The game was basically Minnesota vs. Dallas deja vu in reverse. This time it was the Stars coughing up the puck, getting out shot and out chanced to give up the three goal lead instead of Minnesota.
It was one of the weirder games in recent memory. Dallas came out and straight bullied the Flames in the first period. The score effects came into play, except worse. The game became the kind of agent that would get Timothy Leary harmonic; nothing seemed organic, just fractured.
Let's unpack this one with the usual 'tweetdown' (yea I can't get used to using that word either):
1. Beards and Bridges Win Hearts and Minds
Jason Spezza opened up the scoring in the first period after receiving a beautiful stretch pass from none other than the bearded bastion of inexplicable puck craft. It felt like it was gonna set the tone for the kind of game you don't worry about as a Stars fan. What could the Calgary Flames possibly reveal about the best team in the West?
2. First World Puck Problems
Jason Spezza - the Stars fifth-highest scorer - is now tied for 18th in NHL goals with ten this season. #EmbarrassmentOfRiches.— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) December 2, 2015
Spezza played a pretty solid game. His line, which resembles the threat of a shotgun made of macaroni shells, did a lot of really good work throughout the game, and within the first period especially.
3. That's a Wrap, Right?
The first period was the best of Stars hockey bottled into 20 minutes: the first line looked dangerous, no line looked useless, and the aggressive forechecking made Calgary grip their sticks, and fumble their wits. Until...
4. The Dallas Dope Against the Rope
your western conference leading dallas stars, everybody pic.twitter.com/otINhh0rTI— GhostofChristmasPat (@Pat_Iversen) December 2, 2015
I'm not really sure what this picture is supposed to convey other than a rather strained demeanor from Valeri Nichushkin; maybe it's the look of a man who knows he's so close to coming into his own. Maybe it's the look of a man, bound by honor, but betrayed by variance. Or maybe he sees the future, and knows Dallas is one oatmeal fart away from blowing a three goal lead. Against the Calgary Flames? Don't make me lau-
In a league where no one can score, that's two straight Dallas Stars games where a 3-0 third period lead has been erased. Crazy.— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) December 2, 2015
How to count the ways? One of the things I haven't touched on is that despite the major shot differential, Dallas was giving up prime scoring chances from the get go. Even in the dominant first period, Calgary's four official shots on goal all seemed to come on some form of an odd man rush. Calgary ended up with a hilarious 17 to 9 edge in high danger scoring area chances. Jyrki Jokipakka got the brunt of Calgary's comeback with a -10 in Corsi Differential.
Despite some stellar play in spots, it was the Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Valeri Nichushkin line that ended up bottom three at -24(!), -11, and -11 respectively. The forwards seemed to be a real problem defensively; lots of uncontested trailers entering the zone for functional odd man rushes. Despite the first period, it was an awful defensive effort, made worse by the fact that this team supernaturally crumbles without Jason Demers.
6. We Need to Talk About Kevin (And the Other Stars)
The Dallas Stars are too fun to do anything in the playoffs, which, to me, says more about the league than the team.— Dave Lozo (@davelozo) December 2, 2015
The feint scent of a black swan level narrative fallacy crept up when the hockey media started commenting on the Stars loss. After all, Calgary beat the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks in Overtime in November, yet nobody treated it like the Flames exposing either team.
But there's a meaningful discussion to be had about being the new kid on the block, and wondering if Dallas is nothing more than LFO rather than N'Sync.
Dallas still gives up some high quality chances, and if they're gonna get Scannersed everytime Jason Demers is out, they'll have to learn some backhand tricks to keep from blaming it on offhand exit syndrome. On to some stray observations...
- I'm assuming that the stop and seek cut is pretty typical? Players stop on a dime to look for a pass everygame right? If so, why is it that everytime a Flame did this, the entire Dallas squad got puck watching as if they weren't ready? I've never seen a team get confused by the same mundane play over and over.
- Since Dallas won't be calling up a defender from Cedar Park, I suggest Nemeth-Klingberg, Oduya-Goligoski, and Oleksiak-Benn. Oduya and Goligoski is the steady veteran presence Ruff will likely want even if it'll probably look a little wonky, but Nemeth is there to keep Klingberg from going full Kling-On, and Oleksiak gets to play with the Delta of Corsi.
- Mattias Janmark was Dallas' best possession forward, so it was especially nice to see him get rewarded for his stellar two way play. Janmark-Spezza-Nichushkin please.
- In case you didn't see Jamie Benn's beastly hit on Giordano.
- Dallas didn't draw a real penalty until Overtime. No team is perfect, regardless of record. But boy could this team use Nazem Kadri as a coach. I don't blame officiating all that much either. They could have called a few penalties, but outside of Nuke getting taken down, there wasn't anything truly egregious. Nor does talking about the officiating in this game help illuminate the issue; Dallas hasn't been able to draw penalties all year. If they can get their legs moving, and wield passed that carbon fiber foliage, maybe an already strong team can get even stronger.
- Niemi was awful in the shootout, but he was good during the actual hockey portion. This was another game where he really gave the team breathing room (huge save in the third), and a chance to win.