It's widely known by now that the Stars have traditionally enjoyed a bit of a feast at Tom Gaglardi's house during their trips to his native Vancouver. Good food is great (and candy is dandy), but the team clearly looks forward to these trips for the assurance on the heels of said feast. The Stars racked up yet another "W" post-party last night, but perhaps it's fair to say that they could have used some time to digest their food a bit more.
Mattias Janmark was one such fellow who seemed unsure what to do with the surfeit of consumables in his belly. Janmark had an uncharacteristic gaffe early, but it became a bit more characteristic as the night wore on. Janmark has been found money (or perhaps early return on investment) this season, but he had his shakiest game of the year tonight.
The Alex Edler goal in particular can be laid at his feet, although his entire line was culpable. After collecting a puck in the corner, he tried to reverse the puck back behind the goal. Actually he succeeded in reversing the puck, but the problem was that Spezza and Eaves had both flown the zone already (whether to change or attempt a stretch play, the broadcast won't tell me). The Canucks got to the puck well before the Stars, and the resulting possession would end in the Edler goal from the point.
The Stars would then get two successive (but not successful) power plays, and do roughly nothing with them. Dallas did eventually get their third power play late in the third, but fresh off Sharp's go-ahead goal, it's tough to feel like the team was going for the jugular there. The early advantages were plagued by good pressure from Vancouver on the point and the half-wall, and even when the Stars got set up, they never looked comfortable. The third power play featured much better looks though, so if you're looking for a unit that adapts to adversity, maybe that's your jam.
I'm burying the lede though, because Val Nichushkin decided to remind everyone in Vancouver exactly what they passed over in favor of Bo Horvat. His first goal was pure Val, which is to say he used his two tools (strength and skating) and his one move (deke along the ice, slide it in past the sprawled goalie) to score off the rush.
The Seguin goal was a bit fortunate in its buildup, as Jamie Benn was able to retrieve a puck after it pinballed a bit in the zone. The finish was nothing but high-class skill, with Nichushkin's eventual sauce (that's a cool term they use for passes) between his legs to Seguin surely ingraining itself in the hearts and minds of the forlorn Vancouver fans.
According to the Stars' broadcast, Ales Hemsky had a long conversation with Lindy Ruff yesterday. I'm not sure what it was about, but Hemsky had to have been itching to pot a goal afterwards, and he almost did, twice. Hemsky's creating chances and failing to finish those chances is basically both sides of that conversation in a nutshell, so I'll just leave you with this: Ales Hemsky on a fourth line is a great luxury for a coach, even if it might be painful for the player. You may remember that Fiddler had kinda sorta requested a trade a couple years back after seeing his ice time similarly decline, only to have things eventually get worked out with the coaching staff. I don't think we're there yet, but I guess that's maybe some kind of precedent if you're looking for it. Either way, a 20-win team on December 3rd tends to cure what ails you, player or coach alike.
Tyler Seguin actually could have had a hat trick in the second if not for Miller's making some really nice stops on him. Patrick Sharp eventually figured out that the only hole through Miller was between the legs, but Tyler Seguin (and others) certainly tested every other option prior to Sharp's goal. Cody Eakin even found the shaft of Miller's goal stick with his beautiful chance in the slot. It would have been great to see Eakin get that goal after a game that was not one of his best, but that is not what happened.
Patrick Sharp could also have scored in the second on a breakaway if not for Miller once again being all "in the way" and junk. Sharp and Eakin both managed to create three scoring chances apiece, actually. That is some third-line production for you.
Some more bad, in brief: Spezza leading a 3-on-1 on his backhand then opts to stop and turn, eventually fans on a shot, and creates a mathematically consistent 4-on-2 rush the other way that leads to the Vancouver power play. Spezza wasn't the only one guilty of trying to bake a wedding cake with nothing but Crisco and oatmeal though, as Jamie Benn also found himself forcing pucks into open areas and passing lanes that were not those things at all, it turned out. Benn still had a very solid game (with some wonderful backchecking to boot), but the Stars tried to force the issue a bit more than they needed to against a middling team like Vancouver. The only goals the Canucks got were either direct (Hansen) or indirect (Edler) results of the Stars' moving the puck a bit too optimistically, while Dallas could have put up 6 goals tonight without it seeming odd. Patience and longsuffering are similar virtues, but Stars fans could do with getting more acquainted with the former than the latter for a bit.
Last thing on that: Goligoski got a bit overenthusiastic with the Stars' offense pouring it on, and he made a flat-out bad pass that went to the incorrect captain of the two team captains in the vicinity. That was all-too-familiar given the Calgary game, but even worse than that, the Canucks could have taken the lead right afterwards if not for a wonderful Lehtonen stop on Vrbata (after Oduya got caught a bit too far below the red line). I'm not sure the Stars are magically doing everything they need to do to prevent losses from snowballing this season, but it's nice to see Lehtonen come up huge in his first game back.
Goligoski and Klingberg didn't get gun-shy in a tie-game late in the third, which is great if you're a fan of high-event hockey, but probably not so great if you're a team that should have been drumming the Canucks on the scoreboard at that point. Goligoski pinched a bit too late in the neutral zone, and the Stars survived the subsequent rush only to see Klingberg carry the puck into the offensive zone and try a no-look backhand pass that got picked off again, leading to another rush against. Value for money is all well and good when it comes to the price of admission, but things were a bit more thrilling than they needed to be at that point.
Or were they? Perhaps by now, with 20 wins in the bank on December 3rd, it might just be time to say that the Stars are never going to downshift. They are the player who never touches the brakes in Mariokart, the home run hitter who never tries to advance the runner with a ground ball. The Stars known two directions on the ice and those are "Go!" and "Go faster!" The Stars gave up an absurd amount of goals with the other team's goalie pulled last year, and their solution to that problem has not exactly been to collapse a little more in that final minute or two. They have scored 10 empty-net goals so far this season.
They have plenty of smarts to control the puck, and they have the speed and finishing skill to exploit teams who expose their defense a bit too much. Maybe it's time we resigned ourselves to the fact that this season is just going to be awesome, even if it takes five years off all our lives. We probably wouldn't have done anything nearly this exciting with those extra years anyway.