It's great to talk about how much fun it is to win yet again. Especially against the Central. Only now the discussion isn't about whether or not the Dallas Stars are "for real". It's about how much.
There's no use answering that question still not halfway into the season. But every game speaks to the team's quality, and tonight was the absolute best in what Dallas has to offer.
1. Wally Westian
This Chicago/Dallas pace is ... I need an adjective for absurdly fast here, @Razor5Hole.— Travis Yost (@travisyost) December 23, 2015
Chicago had played 8 games in their last 12 while Dallas had played 7 games in their last 12, including being on the second night of a back to back. It was tough to do for both teams, but somehow they managed a very quick pace despite the lack of goals and low shot count.
2. Penalty Kill of Thermopylae
Dallas has killed two penalties and has a 7-3 advantage in shots on goal in 1st.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) December 23, 2015
The biggest shocker in the first period was Dallas' penalty kil(t). To be fair, Chicago didn't do themselves any favors, but Dallas took advantage of their awkward play and shutdown the gates despite a pretty lame call for high sticking on Jason Demers as he was following through on a shot. Credit to the PK spartans; especially the Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Colton Sceviour line who also did some serious yeoman's work 5 on 5, often against Chicago's top 2 units.
3. Good Stick. Bad Stick. I'm the guy with the goal.
Spezza goal pic.twitter.com/e04IpNM4ce— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 23, 2015
I know. The goal was fantastic. Eccentric, but fantastic. And if Jason Spezza wants to tattoo himself to that spot on the ice where he can take all of his shots form here on out, cool. But the best part of this goal is Spezza's deft lift of Duncan Keith's stick to counter the poke check. What looked like a tic-tac-toe play between Sharp and Spezza is actually something more like 'pick-smack-mow'. Now is as good a time as any to appreciate what Spezza brings. He has a rotating door of wingers, many of whom have struggled to produce, yet he's still putting up points and making plays. I'm glad we paid that man his money.
4. Second City Blues
@SportsSturm gonna be a long uber ride home for these Hawks fans— Stanley (@StanleyEstell) December 23, 2015
Dallas struggled in the second period, but once the third period started all bets were off. Patrick Sharp would beat his former teammate with a beautiful goal, top shelf. And would then celebrate with Johnny Oduya in the kind of colors Hawks fans are not accustomed to. It was as much a validation of the team's growth as it was of Jim Nill.
5. Bottom Six Boons
How's this for a team effort? The last 12 @DallasStars goals have been scored by 11 different players. Only Vern Fiddler has two.— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) December 23, 2015
Can we give credit to the third line again? Granted, Roussel, Eakin, and Sceviour are the three worst possession players on the team, but they've only recently been put together. And a player like Sceviour is exactly what the Eakin line has always needed; someone calm, collected, and not reduced to using only the reptilian part of the brain. It's ridiculous to brand this line anything other than an experiment gone right for one night, but they were a big part of the win. Granted, a lot of credit goes to Roussel for stealing Dolph Lundgren's Unisol drugs.
6. Huckleberry, Thy Name is Sharp
Probably my favorite Stars gif of the year so far. I don't know if it's the Harry Callahan demeanor, or just the "there was never any doubt" nod, but Sharp was critical in Dallas' shutout victory. Also critical? Dallas' possession game.
The Hockey PDOast recently had former NHL winger, and analyst Mike Johnson talk about what makes the Stars so different. And he started with a story about their video review sessions.
"Great little story for the way they run their video session. So we do our video session on any other team I've been on. And it's like 'Mike, turnover at the blueline to try to force them into the middle. Unacceptable! You gotta get the puck in deep'. You feel shame, everyone looks at you, you start sweating, and you feel awful. If you're 20 or 30 it doesn't matter. You still feel bad about getting pointed out in the video session.
Or 'at your own blueline you can't make that play through the seems underneath defensemen. You have to get that over the blueline and through the neutral zone and get it further up ice'. That is what you get from every single team from every single coach I've been on.
Lindy Ruff's video sessions are the opposite. He puts on the video when you shoot it away. When there's a play to be made and you dump it in blindly because that's the safe play...he puts that on the tape and says 'no, you gotta do better. You gotta get your head up, and find someone to make the play'. That's not even heard of anywhere else."
The team's creative instincts are constantly nourished, and last night felt like the culmination of that. And of the general philosophy that dump and chase is way less efficient than trying to carry the puck through the zone (not exactly a revelation or anything, though some teams do a good job when they do dump it in). On to some stray observations:
- If you were watching the Hawks broadcast, you learned two really important things. a) Antoine Roussel still goes by 'Dominic'. And b) all it takes to draw penalties is to have the head coach Jedi mind trick the refs. For some bizarre reason, the commentators made a big deal out of Ruff talking with the refs before the start of the second period. When Dallas got on the power play, the commentators would reference Ruff's pre-period talk. It was the absolute dumbest type of loch ness commentating I've ever heard. The Chicago duo might not be all bad, but they dreadful last night with their imagined conspiracies.
- Thankfully they dogged on Ales Hemsky, because that seemed to motivate him. Hemsky has been getting his chances, which is great. On the topic of Hemsky, can we kill this "small stick" debate? If it infuriates you, don't be alarmed. The Oilers coaches hated it too. Yes, Hemsky uses a baby blade that is wholly unique to the NHL, but he's used it for a very long time. And he's been a very solid player in that time. Are there disadvantages? Yes. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for him, and that's all that matters. He's played incredibly tough the last few games too; an odd wrinkle in is game, but welcome.
- Credit to Jyrki Jokipakka. He passed the eyeball test with a fantastic play that nearly set up Vernon Fiddler (what is with these two? Remember their preseason?), as well as the #fancystats test; was the top possession player at 5 on 5.
- Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas to the folks of DBD! Drinks would be on me if I knew you. As is, I'll enjoy my Die Hard re-runs with the family (and maybe go see Star Wars again).