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Game 10 Afterwords: Stars Keep Messing with Us, Get to 8-2 Anyway

The Stars created roughly 84 amazing scoring chances without result, went down 3-1 just for fun, and wristed a few pucks in from the blue line before Benn's OT winner. It is a strategy, technically.

Tyler Seguin loves Dallas Stars goals no matter whose they are.
Tyler Seguin loves Dallas Stars goals no matter whose they are.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

They're doing this on purpose, right?

Dallas was a team possessed (and in possession of the puck) for the first half of the first, and hockey was tons of fun.  The thing was, pucks weren't going in.  The scoring impotence of this game reached its height of absurdity when Tyler Seguin actually shot a rebound off his own skate.  The game eventually rewarded Dallas for its many high-quality chances though, because actually no it didn't because Ryan Miller will forever incur hexes upon his team when he plays the Stars, as you may remember.  You can't score on Ryan Miller if you're Dallas unless you try not to score on Ryan Miller.

The simplest explanation for what Dallas has done wrong in the last two games is some mishmash of "careless play" and "being too fancy," but it's hard to really condemn them for falling behind if they're going to keep cranking it up and dominating teams afterwards.  And speaking of domination, how did they not score on a power play tonight?  Dallas created eight scoring chances on their three power plays and scored on none of them.  When Vancouver was up a man on two different occasions, they created a total of one scoring chance, and you may recall that one chance was enough (and that doesn't even count the penalty shot goal).  Maybe that is exceptional efficiency by the Canucks that Dallas should seek to emulate.  I do not think it is, but we can't totally rule out the possibility.  We can't rule out anything in Stars games anymore.

In a game where Dallas was creating plenty of good chances, they scored on basically none of them.  All three of their regulation goals were generated from wrist shots high in the zone, although Klingberg's had a bit more mustard on it than the other two and would probably make the grade for a "quality" chance.  This is not where we are used to seeing Dallas score from, but this may be a good time to say "hooray!" for acknowledging that the universe was not going to allow them to score from one-timers or crosses or snap shots from the slot or any other of the wonderful ways in which Dallas has been scoring  No, instead the Stars embraced the dissolution of aerodynamic principles and just flung a few pucks towards the net that went in.  This is hockey, and I am pretending to understand it.

When Jamie Benn laid a subtle pick on Derek Dorsett to allow Klingberg to shoot the puck that became the tying goal, I couldn't help but think of Detroit.  How many times over the last decade or more have we seen the Red Wings doing this same sort of thing, overlapping with touch passes and slyly impeding the defender's immediate recovery to open up a lane?  That team got away with it because of their smooth play and reputation, and Jamie Benn seems to have achieved a similar level of respect these days.  It's easy to get respect when you're the best scorer in the NHL.

I was miffed at the penalty shot call after Burrows seemed to get a good shot away after Goligoski's chop.  It has been like pulling teeth to get a penalty shot awarded in years past, but I can only assume that the league very much emphasized the awarding of penalty shots this year, and so you wind up with an overeager call.  I'll usually take the penalty shot over two minutes of a kill, but considering how good Dallas's penalty kill had been this year, it wasn't as easy a hypothetical choice as in years past.  Niemi did get a piece of it anyway, but pucks weren't exactly sticking to goalies tonight.

Patrick Sharp has gotten to about a 50-point pace now, and I would expect that to tick upwards a bit more as the year wears on.  He's going to get power play points, especially if this team continues carving up other penalty killing units like it's done thus far.  I love how quickly players are getting rid of the puck, almost as though they know they shouldn't hold it for more than a second or two at any given moment.  Vancouver collapsed quite a bit and made some key blocks tonight, but I am still in love with this power play.

Lindy Ruff enjoys messing with us just as much as anyone, as evidenced by his lines in this morning's skate.  After a ten minutes stretch in the second period where Klingberg didn't play, he came back on beside Johnny Oduya (much to Mike Heika's delight, I'm sure).  The pair didn't last into the third, and unless there was other info I've missed, I'd assume Ruff put Demers and Goligoski together while Klingberg was unavailable and chose not to reset the pairs with five minutes to play in the second.  Nothing to see here, move along.

Eakin and Sharp did get swapped on the Spezza/Seguin lines, as has been mentioned.  I still don't love what I've seen with Eakin up top, but Ruff has continually employed that combo as a valid option, so maybe there's a secret ingredient in the Rufflesauce that we just can't discern with our ignorant eyes.  I am open to this possibility, but i am more open to the possibility that Cody Eakin is actually not a fabulous choice to play with the Stars' two best players.  But hey, if Crosby can play with Hornqvist, what does anyone really know?  Nothing.  We don't know anything at all, and everyone is just guessing, and goals are all random.  Fling the pucks at the net, or don't, or maybe just try shooting the puck at Luca Sbisa or Jordie Benn or whoever because no one has any control over anything in this game.

Here are some players I loved watching tonight: Valeri Nichushkin, John Klingberg, Jason Demers and Jyrki Jokipakka.  Jokipakka used his reach and reads beautifully tonight, and Jason Demers really looked like he was ready to come back, if a bit grumpy about his absence.  John Klingberg is really, really good, and watching him play hockey at a higher level is just one of the many perks of being a Stars fan this year.  Nichushkin, though, really put on a show.  Razor talked about his lacking "intensity" around the net, but I'd almost say that he needs more finesse, if anything.  He's amazing at turning the corner and getting to the net, but he has yet to finish with a nice little bit of dainty stickwork or shooting once he gets there.  Getting into the crease is really good when you have the puck, but goalies in the NHL will sit there and stop you all day long if you can't mix it up a bit more.  Still, Nichushkin's overall game looked swell tonight, which is likely little consolation for a player who has yet to score a goal in a season where the Stars are scoring scores of goals throughout the lineup.

This is devolving into a player rundown, so let's just finish with two more.  First, *inserts cassette tape, hits play* "Antti Niemi was very good tonight, giving the Stars a chance to win." *stops tape* What was it everyone said last year?  If the Stars could just get decent goaltending, etc etc?  We'll, they're getting more than that, and they are 8-2.  I wouldn't be shocked to see Kari play Saturday, but who really cares which goalie starts when you can count on 3-4 goals from your offense every night?  That wins you games when you don't totally capitulate in your own zone and/or crease.  Niemi has done the opposite of that.  It's easy to miss how great he's been because of the amount of chances Dallas has been giving up, but this record owes at least half its wins to Niemi's gorgeous goaltending so far.  I'll take really great goaltending, too.

Second, Tyler Seguin isn't burying a ton of his chances so far this year, and he's still sitting at 14 points through 10 games.  Many of those points are because of Jamie Benn, which is okay with roughly everyone.  Granted, if anyone could figure out how to score two goals on one shot, it would probably be these two, but Seguin can keep setting up Benn for as long as he likes.  Specifically, he can do that lock and load windup fifteen feet from the crease to draw coverage away from Benn any time he likes.  Who wouldn't scream in terror and abandon ship to stop any pass from getting to Seguin when he's ready to fire like that?  Good job, Tyler!

So, overtime is a blast.  The Stars seemed to employ the strategy of "get the puck and immediately plan to score," whereas Vancouver preferred to meander all about the place and hope for a turnover, even passing the puck back to their goalie for a whistle, which is perhaps my least favorite new thing I have seen in hockey since the trapezoid.  In soccer, you can't pass the ball back to your own goalie and have him use his hands.  We all want the same sort of rule in hockey, right?  Keep the puck moving in overtime, please.  I would like to see more goalies desperately racing to pucks, trying to stickhandle past a forward streaking towards them.

There was a great sequence about a minute into overtime where Patrick Sharp was at the far goal line when the puck was turned over.  He got up and immediately realized that Daniel Sedin was streaking back towards the Dallas net on the rush.  Sharp was the third man on the ice, and so he got up and hauled to get back and prevent an odd-man rush.  That is overtime, now: Go to the net with the puck, there is so much ice to skate upon now! Oh, good try, you almost scored, but you didn't score, and now you must sprint 180 feet to prevent yourself from being defensively responsible for a loss.  Isn't this great, hockey players?

The Stars' third overtime set was Alex Goligoski with Hemsky and Spezza.  I think most teams would take that as a second 3v3 line in a heartbeat.  This team is so laughably loaded.  Even if they don't win every overtime, I believe it is safe to say that Dallas will never ever play in a shootout again, one way or another.  John Tortorella's Lightning famously said, "Safe is death."  For Dallas this season, that sign would just read, "[file not found] is death."  It would not be a very inspiring sign.

I don't deserve to type anything about Jamie Benn.  He was skating everywhere on two repaired hips, and he won the game for this team.  He's the best player in hockey right now, and as much as I loved his goal and celebration, I loved this preceding play even more:

1v3 1

Benn 1v3

This was Jamie Benn, busting back to a loose puck to stop a 2-on-0 the other way.  And not only does he win the race, eventually knocking the puck back to Klingberg, but Benn would take the puck right back from Klingberg and head up ice, cutting into the slot for what was almost the game-winning goal before subsequently scoring the game-winning goal right afterwards.  This was an eventful shift in many of the right and good ways for Jamie Benn. His team is now 8-2, and they have scored the second-most goals in the NHL.  That's probably all I needed to say in the first place.