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Game 29 Afterwords: The Stars’ Response after a Win—There Is No Response

Dallas couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities today. Philadelphia did.

Calgary Flames v Dallas Stars
“The New Dallas Stars Top Line”
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Day games are weird. Morning games are weirder. This game started at 10am Pacific, which meant I got to start watching it with a cup of coffee in hand. That’s a luxury normally reserved for football, the Annual Chicago Blackhawks New Year’s Day Game, and Olympic sports. So, a Stars game in PJs is a treat, if an unusual one.

More unusual was the opportunity to see the home team wearing light-colored jerseys/sweaters. Philly went with some gold-numbered 50th anniversary jobbies or something, which meant that Dallas got to rock the Victory Green on the road. I’m solidly in the camp that thinks road uniforms ought to be the colorful ones as well, by the way. Incidentally, if the Stars had chosen to recognize their own 50th anniversary as a franchise this season (I know, I know), it would have been fun to see what they might have come up with. Yellow, black and victory green seems not offensively ripe with potential.

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When Lindy Ruff scratched Cody Eakin on Thursday, he mentioned to reporters that he didn’t care as much about the scratch itself as he did about Eakin’s response to the scratch. So, with that in mind, it was a little unfortunate that the first thing Eakin did of note Saturday was cough up a puck right to Wayne Simmonds in front of the net. It was also unfortunate that the last thing of note Eakin did was fumble a puck along the wall during the penalty kill—Eakin appeared to be trying to rag the puck back instead of just eating it or dumping it deep—that led to the Flyers entering the Stars’ zone with numbers and scoring the game-winner.

Some of it was bad luck, of course, because this is the Dallas Stars in 2016. Bad Luck is kind of their Thing. Like, how Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin both got wonderful chances from the slot that they couldn’t cash in. Or how Radek Faksa hit the post shorthanded late in the third instead of giving the Stars a 3-1 lead. Things did not fall their way.

Think of it this way: Kari Lehtonen stopped almost everything the Flyers could throw at him (including a nice glove recovery on Provorov on, guess what, the penalty kill) and the Stars still couldn’t win, because of three tipped point shots (the last of which ticked to Schenn accidentally, of course).

The underlying story of this game is penalties, because Dallas actually outplayed (and outscored) Philly 5v5. Dallas really didn’t play a bad game, but their penalty kill couldn’t find a way to deal with the Flyers’ power play and their power play couldn’t find a way to do anything. Thus, two tip-ins and a third fortunate puck that fell to Brayden Schenn were all the Flyers needed. That the Stars only scored two goals in this game is, again, a sign of the times. These are not last year’s Dallas Stars.

There were a ton of penalties, and some of them were not great calls! There were also some penalties that were not called, and some of them could have been! All-in-all, the distribution of both felt fairly even, and while the Stars’ second goal did come right after the expiration of a power play, you are not going to win many games when you give up three power play goals on the road without scoring any yourself.

Antoine Roussel had a glorious chance on a break (off a smooth Kari Lehtonen stretch pass) that Steve Mason stopped, and Roussel also fed Faksa, as we mentioned. Roussel racked up 15 PIMs while reminding us that Clipping is, in fact, a real penalty, and he and Faksa looked like they had downloaded every cheat code they needed to beat the Flyers’ power play. Roussel had a great game, again, is what I’m saying.

Jamie Oleksiak had less of a great game; “mixed” is the fairest word that comes to mind. Oleksiak had a couple of nice plays in his own zone (and even a chance that didn’t settle for him when he pinched in the offensive zone with the top line), but he was also in the box for two power play goals against, and he pretty clearly failed to tie up Schenn on the hat trick biscuit while watching the puck. Again, this isn’t to say everything is his fault any more than to say it was Eakin’s; it was just that kind of a game.

Devin Shore, however, had himself quite a night. Shore doubled his goal total for the season with two tallies near the netmouth while also managing to be a (barely) positive player in terms of shot-differential. The Stars’ fourth line is scoring a lot of goals, at least! Hooray for Devin Shore, who I am told is just a very pleasant person to be around. If you don’t have holiday plans, might be a good alternative. (This is not an official recommendation.)

Jordie Benn also drew back into the lineup, and he acquitted himself a little bit better than did his fellow scratchee. Benn took the 2PP reins back from Lindell, but his best play was probably a perfectly timed block on a 2v1/3v1/4v1 (depending on whom you ask) Flyers rush. You remember those sorts of plays. Jordie is a great third-pairing defenseman sometimes, and today was one of those times.

Dan Hamhuis, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a beat since Honka’s unfortunate injury (which looks to me and many others like a sprained wrist). Hamhuis has quietly begun looking like the player many hoped he could be upon his signing—he paced the entire team in shot differential Saturday and it wasn’t close—and if that keeps up when Honka gets healthy, the defense could really start to look great. If the defense could also start scoring, like, a lot at even strength to pick up the slack of the top six, that would also be great.

John Klingberg, while still having some miscues, has also started looking like a starship commander who has finally begun to familiarize himself with the control panel. If you want an armchair observation, then I’ll just say that Klingberg looks like someone finally regaining confidence in his ability to beat one person, but who is still unsure about what to do right after that. If Klingberg can take advantage of the time and space he creates more decisively (and this really, really feels inexpert), then we might start to enjoy John Klingberg with the fervor that he deserves, again.

Jamie Benn drew a penalty with a great individual effort. I remember that happening before! The power play did not score a goal tonight. I also remember that happening before! This game was simultaneously familiar and surprising, but the biggest surprise ended up being just how familiar the result was.