So I go to stick time with a couple friends every Sunday morning in South Lake Tahoe. And it's typically a handful of beer league players, some guys learning the sport, and a group of kids. You know, the usual stick-time suspects. Except this week there was a guy in town visiting his brother, from Sweden. Where he plays in the Swedish Elite League.
I can now say I've totally been schooled by a professional hockey player.
But the reason I bring it up is the way the scrimmage was played by this guy. He could have danced circles around us and scored on the beer league goalie at will, but instead he would always make a pass straight away. Or maybe beat a guy on the wing, and then wait for one of the little kids to get in position for a one-timer that they might or might not connect on. In short, he played down to us. He spent the whole time including everyone, and not outshining any of us (by too much anyway), and then at the end of the scrimmage his team had been trounced.
This season, the Stars have beaten the Blues, Ducks, Kings, Blackhawks, Bruins, Lightning, Red Wings, and Coyotes... in their buildings. That's an impressive list of giants killed. They've also slaughtered a few inconsequential teams on the road, like the triumvirate of failed Pacific Division Canadian teams. Dallas also owns a winning record on the season with every Pacific Division team, as well as having beaten Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on home ice.
Why then were the two games that Dallas dropped on this recently completed road trip against the two teams that they should have beaten? Maybe the Hurricanes have been playing well, and puck luck seriously played its part, but against the Panthers there really isn't an excuse.
A 3-2 record on the road trip would have perhaps been acceptable, had the losses come to St. Louis and Washington or Tampa Bay. But to Carolina and Florida?! It really does make one wonder if the Stars habitually play down, or up as the case may be, to their competition. What exactly is this team's level? They can hang with any team in the league, and quite often own them... and then they go 0-2 on the season against the 29th ranked Panthers.
I'm not saying that Andy should have racked up a triple hat trick at stick-time Sunday morning in Tahoe, or laid a few of us out with well-timed checks. But I do wish the Stars would have done that at stick-time on Sunday afternoon in Florida.
They can't afford to play down to any opposition these days. Happily though for us Stars fans, the remaining four games will be tough ones. The Blues, Blue Jackets, and Coyotes are all still contenders, be it on the playoff bubble or the President's Trophy bubble, and the Predators, well, Trotz-ian logic says that I can never count them as a 'should beat' team.
Good thing, as that would near guarantee a loss tonight.
* * *
'Yotes play tonight as well. Send them all the bad vibes you can. [NHL.com]
Two team race for the final playoff spot in the West. Here's how the Coyotes are feeling about it. [AZ Central]
I'm not even particularly a stats guy (k, so maybe I'm turning into one), but I loved the battle going on this season between those who predicted an impending Toronto meltdown, and those who stuck their heads in the sand and said the Maple Leafs were good just because. I also love that Steve Simmons still won't give in. [Deadspin]
Let's all share a toast with Obscene Alex, 'to the Stars finally not choking again.' [III Communication]
And speaking of that most obscene of Alex's, once upon a yesteryear, he created a thing known as the Crown of [Fragrant] Matter. And I was annoyed with him, because the day after said creation, Dallas won that crown of shame. Little did I realize, Alex was playing the long game...
Poophat records: Most times worn MIN (4) Least times worn DAL (1) Most days worn CHI (59) Least days worn DAL (1) Just like I planned it.— Obscene Alex (@ObsceneAlex) April 8, 2014
Yes, that is a consolation prize. Whether the Stars wind up needing it or not.
Barry Melrose picks the Stars as the 8th seed in the West. What's that worth to you? Very little, but whatever. [Melrose Minute]
What We Learned, around the league this past week. Basically, that goaltending is crucial. Oh, and that people are scared to face the Stars in the playoffs. Provided they make it of course. [Puck Daddy]
And lastly, the Weekend Wrap, from Down Goes Brown. Ohh Vancouver...[Grantland]