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Game 26 Afterwords: Kari Finds Year’s First Shutout in the Unlikeliest of Places

This season is upside-down.

Dallas Stars v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Stars, if I have not been lied to, haven’t had a shutout in Pepsi Center since I was actually pretending to enjoy Pepsi. That would be the last successful season for Marty Turco, and certainly many folks are hoping this season can at least be redeemed into a 2008-ish level of success at this point.

Adam Cracknell and Curtis McKenzie are not game-breaking players, but tonight, they did their job. McKenzie scored a lucky goal after a bad rebound by Varlamov and worse defense by Colorado, and Adam Cracknell kept the lowest line moving in the right direction. Tonight was one of Cracknell’s better games he’s had this year, even though he didn’t score. Remember when he was going to be the token 14th forward that would probably be making AHL money most of the year? Well, at least Adam is benefiting from this season. He’s not a prototypical Stars forward, but I’ve really liked his game on the 4th line, and I don’t see him going anywhere unless the forwards get shaken up pretty seriously.

Erik Johnson’s leg was broken by Tyler Seguin on the power play, and Johnson played another 45 seconds or so before limping off the ice. Can you play ice hockey right now? Can you play ice hockey with a fractured fibula? Erik Johnson did, perhaps inadvisably.

Tyler Seguin’s harder shot, of course, missed every Avalanche. That shot was something else. It’s good to see elite players playing like elite players. Even though Seguin hasn’t scored an even-strength goal in a good long while (and neither have Benn or Spezza, to my memory), he’s been doing good things. Appreciate Tyler Seguin, please. He had some enormously fantastic plays tonight (including a jaw-dropping pass in his own zone to start the breakout that Craig Ludwig did well to point out). He looked like Nathan MacKinnon looked in the last meeting between these clubs. That’s high praise.

Cody Eakin was fairly quickly moved off the first line down to centering Korpikoski and Ritchie. It’s all about getting the top line going at this point, and given that Eakin again had a game in which his two-way game didn’t seem to be helping the game game, I think you have to keep Eaves up top with 14 and 91. Things fit better that way, at least right now.

Spezza, meanwhile, continues to struggle to score, but again, he’s far from the only one. Beside Faksa and opposite Roussel, Spezza should make that line even better than last year’s with Hemsky. It pains me to think of a $7.5 million center playing right wing opposite two very much not scoring-type players, but what else can you really do right now? Spezza did clang a post on a 2-on-1, so his hands are still there even if his fortune isn’t, yet. I miss so many of the Stars being Dallas Stars, this year.

The game itself was really a matter of one sloppy play by Varlamov and Dallas converting one of their power plays. Given that this is a bad team who has now lost like five straight at home or something, Dallas had to beat them. They did. Normally, you’d offer a wry smile and then bemoan the 10-10-6 record (it is pretty ugly, after all). Tonight, you just have to be happy with whatever you get. It’s that sort of season, so far.

Kari, meanwhile, played brilliantly. Goaltending matters, and the Avs had the one glaring mistake in goal tonight, while Kari stopped Iginla’s shot from the slot at the end of a period after another Eakin overskate (sorry) and a Duchene chance that was created by, well, you know. In any case, Lehtonen did what you need your goalie to do sometimes, and that is to come up with some big saves in a tight game.

Hooray for the power play and the penalty kill! Hooray for the defense mostly defending! Hooray for winning one of these road games! Those were three cheers.

This game was pretty straightforward, and it went well enough. Meanwhile, the Coyotes lost a shootout after Mike Smith made 58 saves. So, I guess I’m saying it could be worse. At least this team has the decency not to lose in the shootout. Undefeated! That is one way you could phrase it.

Dallas will have two days of rest (sweet rest) before facing Calgary at home. They have work to do to make this season back into a decent one, but as a wise person once said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single shutout of the snowfolk in their dumb cola barn.