Killing penalties at a 50% rate is not debilitating unless you're giving up a significant amount of penalties, and six would certainly qualify as that. Dallas got their one token power play early on, and then the Boston Cavalcade took over. It was disgusting, it sounded abhorrent, and the whole experience after the first period was frankly revolting. I do not wish to experience those last 40 minutes again, in person or from afar.
After two straight bad losses, Saturday night is being taken as indicative of something. A fundamental error must exist in the Dallas Process, it is thought, because this team has Looked Bad recently. I don't disagree with that sentiment, but once again, I have to look to the largest sample size we have for the present assemblage of players, and that is the season as a whole. It's been a wonderful season, really; it's been the best season in far, far too long. So forgive me if I don't let a couple losses after a long month cancel out 80 points in 60 games.
With 22 games left to play, the Stars can be average and still earn a non-wild card playoff spot. That's what I (and many others) hoped for this summer, and it is probably going to happen. That is great news, but I wouldn't blame anyone for spurning that bit of mild cheer in the face of the Stars' fall off since the first 20 games or so this year. They've stopped looking elite, and they've started looking quite flawed. Tonight, they capped a wild-but-successful 20 minutes with a cataclysmic conclusion. The Bruins suddenly got point shots into the net almost by accident, and Kari Lehtonen was so frustrated that he turned his nose up at covering the puck on a meaningless power play in the final minutes, choosing to let the clock roll instead of delaying the inevitable even more. I sympathized with him, frankly. This game look like three full hours, and it didn't even go into overtime. Four video reviews and endless whistles will do that, but I can hardly imagine a worse game to have elongated on a Saturday night.
It started well, of course. There were scoring chances aplenty for Dallas early on. Demers dented a post, Benn had a breakaway, and two great shifts by the Spezza/Janmark/Hemsky line almost generated a goal. Things were 0-0, but it felt like a fun Saturday night in the making, if not an assuredly successful one.
An aside: this game was picked up by NHL Network, and the Boston feed was broadcasted nationwide, which was great if you are one of the many, many Jack Edwards fans out there who has NHL Network. (If you use NHL.tv, then get outta here, the NHL more or less said.) The Tyler Seguin Questions were out in full force from the NESN team, and Jack Edwards was quick to accuse Jamie Benn of an elbow to the head of Jimmy Hayes halfway through the first with pretty much zero evidence other than "our guy fell over." I'm not sure why, given the choice, the NHL chose to broadcast one of the worst feeds in the league on the road (with a surely contracted camera crew) over one of the absolute best broadcasts in the game (I hear they've won awards), but then Boston has always had a bit more sway with the league than most other teams, haven't they? This has been an Unfounded Accusation. Thanks for reading.
Zac Rinaldo being Zac Rinaldo, a late and high hit drew a penalty on which the Stars failed to capitalize. Little did we know that the Stars' power play would have no further opportunities to do so. From there, the Bruins being the Bruins, John Klingberg was called for an iffy penalty upon which Boston did a lot, but not enough. Oh, for those wonderful days in which penalties could be killed off. Those were good times, Trevor. Good times.
Ales Hemsky would finally break through, because a game in which Jamie Benn and and John Klingberg couldn't score after getting in alone on Rask would of course feature Ales Hemsky scoring, right? Mark that nice Demers drop for a Hemsky goal upstairs down as the Most AHPoTG. Let me say that more plainly: Ales Hemsky scored a goal on Tukka Rask by shooting the puck through the legs of Joe Morrow. That must Mean Something, but I really don't have the faintest idea what.
The Most Groan-Inducing Play of the Game (I foolishly thought at the time) would follow shortly, when a 2-on-2 saw Brad Marchand find the puck off a saucer pass with Goligoski checking him, and the puck would follow him to the far side of the goal where Marchand was able to put a nearly blind backhand past Lehtonen. I'm not sure whether to put that goal in the "bad bounce" category or just blame whatever dark deity Marchand sold his soul to this season. You choose. (The correct answer is the more sordid one, as usual.)
Do you know what's more fun than a stoppage for a video review? How about four stoppages for video review!
1. An Oduya wrist shot from the blue line (after a nice Eakin faceoff win) was tipped by a hardworking Roussel busting to the crease, where he was able to tip the puck by Rask. The NHL called for a review of the tip to see if it was high, but it stood. Good goal!
2. Then Claude Julien challenged for goaltender interference because hahahahaha Claude, what are you even doing. Ddo you really think anyone knows how this works anymore? Come on. (The goal stood, but Roussel's skate did appear to hit Rask's body before he tipped the puck, so I really wouldn't have had a problem with that one coming back. But let's just call this karma, mmk?)
3. Then, 44 seconds later, Patrick Sharp got in behind the Boston defense, and things got all technical in a hurry. Sharp's shot was saved by Rask, but the puck was trickling toward the goal line before Rask managed to sweep it away. Unfortunately for Boston, Adam McQuaid was on the job. The Bruins defenseman signed through 2019 managed to heroically knock the net off while also kicking the puck back towards the goal line. The puck slid across the line after McQuaid and the net were long gone, but after a brief conference, the referees properly invoked rule
Rule about the dislodged nets was applied properly. Deliberate is not necessary: pic.twitter.com/E9mIJtLzWI— Erin (@ErinB_DBD) February 21, 2016
And that was just the first period. How about those Boston games, eh?
4. Loui Eriksson scored a goal. Hooray for Loui Eriksson! I remember when I was excited by such a prospect. Now, of course, it is bad when that happens, because it means good things for Boston, and they deserve nothing remotely beneficial.
Do you want to talk about the remaining cascade of goals-against in this game? There were five others. That is a lot of misfortune to document, and I suspect most of you won't even bother clicking on this piece in the first place, no matter how masochistic you're inclined to be.
Instead, let me offer some sundry musings on what took place in the final forty clicks tonight:
Kari Lehtonen deserved better, as our beloved commenter stephasaurusrexy mentioned in Brad's recap. He came up huge after Boston tied things up in a flash, denying Bruin after Bruin on grade-A chance surrendered by the Stars' erstwhile skaters. I'm sure he had to be a bit disgusted with the turn things had taken as the clock started ticking down, because certainly all the spectators were as well, and that's what a goalie becomes once the game gets out of hand. Lehtonen faced a boatload of high-grade chances tonight, and he did his best to stem the tide. But this game was about Lethonen as much as it was about Martin Mull, which is to say not at all.
Ales Hemsky got bumped up to the top line in the dying minutes of the period, but I don't think it matters much. Line or defense combinations were a footnote to a game that saw Boston throwing more pucks at the net and getting rewarded for it. The Stars simply failed to do the necessary things, and personnel just isn't where I look when that happens occasionally (as opposed to consistently).
We're officially in that final quarter of the season, and the Stars are going to wind up somewhere in the top three of the division, in all likelihood. Losses are bad, but the Stars just went on a fabulous road run in which they collected points from all of the important teams. That is good, and it means that bad things like Saturday aren't quite as bad as they otherwise could be. I do not suggest celebrating; I suggest simply modifying our reactions to the debacle that was this game against Boston. It was bad, but it is over. I think the second thing is more important than the first thing, all things considered.
Here is a consolation prize: Brad Marchand is the best thing about Boston this season. That is as pitiable a state of a franchise as I can imagine.