When fans of the Dallas Stars looked at this 4 game run of murderous Central Division opponents beforehand (two of them back to backs no less), four points out of a possible 8 was probably best case scenario. We're not all that distanced from the Gulutzan "couldn't beat a beer league team on the second half of a back to back" era. But the Stars ended the run with 7 out of a possible 8. Not bad...
I wouldn't say that the Stars have figured out Hitchcock hockey yet, but they have figured out how not to lose consecutive games to anyone, which is probably the more important trend long term.
1. All Those Flavors, And You Chose Bloody
Boy, the Stars are pretty salty. Did the Blues steal all the hair products from the locker room or something?— Jen LC (@RegressedPDO) December 27, 2015
Right away Jamie Benn took exception to Tarasenko's gaze in his general direction and got hauled off for roughing. It was an odd way to start the game but it sent the Blues a valuable message; you want random acts of senseless delinquency? We'll show you!
But in all seriousness, it was the kind of sequence that probably wouldn't get called in a playoff game, which these games tend to resemble. Tyler Seguin of all people would start swinging (gloves on, obviously) at Robert Bortuzzo after he decked Benn in the guts after the play. It was a strange sequence; one that Benn sold, but one that Bortuzzo deserved. Still, it was nice to see Seguin join the octagon with his teammates
2. Jason Less Please
One really hot glove. pic.twitter.com/efJ59qL0mC— Darren R Pang (@Panger40) December 28, 2015
Still, the name of the game in the 1st was Elliot's stellar play. He needed to be, as Dallas went north of 20 shot attempts in the first, forcing Brian Elliot to stop 15 of them. The lone goal came off a brilliant Benn entry that you'd probably rather watch than read about:
3. Suture the Neutral
Re-sign Demers. That is all.— Bill Simpson (@GunnerStar99) December 28, 2015
The second period was kind of hilarious. The sin bin quickly filled up with guns, germs, and steel as Antoine Roussel and Travis Moen dropped the gloves with dance partners, Troy Brouwer and Robert Bortuzzo (respectively). But the real strength of note was the continued excellence of Dallas' defensive play. There's been some discussion among fans about who the best defenseman is for Dallas. There's no question that John Klingberg is as much a part of Dallas' core as Seguin or Benn. The fact that he can actually get better is what makes him one of the most exciting players on this team. But Demers is so much of what Dallas doesn't have; a plodding but efficient puck mover who can shut it down when he needs to.
4. Mainly Jamie
bonus: staring into the abyss. or hungry. pic.twitter.com/QNeZAgOUcR— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 28, 2015
The game experienced a brief period of non-Hitchcock hockey, which didn't really matter for Jamie Benn who got the Stars back on the scoreboard just 40 seconds into the 3rd period after separating himself from Jay Bouwmeester. Darren Pang gave the assist to Benn's crosscheck, but no hard feelings. Pang is actually quite tolerable (contrast him to say, the Pens announcers, for example) by homer standards but it would have been nice to watch the game without him droning on about missed calls as if Dallas didn't just play a game against Tim Peel.
It's not all offense for the Stars. They've allowed 15 goals over the past nine games (1.67 per game).— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) December 28, 2015
The Blues love to forecheck Dallas' defensemen. For all the grief Stars fans throw Hitchcock's way, there is nothing conservative about their forecheck. There were three (!) forwards down low at times looking to trap the blueline and force the turnover. Two things allowed Dallas to counter attack; better outlet passing on the part of the defenders, and a hard backcheck in the neutral zone whenever St Louis would try to return fire.
6. Good Kling Wenceslas
have some laughing Klingberg because I'm not really paying attention to all the games pic.twitter.com/HEwSYC2HDJ— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 27, 2015
Probably Klingberg's reaction after Cody Eakin scored another oddball empty netter. Speaking of, Klingberg made some pretty Klingberg like moves. It wasn't his best game, but he's starting to free up his game a little more after being a little creatively shackled for a brief stretch in response to some questionable play in weeks prior. With the win, the Stars are officially the best team in the league in real points percentage.
- About this Ryan Reaves fellow. I'll talk to myself on this island on this one, but is there a reason why we have to complain about Reaves? Let's ignore the value he has to Dallas for hitting David Backes in the head for us. Let's even ignore how much more efficient Dallas is when he's on the ice. Instead let's focus on the fact that Hitchcock puts him in the lineup, and for whatever transgressions he's guilty of, isn't some subhuman scum like Matt Cooke, Zac Rinaldo, or Radko Greedo or whatever his name is. Reaves plays a meatclacking form of old school hockey. I'd rather the Stars just deal with it than lose their cool over a one dimensional player throwing the body the way Jamie Benn does when he's at his violent best.
- Are the boys back in town? Do the Stars once again have something with Colton Sceviour on Roussel and Eakin's wing? They were lights out yet again, hounding the puck without sacrificing the counter attack. It's too soon to declare them Dallas' defacto checking line, but perhaps Colton's level headed approach to hockey is rubbing off on the two. I've been a massive critic of Cody Eakin, but credit where credit is due.
- Kari Lehtonen didn't have to be great, but he had to be sharp. The best part about it is that we don't have to talk about how Kari 'needs to see the shots', as if team defense failing to do its job so that Kari can do his is ever some kind of puck-a-doodle-doo trade off. He didn't see many shots, and did his job within that window of opportunity. Good for him.
- A few more hits, and added face washing, and Tyler Seguin is one crosscheck away from being a full blown goon. I'm absolutely loving the added edge to his game.
- The Stars play John Tortorella and the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, who will probably still be showing signs of the venous stress on his forehead from dealing with the "weak veterans" on his team.