Welcome back to Dallas Stars hockey, the good, the bad and, unfortunately, a little bit of the ugly.
Let's start with the good from last night's 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, which includes the play of the first line and some pretty prolific penalty killing.
Jamie Benn reportedly wasn't feeling too well in his first game back from the Olympic break, but it wasn't noticeable at all in the game. His three point night - an above-average secondary assist on the opening goal, a great shorthanded assist on the game-winner and a beautiful shorthanded goal all on his own in the second - was one of the more memorable nights from a Stars forward this season.
He did fight the puck a bit at times like most of his teammates, but that first line with him, Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin continued to demonstrate why it is such a handful.
Benn/Seguin/Nichushkin is the scariest line in the league right now. I would not want to be the team that draws Dallas in round one.— Fear The Fin (@fearthefin) February 28, 2014
I remember the first round. It's when the Stars used to struggle with anyone from the center of the continent but own northern Canada and California.
Also on the positive side of the ledger was the penalty killing, which won the special teams contest (and in this case, the game) all by itself. The Stars hadn't scored two shorthanded goals in a game since 2010, but Brenden Dillon and Jamie Benn combined to do so on Thursday night.
Here was Dillon's flirtation with the offensive moves of a forward:
And here was Benn's effort, complete with already legendary call from Daryl Reaugh.
I also quite like the bemused laughter from Ralph Strangis. It captures everything you need to know about that goal.
As for the bad, the power play probably has to slide into this category. On one level, it's kind of expected with so much time off. And it wasn't all forgettable - the attempts the Stars had in the first period looked good and created chances even though they failed to score. But as the game went on, the attempts got more and more problematic.
It's just one game, obviously, and the power play had come back to life before the Olympic break. But it's a development worth watching.
The ugly came in the third period when Antoine Roussel let his speed get the better of his decision making once again. While I respect that he was trying to make a hard move toward the net as he broke in on Anton Khudobin, he got his feet (and possibly his brain) on train tracks without considering the fact that at some point, he had to stop without steamrolling through the goalie.
Roussel received a five minute major for charging as well as a game misconduct for the play, and you can be pretty sure it will be looked at by the league as it's a charging major against a goalie.
So let's break this down a little bit. Was Roussel receiving pressure on his back from a defenseman? Yes, but that does not excuse this play at all. Roussel takes himself to the crease and into Khudobin by his own means and with his own speed. And he alone caused a very violent collision with a player who is the least able to protect himself on the ice.
For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure it's not intentional. I think Roussel wanted to cut in front (possibly to go backhand) but got bumped at the hip at about the bottom of the faceoff circle, taking that option away. At that point, with the speed he had gathered, he just continued to make a beeline for the net. He did not attempt to pull up at any point, though, and he certainly needed to.
This is not a totally parallel case for a variety of reasons, but it's about as good a one as I could find on short notice last night - Nazim Kadri was suspended three games for a goalie interference headshot earlier this season, though that play involved a collision after Kadri had tipped a point shot rather than a player driving to the net with possession.
Given the criteria used in that suspension (which is always a dangerous game to play with the league front office), the fact that it was not a glancing blow will absolutely hurt Roussel, but the pressure from behind will likely go in his favor, as it's the contact that may have altered his path from a legal one to a dangerous one.
While a puck carrier is granted a certain level of crease-crashing freedom, he is not allowed to run roughshod over a goalie for safety reasons. Watch how Khudobin's head bounces off the crossbar a bit - there's not much he can do to prevent that, so the attacker must be mindful of a goalie who is attempting to make the save. Roussel was, well, not.
All things considered, I wouldn't be surprised to see a fine out of this - especially because Roussel made no attempt to stop or bail out once it was clear he was on a collision course. If the NHL is feeling particularly statement-happy, I honestly wouldn't be shocked to see a one game suspension (though I think that's unlikely given the bump that happens to set him on the path to Khudobin). At the very least, he'll get a strong warning to avoid such gray areas in the future.
So some chaos, mayhem and two delicious points welcomed the Stars back from the Olympic break. What more could fans ask for?