Aeschylus is often looked at as the progenitor of Greek tragedies. You may know him from such plays as Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, which is my favorite. (If a third line of the future wants to adopt "The Furies" as a moniker, that would be pretty okay.) His work, some of which survives to this day in performances and books alike, is the main reason we have the knowledge we do about tragic plays in ancient Greece. Wikipedia even tells me that he was the first one to include enough characters in his plays to allow interaction outside of the Chorus. He is one of the big boys of ancient Greek literature.
The Stars last night, and far too many nights this year, were Aeschylus. They produced great things. People were impressed. And then, at the end, things somehow unraveled. Not like a tragic play, per se, although that's probably going to be an apt analogy of its own after a few more games like this; no, I'm referring to Aeschylus himself, who was killed* when a bird dropped a turtle on his head, mistaking it for a rock. If there is a more "you've gotta be kidding me" way to die, I do not know what it is. Losing to the Avalanche this year sure feels like a good candidate, though.
*this is more traditional than historical fact, but come on. Who would make that up?
The Stars started off the season 4-1-2, which seems like a pretty nice start if you forget about how Ales Hemsky wasn't scoring, about how the Pittsburgh win was as narrow a thing as can be, about how the Vancouver victory was much uglier than the 6-3 score, and about how those overtime losses against Philly and Chicago were games that the Stars really had no business losing until they decided that third periods were defense-optional.
Nonetheless, ten points in seven games will get the job done, and we all speculated about just how amazing the Stars would be once everyone started clicking. "Imagine that second line when Spezza and Hemsky start scoring like we know they will," you said. "That New Jersey win on October 24th was a sign of good things on the horizon," you said again, so naïvely. "Yessir," you spouted, "Things are looking great in ol' Big D, yessir, things are lookin' mighty nice." Well, the Stars sure showed you. A 7-5 firefight against the Stars East presaged a seven game losing streak, and suddenly everyone was writing tons of "What's Wrong with the dumb Stars" articles on the internet that I had to link to day after dreary day; meanwhile, the Stars turned their 4-1-2 start into a 4-6-4 puddle. It was not the best.
You know what was the best, though. Of course you do. You say much smarter things nowadays, as your early, bright-eyed optimism has matured into a lined face of cautious hope and sober joy. That horizon of NHL significance that had slipped so far away in such cruel fashion has begun to glimmer once again. You can see it, if you squint. But you didn't need to squint after November 11th, because John Klingberg went and handed us all a huge ol' set of metaphorical binoculars in Phoenix, then again in Los Angeles. Suddenly the cesspool of defensive indifference that had been the Stars' defensive zone became fertile with our anticipation each time the puck neared #3. You knew the pill was heading the other way very soon, perhaps with a scoring chance awaiting it upon the end of its journey; but even your wildest hopes never saw two-goal, four-point nights rising from the soil long-watered by our early season grief. John Klingberg is basically a magical farmer or something.
Such sentiments (albeit much more cogent ones) are not exactly hard to find in Dallas these days, as Josh Bogorad reminds us in his always-savory On the Radar column. It is primarily about John Klingberg:
As much as the aforementioned numbers tell a story, the timing that Klingberg has been able to display with his offensive contributions is just as telling. Five of Klingberg's nine goals have been either game-tying or go-ahead goals. Literally from his first NHL goal - a gorgeous move, that kicked off a three-goal, third period rally for a victory - Klingberg has found a way to continually light a spark. The Stars are 7-0 when Klingberg scores a goal. They are 11-3-1 when he registers a point. Overall, Dallas is 19-13-3 (.586) with Klingberg in the lineup, as opposed to 4-6-4 (.429) without.
It was another one of those sparks that potentially helped save last week for the Stars.
On Tuesday, Dallas came out of the break with a 3-2 loss to Montreal. It was another 40-plus shot game with nothing to show for it. All of a sudden, the Stars - who had scratched and clawed their way back into the playoff picture - had won just three of their previous ten games. They faced two more games on a pivotal road trip and needed points badly. After taking control immediately against the Ottawa Senators, the Stars began to fizzle. A once-dominant 3-0 lead evaporated into a tie game early in the third period. With the Stars reeling, and at a potential crossroad for the road trip (and possibly season), midway through the third period, Klingberg took matters into his own hands.
That's not necessarily the setting for a boy-faced, 22-year old, rookie defenseman to emerge. Yet, there he was. Again. Proving that John Klingberg is no ordinary 22-year old defenseman.
The Stars need a lot of things to happen in order to surface from the group of teams fighting over the final playoff spots. One of those things is the ability to have players step up in key situations. Klingberg has shown he has a knack to do exactly that. Because of that, down the stretch the Stars will find themselves looking to a guy who has fewer than three months of NHL experience, and started the season in the minors. As crazy as that sounds, even crazier is that he seems completely prepared and ready for that responsibility. [Stars]
There's plenty more where that came from, too. Check out the whole piece.
John Klingberg has instincts about where he needs to go, where the puck might go, and where everyone is expecting him and/or the puck to go at any given time. All hockey players have such instincts, in fact, especially in the NHL. With Klingberg, such instinct looks less like the execution of an idea and much more like a casual reflex fueled by limitless creativity, a semiconscious flicking of the fly near one's face while bigger things are pondered. This is a bit of an unfettered way of admiring the Stars' right-handed wunderkind, of course.
We know he isn't perfect, and he admits it when mistakes happen as quickly as anyone. But just as Klingberg finally arrived when all hope had faded back in November, so must the Stars now put up a 32-game run that few of us could have seen coming.
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Sean McIndoe confirmed that he couldn't find a clean clip of Jamie Langenbrunner's 1998 WCF Game 5 OT goal from center ice on Chris Osgood, and so this legendary goal was not included in the list of embarrassing goals below. Would someone out there in Starsland please rectify this situation? We need Osgood's humiliation to be a bit more visible, folks. I know one of you has an old VHS tape of this game just waiting for Big Time Internet Fame. Just try not to upload the part of the clip where you're dancing with a mannequin to the Chicago soundtrack, if you can help it.
Recap with video of a game the Stars should have won. I have nothing more to say. [Stars]
Are these five reasons why Dallas can make the playoffs worth an ESPN Insider subscription? You tell me! Team-specific tantalizing pieces like these are pretty clearly written behind the paywall in order to justify its existence. I mean, it might be a good piece though. [ESPN Insider]
Kari Lehtonen might play roughly 107.81% of the Stars' remaining games, speculates M. Heika. [DMN]
Dallas aren't the only team to enjoy a little Duck Hunt video when playing Anaheim. [THN]
Kailey Gamble says that Kari Lehtonen's play might not be all that bad, although I don't happen to agree with her reasoning. [Fourth Period]
Mike Heika answered your questions about the Stars and stuff. What a guy. [DMN]
Matt Cooke may be done for Minnesota this year thanks to a sports hernia. [Minnesota Star-Tribune]
James Neal hasn't been quite as great playing away from Evgeni Malkin this year; he may have been better than you realize, though. [CBS Sports]
Kevin Connauton took his turn playing forward last night. As in, yes, he was the 4th line LW for Columbus in the NHL last night. Injuries can make strange things happen. [Jackets Cannon]
Kyle Okposo's mystery injury is apparently much scarier than first thought: he has a detached retina, per Katie Strang. He'll be out 6-8 weeks at the least. [ESPN]
Brandon Prust talks about why fighting is important, then he ends with a story about how he broke one of his closest friends's jaw without realizing it because he was looking to dish out a big hit. [Players Tribune]
Further updates from the fallout from the Tim Peel/Greg Wyshynski pub night: Puck Daddy's proprietor wouldn't change a thing about the meeting/casual interview per his interview on SportsNet yesterday, and the NHL is really the one who should be embarrassed about this whole thing. I'm still a bit mixed, but overall, the NHL could help themselves a lot by being more proactive (see MLB umpire interviews). [Puck Daddy]
As mentioned above, here is a list of some (but not all) of the most embarrassing goals allowed during the YouTube era. C'mon, someone needs to get us a decent clip of Langenbrunner's OT winner already. [Grantland]
And finally, the biggest news of yesterday is that Harper Lee is publishing a long-lost sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. While I do kind of despise the Atlantic, I think their writeup is pretty good. [The Atlantic]