So the Dallas Stars season ends after a 4-1 win on home ice against the Nashville Predators. With 92 points and 41 wins. Compare to last season's totals when they made the playoffs and you can see that it just wasn't where they wanted to be.
What's that? They had 91 points and 40 wins last year?
So it goes in the West, where Los Angeles and San Jose will also spectate. The Predators rested Shea Weber and Roman Josi tonight and now ride their sixth loss in a row into a first-round battle with the Chicago Blackhawks.
(So, good luck with all of that.)
Four goals gives the Stars 257 on the season, finishing just two behind league-leading Tampa Bay and far ahead of any competition from their own conference. (STL @ 239).
The game itself was immaterial, capping a four-game win streak to end the season and a 14-5-0 run since early March. It was more of the kind of hockey (and goaltending) of which they've shown themselves capable- But too little, too late.
Speaking of goaltending, the Stars honored Kari Lehtonen with a silver stick to ackknowledge 500 NHL games- Then he promptly skated back to the bench to watch Jhonas Enroth win his fourth straight having given up five total goals over that stretch.
But that was not the focus of the evening. Nor were the 92 points, or finishing with a positive goal differential (which they now have) or any of that other ancillary stuff. No, there was a scoring title to win, and everyone in the building arrived rather singularly interested.
The Art Ross subject matter was, as is everything in sports these days, aided by the group consciousness of social media and the awareness that came with it. Sidney Crosby's night was being followed closely and Benn's two first-period goals had him in-line to come out on top.
Then John Tavares scored and recorded an assist, meaning Benn needed two points in the game's final 20 minutes. The mood in the building and on the internet soured as Ruff did not appear to alter his usage of Benn in the slightest to assist.
Twitter looked like this late in the third:
Barring a late surge by Jamie Benn, John Tavares' 86 points stand to be lowest output by an Art Ross winner since Gordie Howe in 1962-63— Bruce McCurdy (@BruceMcCurdy) April 12, 2015
And then, well, you know. The magic empty-netter (154 feet according to NHL.com) came early enough that it afforded Benn's line a rest, plus the time to pick up the hats. Garbutt and Roussel came out for a brief time but the Captain was able to re-join and generate his Art Ross winning point.
Wayne Gretzky won it with 215 points in 1986. The last time a full-season total of 87 points was enough to win it was in 1967-1968 when Stan Mikita claimed his fourth Art Ross in five years.
Compelling drama. A nice moment for a crowd that didn't have enough this season.
And yet, no playoffs.
Which was why it was fitting that when Jamie Benn was handed the microphone yet again to address the faithful he composed himself. He paused. He properly assessed the situation and appropriately spoke to missing the post-season, rather than the personal accomplishment he had just realized.
Personal accomplishment. It is, and it isn't. Nearly every human being in the building wanted it for him, and the other 17 guys wearing green down there were desperately trying to facilitate it. They just got it in under the wire.
A fun night, but final all the same. They'll clean out the lockers Monday or Tuesday. They'll do their exit interviews.
Lindy Ruff season ends.
Jim Nill's begins.
It may be over, sure, but stick with us. At Defending Big D, after all, it is always hockey season.
Oh, and the scoreboard had all the jokes before a summer of hibernation: