Today begins with a game against the Least Exciting Hockey Team to the Ear of the Casual Fan: the Ottawa Senators.
Not only do many Americans not know that Ottawa is the capital of Canada; its name is, like so much of Canada and the U.S., of Native American (or American Indian, if you prefer) origin. The Odawa people's language is rooted in the Algonquian family, which was at one time found throughout many parts of North America. This does not have much to do with hockey, but it is good to know one's enemy. You never know.
Something that does relate to hockey is Ralph Strangis, who talks about it quite a lot. In fact, he also writes about it, much to our delight. He has done so very recently, and it also pertains to the value of being aware of the location of Ottawa:
Lately [the Stars have] had longer stretches of play that remind us of the team that would not be denied in March and April last season. But punctuating the entire first half are too many fatal mistakes, reflected in a record that is below where they need it to be.
But – here they are. And it’s all still in front of them. Assuming nothing catastrophic pops up, because every team is like that, hoping nothing catastrophic pops up, here’s my take on the things that they’ll have to consider and do if they want to make it to the playoffs.
1) Not All Games Are The Same
- NHL math, hybrid divisional/conference playoff formatting and seeding means that you have to pay attention to where you’re at and work for maximum effort and energy especially in key games. For example: the Stars next 2 games are at home against Ottawa and Winnipeg. Beating the Senators and losing to the Jets is not the same as beating the Jets and losing to the Senators. While 2 points is gained either way, it’s vastly more important to beat the team just above you in the standings. This is not to say that you can pick and choose which games you win and lose, but, if you’re managing things like injuries and rest, the opponent matters. [According to Ralph]
Every game in this second half is going to have a heightened intensity to it, we hope. Every loss will sting more acutely, and every win will fan the flame of hope that much more fervently. But Ralph is right, of course: the Stars really need to start taking care of business in the Central Division. Who are we kidding? Dallas is sitting just barely above the division floor, so they need to go right back on another 8-1-1 tear as soon as possible if they hope to entrench themselves within the playoff talk. Ottawa is as good a team as any to kick off that stretch for the boys in green.
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FYI, Benn has been hurting after taking a shot in the heel, says Heika. Here's hoping the captain can renew his zeal and heal his heel for real. I just typed that and you read it without doing anything about it.
Jason Spezza is finally finding his place on the team, says Mike Heika. [DMN]
Katie Strang agrees with Ralph: the Stars are heading in the wrong direction with their recent loss to Colorado. [ESPN]
Your Hart Trophy candidates at the halfway mark? Two goalies, an American, a Duck, and Tyler Seguin. [SportsNet]
Watch Jason Spezza talk about how he is "at peace" in Dallas. I'm not sure this warranted the front page banner on the Ottawa Sun's website, but what do I know about Canadian journalism? Nothing at all. [Ottawa Sun]
One more Spezza piece from the hard-hitting journalists at NHL.com. [NHL]
Mike Heika reminds you that yes, Kari Lehtonen needs to improve if the Stars want their fortunes to improve. [DMN]
I missed this, but the Minnesota Wild really did inquire about trading for Cam Ward. Don't do it, guys. [Star Tribune]
Can the Avs really keep winning by giving up more shots to the other team? No, they cannot. They might just do it anyway, though. [Puck Daddy]
In fact, the Avs definitely cannot, as they again were outshot last night by Ovechkin & Co; this time, they lost. [NHL]
At the risk of repeating myself, those Panthers really (really) might be a playoff team. It's amazing what good goaltending can do for a middling team, eh? [THN]
The Flyers beat the goodness gracious outta Tampa last night. I wouldn't go outside today with weird things like this happening. [NHL]
Sean McIndoe is still ranking the Blackhawks above the Predators, and I don't have a problem with that. I mean, if the Preds and Hawks played a seven game series, how could anyone really pick Nashville there? I get it, and that team is actually kind of legit, but still. The Hawks are the Hawks. [Grantland]
Here's a very solid piece from The Hockey Writers looking at the market inefficiencies in the NHL entry draft. Beware of those late birthdays in the first round, guys. [THW]
Gordie Howe is doing "very well" in his latest recovery from a stroke, says his son. [USA Today]
Finally, I just finished reading the Brandon Prust chapter in Bob McKenzie's Hockey Confidential, so this video didn't terrify me at the start quite as much as it otherwise might have: