John Scott's discussion about "face punching" in the NHL at the Player's Tribune is convenient here for reasons that won't be obvious because it's about Scott "face punching"*:
My first few years in the NHL, it was so bad that I wouldn't sleep. I'd stay up all night on HockeyFights.com and YouTube, researching the tendencies of the next enforcer on the schedule. Steve Macintyre. Eric Godard. I could go on and on. You'd see these monsters on the schedule weeks in advance, and your mind would already start racing.
This is the job we sign up for. One day, my wife couldn't take it anymore, and she said, "John, you know those guys you're so worried about? They're probably sitting at home on their laptop right now, watching you beat somebody up. They have the same fear."
Replace Scott with Dallas, and Godard with Washington, and the message rings loud and clear. It's ok for fans to have this mindset. It's when the players have that mindset that you begin to worry. And thankfully for Stars fans, the Stars had their 'breakthrough'.
1. Let's Get Ready to Rumble-ish
The first period was definitely a pizza break affair. While there were prime chances, it was obvious at the outset that it was a feeling out round. You know why heavyweight fighting, be it in the world of boxing or the UFC or whatever, can be so lame? Because with great power comes great uncertainty. Nobody wants to be knocked out in the first round, so you don't lose your temper until it's time to lose your temper.
2. All Star Apprehension
Caps and Stars have 3 of the NHL’s top 4 goal scorers and 5 of the top 15 point producers. Naturally, nothing of interest has happened.— RMNB (@russianmachine) February 14, 2016
Gotta disagree with the good folks over at RMNB. Just because the goals weren't coming along doesn't mean the chances weren't. Even with both teams respecting one another, Dallas had 4 high danger scoring chances, including this sweet chance by Vernon Fiddler all alone in the low slot.
3. Subpoena the Vezina
Dallas would land the first big punch in the second period when Ales Hemsky did some masterful work intercepting a pass, threading the needle with his own un-interceptable pass, and finding Mattias Janmark for a successful 2 on 1. It was a great singular effort by Hemsky. By because I won't ever take a moment to gush about Janmark until he's playing with Benn, messing around in the line blender until Spezza's back, this play is a great example of how to properly execute a two on one.
It's also a great example of Janmark's spatial awareness in general. In a two on one, the player pressuring without the puck should never be parallel with the potential shooter. If he is, then the defending player has more angles to select from in which to cut off. Janmark lags behind ever so deftly, finishing off Hemsky's superb sequence.
Holtby would get perforated again when Patrick Eaves had a Jason Spezza moment and threw a no look backhand to Benn in the slot. The music wouldn't stop once Seguin got into dunk mode.
4. Tyler LaVine
when the server at Chipotle goes for the second scoop https://t.co/mGhmDiGAtb— Travis Yost (@travisyost) February 14, 2016
Seguin made it look easy long before Washington got into penalty trouble. All night Dallas' best players were executing tic tac toe passing in high danger areas. It was an impressive display that could have led to more goals if Holtby wasn't still Holtby. Despite getting chased, he made some solid saves, and even after the game, Trotz said pulling him had nothing to do with his play.
5. Third Circuit Appeals
Tom Wilson was this close to tying the game pic.twitter.com/eO1KucsZXf— Ian Oland (@ianoland) February 14, 2016
The Caps would bring the pain in the third. To be honest, nothing about Dallas' play was troublesome. They were going to weather a storm whether they wanted to or not. The Caps are just too good, and too talented. And bad officiating kickstarted to whole domino effect of unfortunate events. But the real worry was the play of Kari Lehtonen. Goals 2 and 3 were entirely stoppable. His habit of letting in consecutive goals, just mentally crumbling like clockwork made the game a more tense affair than it should have been. There's just no reason for a goalie of his size to look so small in net. Even the Caps announcers were criticizing him for going down so early. Sure, the 3rd goal was bad judgment more than bad technique, but for goalies, you can't ask how, you have to ask how many.
The Stars would hold on to their butts to win but not before a stream of bad news. Eakin would leave the game after getting smashed by Dmitri Orlov. I assume. And then Seguin would suffer a cut from a play eerily similar to the one Patrik Nemeth experienced in Philly last year. Thankfully, he would come back out for the Three Stars celebration, but even a superficial wound might be enough to sit Seguin for a game. I know I would.
With Eakin out, and Seguin possibly sitting for a game or two, I like the sound of Jason Dickinson running to the galleria hills. He plays center (which Dallas is slowly losing), left wing (of which there's minimal depth), and has been on an absolute monster run with 3 game winning goals this week in the AHL. There's no reason why Dallas couldn't break him in to replace Eakin, and hand him Patrick Sharp on his right, Antoine Roussel on his left for that veteran support. Just saying.
Not bad, Stars. The best part about this chart is that Sharp, Roussel, Faksa, and Eakin were getting their ice time evened up against Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Oshie. On to some stray observations:
- Once again, Patrik Nemeth is proving to be the spark that Dallas needs on the blueline. It's weird to see him activate more from the point, but that doesn't make it bad. His size helps him crash the corners, making him ideal to wreak havoc in the offensive zone and I assume that he communicates well because when he's doing it the forward always has him covered. In addition, he allowed the least amount of shots among Dallas' skaters when he was on the PK. 'A + kid'.
- Radek Faksa was once again solid, and has established himself as part of this team's core. He wasn't sheltered early on, when he took most of his shifts against the Marcus Johanssen line, along with logging ice time on the PK (where he was top four in shots allowed). And he certainly wasn't sheltered late, when he was asked to take faceoffs in the dying two minutes of the game when Alex Ovechkin and Friends were breathing down his neck.
- *Can we move on from this phrase, hockey media? It's always had this condescending tone that intends to dismiss the fighting element of hockey but instead dismisses the player just trying to make a damn living.
- Nashville on Monday. It would be nice to keep this modest winning streak rolling against a team that thinks it's so much better for trading Seth Jones.