The Dallas Stars are not going to make the playoffs. Any doubt the very last of the faithful had about that has been erased.
That realization comes tonight after the quintessential 2014-2015 games for Lindy Ruff's bunch. Perfectly emblematic of their season-long journey. They score five times. They grossly out-posses the opposition. And they lose. At home.
And there's goaltending situation, which had been so good in the month of March- Now come back around to what it had been for the other five.
What can you really say after a game like that?
One supposes there's some precedence there. They score four on Chicago and lose. They score five on Philadelphia and lose. They score four on the stinking Hurricanes and lose. They five in Long Island and lose. They score six on the Red Wings and lose. They put four on the Lightning and lose.
It's their league leading eighth loss when leading after two periods.
The seventh goal put the Stars' goals-against total at home this season at 128(!). Worst in the NHL. Worse than Buffalo. Edmonton. Phoenix.
And that's a shame. Because that place was pretty electric tonight. The sellout crowd of 18,532 show up and get what they want- Goals. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were doing their thing. Travis Moen scored on a penalty shot, for crying out loud. Very casually, I might add.
There were shenanigans and waved off goals and posts and animosity. A proper Friday night fight at the AAC.
But in the end it's the perfect reminder of all the things that have been wrong with the team at various times this season. The home record. The blown third-period leads. The goaltending. The power play.
Through it all the Stars have out-possessed and out-shot the opposition. 64 pucks toward the St. Louis net tonight to just 41 at Kari's. That's a low total. Holding them to 21 shots is a number you take any day.
When the Stars look good they look very, very good- And it's for extended periods. When they regress a little, it isn't a little. It's a lot. It's all the way, and those periods of time when they're not dominating end up affecting the outcome disproportionately to their duration.
In the end the outcome of the game tonight was probably inconsequential, but to see it unfold that way really picks at 78 games worth of scabs.
Val Nichushkin was back, on the bright side. He looked pretty good. He was a little lost at times and the speed of the game is a difficult adjustment to make- But he showed you what the Stars miss not having out there. He is strong like bull. He bullies his way to the front. The puck sticks to him more than it does to some others. He creates space. He won a battle and got an assist for it.
Lindy Ruff must have been as curious as the rest of us to see him with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, because it didn't take long to reunite the trio after Val started the game further down the lineup.
So that's a plus.
The rest of it was a huge minus.
A quick plane trip to Nashville and an atmosphere likely analogous to a funeral march awaits them now. How will they respond after such a gut punch, and with the Predators vying for first in the Central?