you have to make.''

Brenden Morrow:

"There have been games this year where we haven't executed. Tonight we got some breaks. It's a funny game that way. Sometimes you get those bounces. Sometimes you don't. We are on the outside looking in right now. We want to be the spoiler and win games. We always prepare to play for 60 minutes so we can win."

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And finally, Matt Niskanen doing something very un-Matt Niskanen like:

They have it slow motion at NHL.com, or the video player at the side here. We need more of that Niskanen.

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