At this point, I might as well copy and paste whatever stream of consciousness reflections about the nature of slumping I've written in the last several recaps. I doubt anyone would notice.
Dallas continues to slump. The caveat that always follows is "well at least they've picked the right time to slump". I've probably even used it before. But this is nonsense. There's a difference between getting unlucky, and allowing bad habits to make one unprepared to take advantage of luck. Hopefully any semblance of disdain for their recent play isn't obvious, because that's not my intention.
Does that mean I don't want to Chun Li my television set through the wall? Of course not. But my intention is to emphasize that Dallas needs to reflect on how quickly bad plays can turn into bad philosophy. They're teetering on that ledge, and for sure, there are individual and collective plays that break the envelope of puck penmanship. But being 3rd in the league means the benefit of the doubt still exists, even if that benefit is quickly looking like a detriment.
1. Five Second Rules and Ghouls
Mid-afternoon goal differential graphic pic.twitter.com/SgPou4CZ4E— CAPITALS HILL (@CapitalsHill) January 16, 2016
The first period was pretty amusing. Like watching a Lloyd Kaufman film, it was one part scathing inertia, and one part gruesome excess.
Every chance from San Jose seemed to come right in Antti Niemi's grill. Dallas made lazy poke checks (or none at all), and couldn't even manage a proper collapse in their own zone. It's impossible to understate just how bad it all was. Niemi was putting on a hell of a show in goal, however, which is why San Jose couldn't convert.
2. We Need to Talk About Matty
Janmark just skated around the entire offensive zone behind the net to recover his own bad pass. Wow.— Josh Lile (@JoshL1220) January 17, 2016
Dallas broke through first, with a good goal by Ales Hemsky, but a truly brilliant effort by Mattias Janmark. In case you didn't know, Janmark is a full percentage point above the rest of Dallas' skaters in CF % at 56.4 of 5 on 5 play. Thank you Erik Cole. Thank for playing good enough at your age to cost Detroit this wonderful Swedish unknown.
3. Slump Effects
Marc-Edouard Vlasic would tie the game up pretty quickly in the second. Even Eakin's staunchest defenders have to admit that he done goofed here. A bad handling of the puck by Eakin turned into a giveaway. Then as Cody got back into the zone, instead of defending the pass, he tries to double team Johnny Oduya's man (Hertl) with a hit against the half wall for lord knows what. This allows Joe Thornton to enter the zone with ridiculous ease, who quickly passes it to a wide open Vlasic in the slot. Unfortunately the nightmare wasn't over.
4. Talking About Defense Can Wait, Apparently
Tierney goal pic.twitter.com/VZWzdNHhOv— Stephanie (@myregularface) January 17, 2016
Not soon after, Goligoski would get called for playing hockey (?). On the ensuing power play, the above would happen. I know there are some critics who really believe this is basically all Ruff's fault. But here's a great example of what isn't his fault. Defense is always trickier during a PP because one man is always open. But here, Nemeth not only can't clear the puck with it directly on his stick, but Cody Eakin tries to help him out (?), which doesn't help out Niemi who now has to contend with Chris Tierney getting a golden opportunity because Eakin's back is facing the shooter. That's not a failure of strategy. That's a failure of neurology. Jamie Benn could have done more here, but he can't sacrifice the point (just in case) so readily, so I can't blame him too much.
5. One of These Things is Not Like the Other
Third period "Ruffled" lines: Benn-Seguin-Spezza Nichushkin-Eakin-Sharp Roussel-Janmark-Hemsky Moen-Fiddler-Sceviour— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) January 17, 2016
The third period for Dallas was some of their finer work. They limited the heck out of San Jose, and kept the pressure on. Jason Spezza continues to net points with or without Seguin and Benn, but they don't exactly anchor him either.
Cody Eakin was weirdly passive on Vlasic during that last sequence. Vlasic walked right by him to start that..— Travis Yost (@travisyost) January 17, 2016
No, I don't have it out for Eakin. He just happened to have a really bad game (worst shot attempt differential of any forward with more than ten minutes of ice time), and his game just happened to be a microcosm of Dallas' defensive breakdowns. That last goal was as much on Patrick Sharp and Jason Demers as it was on Eakin.
- If the "supernova line" is back, I'd be interested in seeing Mattias Janmark centering the second line with Patrick Sharp on his left wing, and Hemsky on his right. Sharp is effective on his off wing, and Janmark and Hemsky both seem to have decent chemistry. Ruff hasn't tried it, so he might as well, right? Janmark is quickly turning into an actual premier player. It's his rookie year, and he's on pace for 20+ goals with nary a crutch. You never know.
- Not only has Dallas been figured out at 3 on 3, but they appear to be adopting the bad habits of other teams. Other than Seguin and Klingberg almost having a magic moment thanks to a great individual effort by Benn to beat two Sharks, that last shift looked like what other teams have been trying to do; get it to the shootout. Probably not a good idea.
- Fortunately or unfortunately for Dallas, LA blew a two goal lead in the third period against Ottawa, so they'll be facing an angry team at Staples Center. That will either make LA unhinged and play silly, or focused, and make Dallas look silly. I'm not so confident when I have to think about Kopitar versus Dallas' blueline.