Captain Jamie Benn really makes this narrative thing easy. First it was his 4 point Art Ross night. Then it was his OT goal against the Vancouver Canucks to honor Larry Orr. Last night Benn decided to honor the recently deceased Dickie Moore (also a former left winger, as well as former Art Ross winner) with another big game. Jamie loves to honor with punctuation, and punctuate he did.
Still, it was a weird night in general, and yet another example of oddball officiating. Between a falling linesmen deciding to use Yakupov to break his fall, Tim going Full Peel and breaking up a scoring chance on his own, this season has not been a good one for officiating. This game was definitely a microcosm of that.
1. Location Expectation
I realize I'm allegedly on vacation but I made a sort of "power rankings" thing anyway. pic.twitter.com/64zGwIjWqp— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) December 20, 2015
If you have no idea what you're looking at, don't be alarmed. Micah McCurdy (who not only does great work for the #fancystats revolution, but also isn't a condescending stat bot) put together a single game prediction model called Oscar. It's a system that just tries to predict who will win any given game that includes your expected inputs: 5 on 5 shot generation, 5 on 4 shot generation, 5 on 5 shot suppression, 5 on 4 shot suppression, lifetime goaltender save percentage, and recent team 5 on 5 shooting percentage (just to name most of the inputs).
That particular chart uses the same inputs to predict a team's efficiency either at home (x axis), or on the road (y axis). In other words, Dallas is top 5 on the road, but pretty middle of the pack at home. So there was every reason to worry that Montreal might come in and spank Dallas no matter how hard they're struggling without Carey Price.
2. Double Espress-Plough
Can someone get the camera operator for the Stars/Habs game a cup of coffee or something?— Jen LC (@RegressedPDO) December 20, 2015
The game started off innocently enough. Jason Spezza scored on a beautiful slapshot feint from outside the circle near the boards, and for awhile it looked like these two teams would play like matchups between two high powered offenses often do: more conservative than you'd expect. It's like two big George Foreman like punchers in the ring; you're more than happy to trade blows against weaker fighters, but a guy with face melting power like you?
3. Power Play Parched
Thought Jason Pominville's insight today on how power-play success affects game flow was pretty interesting pic.twitter.com/DWOyQgAVto— Evan Sporer (@ev_sporer) December 19, 2015
There are a lot of opportunities to swing the momentum of the game, but none are less dramatic than the two minutes a team has when they get to pressure with more players on ice than their opponent. This is why having a strong Power Play is so critical for a team like Dallas; the more they can capitalize on special teams, the more than they can counter punch at 5 on 5. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors, so the idea that Curt Fraser has helped improve the team's PP shouldn't be out of the question. I'm skeptical given his record when the team didn't have an abundance of riches, but I did enjoy the drop pass transition into the stretch pass. It didn't always work but there's a tic-tac-toe philosophy that is worth perfecting more than the "Jason Spezza flies through the neutral zone like nobody's business so just drop pass to him" they keep doing.
tried to isolate the Benn hit to clarify that it does not appear illegal pic.twitter.com/pKm9jB7kUu— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 20, 2015
I love it when a play triggers a good tune. When Benn laid out Jeff Petry, right away desert rock/doom metal/who cares what you want to call it Baroness' Take My Bones Away riff started humming through my brain. The opening lyrics, You lead the way, I'll follow, captured what makes Benn a caricature of captain competence. The phrase "Beast Mode" has become a catch all term for dominant plays, but few accurately apply. This...is what "beast mode" looks like:
5. Amenity and Ivory
In James Toback's documentary of Mike Tyson, Tyson declares what makes an efficient prizefighter; not the "surly" fighter (yes, he actually uses this term), or angry fighter. But the happy one.
6. Six Shades of Moxie
While the special teams seemed to break the rhythm of the game, there's no doubt that Dallas passed the smell test tonight. While the "60 minute game" is pure myth unless you're playing the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers, this was pretty darn close. The bad news is that it only gets tougher from here on out. The good news is that it means more opportunities for Dallas to develop better habits in more difficult situations.
- It's too bad Mattias Janmark didn't get rewarded on that nonsensical goalie interference call on Jason Demers. He's been playing so well lately (best shot attempt differential on the team last night at +13) it would have been nice to see him get rewarded.
- At this point you can probably guess who one of the Corsi non Stars was. Yes, Cody Eakin. Eakin's story is clear at this point: he overachieved after Ruff bestowed him a role he felt fit for. But what made Cody Eakin efficient during the 2013-2014 is that Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt had a synchronized enthusiasm that could mask their deficiencies enough to be serviceable. Losing Garbutt wasn't a detriment to the team, but it was a detriment to that line, and now Eakin plays a little like the nomad he's been assigned to be. If I had my druthers, Eakin at wing, centered by Radek Faksa and paired with Valeri Nichushkin would be doing third line duty full time. Unless they turned out to be horrible. Which I doubt.
- No idea what Jordie Benn thought he was doing on Carr's goal. Trying to play the puck in close quarters? Woof.
- You know who had a good game that nobody noticed because he wasn't trying to be noticed? John Klingberg. I sometimes hot take wonder if Klingberg doesn't feel pressured on the blue line not by forecheckers, but by the need to make transition plays for the forwards because he's the only one that can. Tonight he didn't have the pinch switch permanently flipped on, and didn't figure on the score sheet despite Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn having monster games. I enjoyed that. He's both quietly and loudly struggled in recent weeks despite continuing to produce. It's not his production that needs improvement, and Ruff would appear to recognize that.