- Jason Spezza killing penalties is awesome. I’ll do a post on how this all happened sometime, but for now, I’m just really pleased that this is working. If we can’t watch Ales Hemsky play goalie in my fantasy universe, this is the next best thing.
- I also couldn’t help but notice the contrast between Spezza and Benn’s breakaways. Spezza, for one, made his own after roasting Vrbata 1-on-1. Then Spezza made a strong move and roofed it against the grain to beat Mike Smith. Jamie Benn, meanwhile, with far more time and space, tried a weak five-hole move that didn’t work for me when I was playing rec hockey either. The broadcast tried to emphasize how Benn was “out of gas” at that point, but that was not a tired Jamie Benn on a wide-open breakaway. That was a misfiring Jamie Benn who doesn’t trust his shot right now. Why he doesn’t trust it continues to be the biggest issue of the season as far as I’m concerned.
- Jamie Benn’s power play goal was the picture of chagrin. They say goals can get players going, but if it’s possible for them to do the opposite, that may have happened. Benn couldn’t catch the hard shot with his stick, but thanks to his and Smith’s skates, the puck found the net anyway. Again, this is not Optimal Jamie Benn, but lucky goals are still, as they say, good goals.
- Esa Lindell in the offensive zone is a wonderful sight. I don’t know that he’s the partner for Klingberg, long-term—Johns would more seem to fit that bill—but just giving Klingberg any kind of stability right now is a good thing, and it seems to be showing in his improved play as of late. If your top defensive pairing can at least be decent against a terrible Coyotes team, then you are doing one thing right, at least.
- Stephen Johns sat, and Jordie Benn took over on the second power play in favor of Esa Lindell again. I’m not really in favor of either of these decisions, but whom do you scratch for Johns right now? Jordie Benn is still playing fine 5v5 hockey, and Oduya probably needs to keep playing if he’s going to be traded away for something of value (which does make a fair amount of sense, all things considered). Johns’s potential is miles ahead of Jordie Benn’s, but against teams like Arizona or Colorado this week, I can’t get too bent out of shape about defensive usage on the lower pairings or the lost cause that is the second power play this season. You should paste those teams anyway.
- The second power play has one goal to its name this season from what I’ve counted. I know you don’t need the second power play to be all that amazing when you have a top unit like Dallas does, but how have they not stumbled into more goals? If Adam Cracknell and Lauri Korpikoski can be scoring goals at 5v5, the second-tier Stars have very little excuse. Gemel Smith has outscored the Stars’ second power play through (almost) December. This is not really excusable. Last year’s second unit had around 10, though, so it’s not like this will sink their season. At least, it wouldn’t if they were winning enough to have something of a margin left.
- Kari Lehtonen played well again. He had a really unnecessary rebound at one point that didn’t turn into anything, and he lost sight of the puck that eventually got stuffed in. But I really don’t care about a penalty shot goal with six seconds left in a two-goal game, and considering how great Kari has historically been on those, it’s immaterial. Hooray for Kari.
- And hooray for the Stars, beating one of the worst teams in hockey by scoring two goals and an empty-netter. You need to win these, and they did that. And now they get to face another dreadful team back at home to start their first actual winning streak of the season. How confident do you feel about that happening?
- And we ought to underline it again: the Stars’ offense needs to get going. Yes, better defense and goaltending are great, but Kari had to make a marvelous blocker save against a Coyotes team that did manage to pile up some shots against them just to prevent overtime. That’s not good enough.
- Radek Faksa enraging Mike Smith is a pretty good encapsulation of where the Stars were and where they are going. I will always have a fondness for Smitty, but the Stars needed to become someone else, and they’re almost there. That isn’t a great lesson for insecure kids, but it’s exactly what the doctor ordered for these guys.
Game 36 Afterwords: Jason Spezza Literally Scores a Shorthanded Goal, and a Few Other Things
Hooray for beating bad teams!