You don’t need anyone to break this one down for you. Frankly, there were enough breakdowns even before overtime to last quite a while, so we’ll spare ourselves the pain of retreading each little sequence that led to disaster/jubilation.
Scott Darling was really otherworldly tonight, and I’m not just talking about the nether galaxy that birthed Jordin Tootoo (whose personal journey is inspiring, but we’re talking about the hockey players here). The Stars had this game won in overtime, and through a combination of Eaves’s not elevating the puck and Darling’s leg going full Spring Man, this one lasted just long enough for one of the Hawks’ many top-notch players to shoot a puck while an already HHOF-worthy player screened Kari.
Darling robbed Tyler Seguin and Radek Faksa in the first, don’t forget. Most Stars fans have been reading this fact as, “Wow, the team’s BACKUP GOALER outplayed our STARTER.” Yes, that is true. Also true is that Darling went 3-1 in the playoffs in 2015 with a .936 Sv%. So, sure, “backup goalie,” but you all know Darling’s story. This isn’t Karri Ramo here.
Furthermore, the Dallas Stars scored three goals against the Blackhawks in Chicago. Considering that this team is icing six forwards* that probably aren’t on the healthy Dallas Stars in any universe, that is not too shabby. There were many things that could have gone better, but the best team in the West was one toe-save from losing to half of the Dallas Stars. That’s something to put in your diary and revisit over the summer.
*Patrik Nemeth the New Left Winger, of course, got two of the Stars’ best scoring chances. Does Jamie Oleksiak score on both of those and wind up a hero, changing his career’s fortunes? We may never know for sure.
Those two O-zone power plays were both closer to “naughty naughty, mustn’t do” than actual penalties, but the Stars managed to get through them. It was great to see the penalty kill weather those storms so solidly. The Stars won the special teams battle tonight 2-0, outchanced the home team, and got a goal from Tyler Seguin! That is a great recipe for success, so long as like half those chances aren’t going to players that your coworkers who don’t follow hockey unless the Stars are winning have never heard of.
That said, two of those chances (at least) went to Gemel Smith, and what a great moment that goal was. As Josh Bogorad said at the break, Smith was “never supposed to be here” given his position on the depth chart, but the Stars got a point out of tonight because a kid who no one really thought would factor into the Dallas team this year had a two-goal game. Those two goals were a shortie, and game-tying tip with time running out. Do you think Gemel Smith will ever have a bad dream for the rest of his life? I can’t imagine how.
Antoine Roussel getting busted for playing with a broken stick was such a perfect metaphor for this team right now. Yes, your stick is broken, and you know you aren’t really in a position to score. But what else can you do? All your instincts say to “try!” right now, so you try. And then you lose two games to Chicago in two nights. You knew that was likely, given the tools at hand, but still...it hurts.
Esa Lindell didn’t have a good night. His pass to Seguin just capped a sequence of ugly 4v4 play (that presaged the ugly 3v3 play we would see later), and Patrick Eaves was unable to get back in time to cover up for him. Some folks were saying Lindell looked lazy on that play, but I didn’t see lazy. I just saw a bad play and a player unable to catch up to Jonathan Toews (and one who also saw Eaves as closer than him for most of the chase).
And speaking of ineffective rookies for whom our expectations are occasionally too high: The Jamie Benn breakaway that was stopped by great backcheck/stick lift was itself fulfilled by Stephen Johns, who was unable to shut down Jonathan Toews (whoever he is) while Oduya dove on the ice instead of staying with his man, Anisimov, who then deposited the puck into the net. Oduya read the play as a 2-on-1 because Johns got mostly beaten, but Oduya would have been better off sticking with his man. This is easy to say when you are not playing the game and reacting to everything.
Okay, let’s just say it: Valeri Nichushkin would be playing like 20 minutes a night if he were still here, and that’s a little ironic. Well, okay, actually Nichushkin would probably have a debilitating case of acid reflux or something by now just because he would be a forward on the Dallas Stars, but we can theorize, at least. Do we want to call these injuries the curse of Nichushkin yet, or is that too early? It is probably too early.
Overtime started with these three players: Faksa/Oduya/Klingberg. YOu might not have guessed this would happen, but the Blackhawks had the puck pretty much the entirety of that shift. It was a great time to say, “Hey, Ruff, what are you doing, man?” Or it would have been, if Oduya hadn’t drawn a tripping call. Come on, guys. Be sensitive to our judgmental natures for once, would you?
The 4v3 power play was way too deliberate (and don’t even get me started on the second unit’s absolute befuddlement when it came to who was authorized to shoot the puck), but the unit’s skill eventually generated the high-grade chance you’ve come to expect from the Dallas Stars.
Ah, the Dallas Stars. The team of AHLers playing above expectations while the fans’ expectations lie in rubble in a lonely infirmary. The team of special teams incompetence that scored a power play and and shorthanded goal in the same game. The team that had the puck on the relatively healthy Patrick Eaves’s stick with an open net in overtime. The Dallas Stars are the team that generates chances and saves the game with a minute left, only to have the game saved right back from them because 2016.
“How did the game go?”
“Gemel Smith scored two goals. Adam Cracknell is still tied with Jamie Benn for goal-scoring. And after the Hawks’ backup robbed Eaves on a glorious chance, a shot from the point in the dying moments of overtime beat Kari Lehtonen, who had a Hawk on his lap.”
The Dallas Stars are not scoring goals, but tonight, they scored some. Normally, you’d say three goals against Chicago on the road is fine. Normally, you’d say getting 1 point on the road is great. Tonight, neither of them felt like anywhere near enough. Tonight, the Dallas Stars were stretched beyond what you could reasonably expect them to sustain. The only problem was that Scott Darling stretched even further.