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Game 25 Afterwords: So Close and Yet So Stars

It was a really fun game aside from the whole “what happened” thing.

Dallas Stars v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

No one likes re-living losses. I’m getting tired of re-living them, or at least doing what seems like re-living them. There have been a lot of losses this season, comparatively.

Last season, the Stars began things with Antti Niemi pitching a shutout against the Penguins. 3-0, I think it was, and it was fun. Remember those fun victories against the Penguins? There was also that great one where Sidney Crosby took a late penalty, and the Stars scored a “stick-it-to-ya” goal on the power play to win it. That was fun, too. That was really fun.

This game was fun, but not in the same way. It was fun in the way that eating at McDonald’s can be fun, because hey! Someone else made you a meal! It’s hot and fresh and tasty! How about that? And look at that free refill you just got, and those fun little ketchup cup things you can pull apart to hold a whole mess o’ ketchup if you want. Who wouldn’t want to eat here, right?

This game had bright colors (yellow and green!) and plenty of caffeine, too. It was a fast, “pacy” (I loathe this word a lot) game, and even though Niemi made a couple of “keep them in it” saves, you felt good about this one for most of the contest. Even with Dallas trailing, I just sorta felt like they were going to tie it up and make me late for the symphony tonight. Alas, with no overtime demanding my attention, I arrived five minutes early for The Dream of Gerontius.

Let’s go over the goals that mattered, at least. On the first one, there was a scramble up high in the zone, Eakin came over to help, didn’t help, and then Ian Cole fired a long shot that glanced off Oleksiak’s leg just perfectly enough to beat a stricken Niemi.

Taking a screenshot makes me angry, but I did it anyway, because I really would like Cody Eakin to start scoring more one-timers or overtime goals or just anything to help me forget about his occasional defensive zone meanderings. Here, he sort of wafts over to help pressure the puck, but Phil Kessel is hardly troubled, and is able to then feed Cole for the goal.

Yes, it’s an unfair representation. Yes, I’m cherry picking. No, I have no idea why Eakin didn’t stop on that puck or take the body or do literally anything. It’s a play that happens a lot, but I just notice it more with Eakin because of confirmation bias. Phew, honesty feels good. Let’s move on.

The Stephen Johns goal-that-wasn’t-to-be was in the same vein as those Oleksiak tallies the other night in that it made an unfortunate game almost worth it. I mean, that shot of like 200 people cheering for Johns was just special. I’m smiling a little just thinking about it now.

The other positive thing about that Shore goal is that it was a positive Corsi event for Devin Shore, so at least those are possible things for him, it turns out. Good to know.

Patric Hornqvist scored a 5-on-3 goal from Malkin and Crosby. I’m still not used to how productive this guy has been on the Penguins. Is this the ideal sort of Cody Eakin scenario? I’d be fine with that. I’d also have been fine with Jordie Benn not turning back into the Jordie Benn so many fans want to think he is, but it appears he’s back to his old tricks what with sending objects out of play in improbable ways and scoring into his own net in the flukiest of ways. Honestly, it’s kind of funny. Well, no, it’s not, but maybe it will be one day.

The Stars really seemed to have the Pens marginally contained for much of this game (although the Pens had far more high-grade chances than the Stars). The unfortunate thing was that Dallas watched a team that knows how to score with the two-man advantage score with the two-man advantage, and oh yeah, also Sidney Crosby scoring off Niemi’s back, ha ha, what a chucklebucket, eh? Who does that!

Hot take: Crosby’s extra-flat stickblade enables him to whack pucks out of the air with more precision. It’s the same thing that gives him a more lethal backhand. Does anyone know how to make that NBC “More You Know” gif thing appear automatically?

Tyler Seguin scored a goal, though. Should I have let with this? Certainly a Seguin goal is more newsworthy (first in almost a whole month) than a Stars loss (not the first, not even close to being the first). And it was a beautiful goal, too. That was fun, huh? I like watching Seguin score Stamkosian goals to tie things up.

Things were dumb later, and John Klingberg failed to defend a 3-on-1 against Sidney Crosby because oh yeah, turns out Sidney Crosby had an inordinately amazing game tonight. Crosby had nine—NINE—scoring chances created for Pittsburgh while he was on the ice tonight, while the Stars generated nothing while Crosby was out there 5v5. That’s a top center, I think. Also a top player of everything. Still, the Stars had their share of first-rounders out there tonight as well, don’t forget. In fact, Dallas had three second-overall picks on their bench tonight! Only two of them scored a point, though. And they didn’t score enough.

We’re going to keep looking for the breaking point. The “plant your flag” moment where you get to say, “this isn’t going to happen” so that you can get some satisfaction when things don’t improve. Conversely, you can stay hopeful, and then gloat about how you never gave up if things improve.

What will actually happen, though? I sure don’t know. But unless someone else takes control of the hockey karma command console, I don’t know that I’d be betting on these Dallas Stars to win 16 straight games starting in mid April this year. There’s some high-level hockey insight for you.