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Game 48 Afterwords: Stars Knock Oilers Down, Jokipakka Kicks Them Twice*

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The Oilers are a bad hockey team. The Stars have been playing badly. Tonight, the Oilers were worse.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Let's go ahead and lead with the image that best encapsulates what the Stars did tonight:

Right in the ol' wedding vegetables, and yes, I have video of the Oilers' feed:

Okay, anyway.  This game was a high-event start that aged both coaches twenty years before as many minutes had elapsed.  Luckily for the Stars, Spezza got the better of Cam "Three More Years!" Talbot with a gift of a chance after OilerSoccer took over in front of the net. Did Dallas deserve any of the three goals they scored?  Well, yes, insofar as they outplayed Edmonton for vast swaths of the game.

The Oilers lost defenseman Brandon Davidson midway through the game, so you would hope the Stars would be able to take advantage.  Sure enough, three goals were scored almost right after Davidson disappeared, and even though one of those was Edmonton's, the game had gotten interesting again.

Here is a hockey observation: Early in the contest, Esa Lindell took a hit as he held the puck along the boards.  He then continued up the boards to exit the zone.  He is large and not bad at all, and I enjoyed watching him play tonight.

On the other side of the "What have you done for me lately" spectrum, John Klingberg had another rush chance on a feed from Seguin, but he couldn't finish the opportunity.  These were automatic for him last season, so part of it is just the fact that his shooting percentage was absurdly high earlier in his season (and career), and part of it is that teams are attacking him more.  Still, I love John Klingberg, and I'd recommend your taking a similar course of action.  He'll be fine.  Justin Schultz is the dark world version of Klingberg, and that timeline has been thoroughly cauterized by now.

We have to talk about how the Janmark/Hemsky/Roussel line was still holding the puck a ton.  The Stars' top line actually showed up and dominated Edmonton as they ought to, but the Janmark-centered Line O' Goodtimes got the second biggest chunk of ice time.  I have no clue why Roussel was the secret sauce (and really, I don't think he is), but this experiment needs to continue for the sake of hockey lasciviousness.  In fact, you may not know it, but Hemsky and Janmark are the Stars' best possession pairing this season, and it's not particularly close:

If they weren't all righties, I'd hop behind my Pulpit of Armchair Coaching Sanctimony and lobby for a 13-90-83 line right this second. (Edit: Wait a minute, they aren't--Janmark is a lefty!  Huzzah!) I don't even care what the third line looks like after that, because they'd start 114% of their shifts in the offensive zone after that squad did their work.  (Actually, I don't really care about what the numbers say so much as I just want to keep watching Janmark and Hemsky skate the puck into the zone until the sun collapses into itself and our existence on this earth is no more.  Go on, give me a better option; I dare you.)

Once again, I want to speak of Esa Lindell, who had a beautiful chance after letting a blocker slide harmlessly past him. Talbot got a piece of his shot, but the kid has smarts and spunk, and I am okay with that.  The kid's going back down when Jordie Benn is healthy again unless the Stars make a move, but it's always nice to have gotten a taste of the future and not be disappointed.  You can see Lindell running point on a power play in the not-too-distant future, right?  He knows what to do with the puck, and his positioning will only get better as he acclimates to the NHL.  I am very optimistic about Esa Lindell.

Alas, Ales Hemsky's desire to skate his former team into the pipes below the ice ran afoul of the NHL's new effort to make the game more fun by stopping it in order to watch the puck cross the blue line from twelve different angles before canceling a goal. Sure, it was great when the Stars were nailing other teams for doing it, but to have as gorgeous as goal as Jokipakka may ever score recalled because Hemsky's skate was an inch above the blue line was just downright awful.  In a clear effort to redeem himself, Hemsky would draw a power play later in the period, though the Stars for some reason didn't have Jokipakka running point, and therefore did not score.

Nonetheless, Jamie Benn would silence critics of his recent physicality (or lack thereof) by throwing a few decent bumps before collecting his blocked pass and dinging the inside (finally) of the post for a goal.  If you are going to score goals against the Oilers, you have to just assume they will not be career highlights, no offense to Mark Fayne's valiant whatever that was or anything.  This team messes with the fabric of the hockey universe, and we saw what happened when Jokipakka tried to pretty things up.  The hockey universe will not stand for pretty, and it will retroactively force players' skates off the ice in order to maintain balance of hockey aesthetics.  Thank goodness Jamie Benn knew better than to try for pretty on his second chance.

Speaking of esoteric balance, the Oilers had earlier received a power play because Sceviour's skate was penalized for existing in our dimensional plane.  Thankfully, the Stars would proceed to execute their most effective penalty kill of the last few games, holding the Oilers to nothing but a measly three or four scoring chances and a couple of shots off the meaty part of the post.  It's possible that Dallas is just employing the old "surprise them by giving up more shots on the kill" stratagem, but I didn't think it was sustainable then, and I really didn't think it was sustainable after the Oilers scored on their next power play.  That was when Teddy Purcell proceeded to dent the post once again before he finally waltzed into the high slot and found the top corner past a maze of bodies.  Admit it: if Kari was in net for that goal, you would have blamed him, wouldn't you?  Shame on you.

Between those Edmonton chances, Dallas once again had a chance to prove that they can score on the power play if they feel like it, so help them, but Hemsky created the only great chance , and Talbot stopped the Demers one-timer from in tight.  Hemsky with confidence is delightful to watch, in case I haven't said Ales Hemsky's name enough yet.  Ales Hemsky Ales Hemsky Ales Hemsky Ales Hemsky Ales Hemsky.

Late in the game, Esa Lindell then got his first taste of helplessness at the NHL level since that time earlier in the day when he watched video of the penalty kill. A broken stick and a failed clear of the zone led to a bad-angle chance, and Antti Niemi got Spezza'd by Nail Yakupov.  It was not Niemi's best night, but it would be, say it with me, "good enough."

Then, before you got too despondent about the state of the Stars' PK, Jyrki Jokipakka cashed his rain check with the help of Benoit Pouliot's stick.  If you still don't believe in hockey gods after that play, then I don't know what to tell you.  Maybe I would tell you something like, "stop sacrificing small animals to that bronze image of Benoit Pouliot, you weirdo."  But whatever agency put Pouliot's stick where it did, the Stars were more than willing to take a "real" goal.  Though I again hasten to add that we are talking about the Edmonton Oilers here.  (Also, it just figures that on the night Esa Lindell is put on Jokipakka's pair, the other Finnish defensemen scores twice, right?)

The Stars' third PK finally managed to seal some leaks, although Niemi still had to deny the Oilers on a high-grade rebound chance in tight. Is that improvement, or just some Oilers futility?  I don't know the answer, but I certainly hope James Patrick & Co. do.  This team needs some penalty kills during their current goal drought (for the Stars, three goals is a drought).

Lastly, I did notice John Klingberg back on top power play, and the Stars did dent two more posts on their mid-third period chance as well.  Maybe that is improvement, but as with the penalty kill, I just don't know yet.  Dallas has lots of deadly materials in their hockey warehouse, but they haven't been weaponizing them very well this calendar year.  Perhaps the Golden Gun of Hemsky, Roussel and Janmark that's been cobbled together can lead the way into a glorious new year.  Or, perhaps they just played the Oilers and won by a goal.  You can certainly look at it that way.  But for Dallas, they are looking at only one number, and that is the number "30" next to the win column.  That's more like it.