As they say in the cliche business, "perception is reality". The reality is that Dallas is better than they are last year. This time last year they only had ten regulation or overtime wins. They've more than doubled that this season.
However, just because the perception is not the reality is not to say that the perception can't be earned. The Stars blew a four goal lead. It took one period for Carolina, a bottom five team in Goals For per game, to tie the game with four unanswered goals within that period to send the game to potential Overtime.
The Stars won, but that doesn't mean I don't get to complain. You're kidding yourself if you think Ruff is jamming out to Metallica, I mean Shania Twain, with the rest of the Dallas Stars in celebration.
1. Dallas Deluge
Starting Cam Ward in Dallas is going pretty much exactly how you would've thought it would.. pic.twitter.com/O6vYIqsGgA— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) December 9, 2015
The first period was all sunshine and rainbows. Valeri Nichushkin had two points, John Klingberg had two points, and Jamie Benn had a whopping three. The real story was Cam Ward's inexplicable presence in net.
2. Beer Monster Props
The @DallasStars are awesome. Not just on the ice...their twitter, trolling with arena music, everything. Most entertaining in the NHL.— Tim B (@TB_Money) December 9, 2015
This is the most inside of references (Tim is a prizefighting writing colleague), but I enjoy reading about how outsiders view the Dallas Stars. Dallas is getting that 'America's Team' vibe from not just the hockey media, but from those who don't even make hockey watching a full time habit. It's a testament to their play that they've garnered the attention of the public. For better and worse.
3. Another One!
From the second period on, Carolina, a really good possession team, began to control the flow of the game. Jaccob Slavin eventually broke the egg for the Hurricanes, and Valeri Nichushkin would end up responding right back. Nuke's goal scoring aptitude is still comically underdeveloped. Naturally, he beat Ward down low. But it's ridiculous how much more there is to his game than simply "goal scoring". His ability to protect the puck in the corners gives Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin more time to spin the playmaking wheels.
This lady can't believe the Stars blew a 5-1 lead to the Hurricanes. pic.twitter.com/SclDahr3Mj— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) December 9, 2015
And just like that, The Stars' 5-1 lead began to slowly dwindle. The first string of goals happened because Dallas put Carolina on the Power Play, which Justin Faulk likes to call home. He'd tally two goals for a league leading 10 on the PP. While the Stars have improved their PP to middle of the pack, it needs improvement. And tonight revealed why; they don't challenge the point much once opponents have possession and they don't have enough big bodies to either block quality chances, or disturb traffic in front of the net.
5. The Five Stages of Disbelief
Twitter during every Stars game First period: THIS TEAM IS FUN AND GREAT Second period: Hmmmm Third period: Their defense could be better— Dave Lozhohoho (@davelozo) December 9, 2015
When Jeff Skinner officially tied the game, it didn't just look like last season's Stars; it felt like it, a Canelo punch to the guts and all. Kari Lehtonen has been sharp this season (and was even during this game), but he's still one of the absolute worst at letting in consecutive goals; or seems that way. I don't have time to crunch the numbers but I'd be curious about looking closely at such goalie stats.
6. Reality, Meet Perception
On to some stray observations
- Corsi Non-Star of the game goes to Patrik Nemeth at minus 13. He didn't have an especially bad game though. After all, the player with the best on ice corsi differential was Patrick Sharp. At minus 5. But he was fighting the puck more than some of the other defenders which means he's the odd man out once Jason Demers comes back.
- Benn, Seguin, and Klingberg are on pace for nearly 320 points. Fun times.
- Speaking of fun, you probably heard that Antti Niemi was one of four goalies since 87 to win a game without making a save. Whoa...
- High Danger Scoring Chances For were 12 to 4 in favor of Carolina. It's interesting to consider how Dallas might have reacted if they had lost. They were on the cusp of being a league punchline. It sounds stupid when you consider that this is the #1 team in the NHL right now. But Dallas is still giving up a lot of quality chances to teams. Would the usually unflappable Jim Nill go on a red bull fueled phone-a-thon to swing for a big name defensemen if that had happened? Sure he would have said all the right things to the media following such a loss, but would he be the proverbial duck, paddling like hell underneath?
- There's a lot to unpack about this team. Should fans be worried about certain trends? Are there things that can improve the team? These are all questions that can be addressed in due time; questions I'll even write about myself. But for now, the big positive is that there are elements of the team that are improving. Not only has Jamie Oleksiak been visibly efficient, but Valeri Nichushkin is starting to heat up in a big way (7 points in his last 5 games).