Once upon a time, there was a television program by the name of That's So Raven. It aired on the Disney Channel or something, and it even spawned a spin-off show about some guy named Cory. I'll just be honest here and say that I never saw a single second of That's So Raven, but I do know what the "That's so ____" phrase means, it being obviously derivative of "That's so fetch," a bit of American slang still wildly popular today thanks to its appearance in the hit 2004 film Mean Girls, distributed by Paramount Pictures. To say that something is "So ____" is casual parlance for pointing out an extremely emblematic instantiation of something or someone. An example of this would be to say that "Jame Benn is so Alpha" when he does things like this.
The question I've been mulling over for over a month now is, which of the last 82 games was, more than any other, So 2014-15 Dallas Stars? You may be tempted to remember a certain game against Detroit, and that would certainly qualify on a number of levels, but I still write that game off to a ludicrously uncalled goaltender interference penalty and, well, whatever malaise settled onto the AAC that night. The Stars scored and were scored upon quite a lot that game, but last year wasn't a season undone by the referees by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, the Stars somehow ended up with a positive goal differential when all was said and done. You have Jamie Benn to thank for that.
There were other games, of course. Ales Hemsky looked ineffectively magical in a 7-5 October loss to the Isles that featured Anders Lindback at his 2014-15 Anders Lindbackiest. And who can forget the 6-5 debacle against the Flyers in which Trevor Daley scored twice, but still ended up sporting a minus-2? Ah, those were some good times, weren't they? I didn't think so.
So, yes, those and other games have certain features that remind you of aspects of 2014-15, and I mentioned a couple of them there as much to give them due credit for their inherent last-year-Stars-ness as to set up the game I really want to talk about.
I am, of course, talking about this game:
Yes, the Stars would actually end up winning, so in that sense it doesn't totally represent the ultimate shortfall that was an 82-games-and-that's-all season. But stick with me here, because we're going to go through this game goal-by-goal in an effort to tease out just how representative of the other 81 games this particular contest was. I hope you are ready to watch a lot of ice hockey goals being scored.
EDM 1, DAL 0
Hey, you know what? "Taylor" sounds kinda like "Tyler." I wonder if anyone has noticed that before.
Okay, so here is what happens in this sequence:
1) Shot from distance
2) Kari gets a piece of it
3) Oilers get to the rebound first
4) Kari can't recover
5) A woebegone Trevor Daley slides into the corner
There are a lot of people that think we could just call it wrap there, and they wouldn't be all that wrong. But, well, we're just getting started.
EDM 1, DAL 1
Nothing super notable here, just Jokipakka pounding a slapshot off a Colton Sceviour feed, with Shawn Horcoff eventually potting the goal. Why, hey, it's the Stars' ultra-rare 3rd power-play unit.
How potent was the Dallas offense last year? A line of Fiddler, Horcoff and Sceviour put up three shots and a goal in the span of about five seconds. By the way, the Stars essentially replaced Horcoff with Patrick Sharp this summer. Don't think we'll be seeing too much of a dropoff there.
EDM 1, DAL 2
At some point last year, do you think Ales Hemsky started wondering if he had accidentally left a light on in a random hockey rink's locker room that eventually shorted out, causing an electrical fire that burned down the entire complex? Angering the hockey spirits is just about the only thing that could have explained how snakebitten Hemsky was last year, and this goal is just laughable in that context. Here you have Erik Cole, a 36-year-old player the Canadiens were thrilled to unload with a few years left on his deal, and he still manages to score over 20 goals in 76 games.
Ales Hemsky, in contrast, lugs the puck from inside his own blue line, uses some stick language to back off the defender, then rips a shot that gets blocked right to the tape of Cole, who deposits the puck in the vacant side of the net with the calm efficiency of a bank employee on a Friday afternoon. It gets better, Ales.
EDM 2, DAL 2
Mercy, Cody Eakin. RNH is no slouch, but this is a classic example of how to lose inside position on the puck. I dunno folks, I'm starting to wonder if this kid is quite ready to assume the mantle of Carbonneau 2.0 yet. Just a feeling.
Also, bonus points for Goligoski somehow managing to make a blocked shot look like the worst possible thing that could have happened, which surely helped sustain the tired narrative of many a spectator. Don't listen to them, Goose. They hate you 'cause they ain't you.
EDM 3, DAL 2
If this goal were a specific point in the Stars' season, it would be the 6-4 loss to Carolina in November. Things were spotty, yes, but there was no way this team could give up six goals to a lousy club like the Hurricanes, right?
Well, hey, there's always next time. After all, this team surely wouldn't go another full month before grasping for and finding purchase on a nice, long winning streak, right?
EDM 4, DAL 2
Mark Arcobello played for four different teams last year. That's how much of a journeyman (literally, I s'pose) this guy is, but let it never be said that the Dallas Stars weren't the most egalitarian of opponents when it came to allowing scoring chances!
Also, look at that first ten seconds of tape again. Notice how Jamie Benn goes from, "okay, nice and easy change, get your bearings as you step on the ice" to "Oh, !$!$!@% you have to bust back to the net, it's a 2-on-1 already." This is not ideal! Basically, half the team thought the puck was going deep and lazed off for a change, but all of a sudden the puck shoots up ice, Trevor Daley cheats up to try to cut off the pass, and Jokipakka is like, "Why does everyone hate me?" (you can't hear him on the video, he's very quiet). I think it's fair to plop this goal-against into the "didn't play a 200-foot game" category, yes? Yes.
EDM 5, DAL 2
This goal is the Stars' nadir, and it is the perfect place to point out just how bad the Stars managed to be in the first two months of the season before eventually playing really well after the hole had been thoroughly and properly dug.
Goligoski sees the puck squirt to him off a faceoff, and Kablammo! He rips a shot destined for the-post-and-in, only to see it become buried in shin pads. Immediately he steps to corral the puck, but his thought process goes something like this: "Dag, yo, how'd he block that? Well, better grab the puck and throw it deep...huh, that puck didn't rebound quite as quickly as I thought it would, and you know what, that's Klingberg's subtle-yet-scintillating aura I sense, which must mean I've stepped too far into his side of the ice, and there goes the puck, oh no oh no oh no, well, at least it's the Oilers, so it's not like it's going to anyone good, righ--oh man, that Taylor Hall guy was a #1 overall pick, wasn't he? Well, I guess it's up to Kari to make a big sav--what is that huge guy from Tampa doing in our net?
EDM 5, DAL 3
Team: "Hey guys, let's give it to Seguin."
Seguin: "Thanks, dudes. Let's see, howza bout a skate here, and little shimmy there...pass to Daley, and, whoops, right back to me...okay, yeah, nothing here. Let's give it to another fantastic center. Spetz?"
Spezza: "You know, Jamie's pretty good. Only about four players to beat with this pass, so I'ma send it his way."
Benn: ".........so, I'm going to shoot, finally. Seems like someone probably should. This doesn't mean I have to give a speech or anything, right?" /scores from ridiculous angle
If that almost embarrassingly deliberate sequence doesn't bring back memories of all 87 points the captain scored last year, I can't really help you. But good grief, Charlie Brown--they were never doing anything else on this play, were they?
EDM 5, DAL 4
You know who had really good seasons last year? Goligoski, Klingberg, and Seguin. By no small coincidence, that's the same assemblage of characters that features heavily in this goal, and you can see what makes these types of players so coveted around the league. Effortless zone entry, D-to-D touch passing, no-look dishing, and a shot so quick that the goalie can't direct the rebound, leaving Seguin a golden second chance that he doesn't miss.
Seriously, watch the setup to that goal again. The puck gets turned over, and Goose/Klingberg/Seguin go into some kind of eyeballs-turned-completely-white state in which the puck will go where they choose, and the Oilers have all they can handle just watching the wizardry take place.
This is Dallas in the offensive zone. Dallas at their best. This is a team that has already surrendered five goals, and so it's probably time to start doing something about that. All else aside, that's a mission this team can execute.
EDM 5, DAL 5
Tyler Seguin scores, then he and Hemsky (who, I assume, did actually touch the puck at some point to earn the assist he got on this play) turn around and say something to the effect of:
When Seguin got sidelined late in the year, who kept the games theoretically meaningful for way longer than they ever should have been?
This play is Jamie Benn showing up, staying there, and refusing to leave until things have been done. This play also serves to, at long last, draw the Stars level at five goals with the team that would end up winning the draft lottery.
EDM 5, DAL 6 (SO)
You can watch all the shootout attempts here, if you want. But essentially, it opens with Spezza dangling himself out of room and Hall trying to five-hole Lindback again without result.
Then Seguin executes:
Then Lindback stops a Perron backhand, and of course, Jamie Benn tries the Jokinen A move without success, and Lindback can win the game with just one save.
Just one more save, right? Just one more save to win. Just a couple more minutes to beat Chicago. Just one more power play goal. Just that last, crucial shutdown shift. Just holding off the other team's empty-net attack. Just finishing, just getting there, just playing the last sliver of the game roughly as well as you played a much larger portion of the game. That is the Dallas Stars plea this day, and just as it does for so much of the year, it goes unanswered:
If I were a Victorian-era barmaid listening to you tell an inappropriate limerick, I would have the same reaction as I did watching this goal: that is, I would blush and yell, "You cheeky blighter!" before retreating back to my place behind the counter, because clearly you knew what you were doing this entire time, and I kind of admire it, even though it sucks.
Lindback is like 6-foot-6, right?
Okay, so the shootout goes to extra innings, because of course it does, and Daley and "what is a Matt Hendricks?" both fail to even threaten the netting. Hemsky then shows up, but he has clearly missed the Seguin/Peverley memo about what you are supposed to do when encountering your old team in the shootout. Hemsky makes some sweet moves, because it is 2014-15, and Hemsky fails to score, because it is 2014-15. The Oilers also fail to score on Lindback, the myriad options for goal-placement overloading RNH's memory circuits entirely. That brings up Noted Shootout Hero Vernon Fiddler, who has no time for your messin' around, man:
All right, Vern! Shows those kids a thing or two! That's how ya get down to business and salt the game away after people start getting too cute, am I right? Haha! Well, there you have it. Now we just need a save, so let's turn to Anders Lindback to lock this thing d--
Well, at least we know Lindback really is 6-6, because that was one enormously exploitable five hole that Purcell rediscovered there.
Jordie Benn--yes, the Stars really did go to Jordie Benn and Trevor Daley in the first 7 rounds of the shootout--would then step up and try casting petrificus totalis on Ben Scrivens, but Scrivens seems to have made an astute observation here: if the skater's stick is being gesticulated wildly at thigh-level, then he probably isn't about to shoot. Better keep tracking with him.
Finally, Marcobello fails to complete the fake hat trick, and Shawn Horcoff steps up to demonstrate what Ales Hemsky forgot: the universe loves to punish teams with their former players. Often, the universe will just be super uncool about it and just mess with you along the way:
Shawn Horcoff scored 11 goals last year, and now he's on the Ducks. Well, guess Dallas officially lost the Phillip Larsen trade.
Finally, Anders Lindback gets fed up with the whole thing and calls upon his hastily pseudonymed doppelganger, "Anton Lander," to shoot the puck right into his glove so everyone can go have a tasty, low-fat snack already. "Anton Lander" does not disappoint his buddy, and Lindback finally manages to win a game as a Stars backup, which is a feeling he hopefully really, really cherished right then, because he would only ever win one more game for the Stars. Live life like you're dying and all that.
Okay, so let's review how the game resembled the Stars' season at large:
-Gave up too much ground early, but had a great second half to make things interesting
-Ales Hemsky can't score because he has been cursed (probably by Pansy Parkinson, who has a fan-made video tribute for some reason I honestly can't figure out)
-Goaltending is a weird, ethereal concept that need not actually exist in practice for long stretches of time
-Backup goaltending only works when the other team finally gets bored and just stops trying to score on you
-The Stars can't win without putting the puck in the net eight times themselves
-They "win" (positive goal differential), but not nearly as decisively as this team should
-Benn and Seguin scored plenty, but the team, like magic dinosaur life, finds a way (to give the game right back)
-This was technically a victory, but just as the Stars' 92 points were an improvement from last season's total, nothing about this felt all that satisfying or reassuring. This team should have trounced the Oilers left and right, as the Oilers had won exactly one of their previous 18 games. Instead, it took a three-goal comeback and an eight-round shootout to beat a team with so many problems that Craig MacTavish was allowed to come down onto the bench and coach again.
-Seguin, Benn and Spezza are amazing to watch.
-Just like anything about last season, this game makes me want to fast-forward to October already. Is there a spell for that, Neville?