However fleeting, the Dallas Stars are 1st in the Central. With a tough January behind them, and their recent winless skid, this doesn't have the feel of a first place team. Perhaps being privy to every idiosyncrasy makes the team seem worse than they are. Or perhaps they really are destined to crash and burn in the playoffs.
Or perhaps this team is really is in the middle somewhere; good, but flawed, and kind of overachieving right now. Whatever the case, they beat the Jets by the skin of their missing front teeth.
1. Corsi Caucus
Winnipeg should by most accounts, not be the walkover fans have come to expect. Not only did Dallas have a bad record against the Jets last year, they're a unique throwback team who chomp at the bit to play old school hockey that can be overwhelming for teams that aren't prepared for it. Dallas is a pretty good possession team, as you can see, but they're pretty good at making things difficult for themselves when it doesn't have to be.
2. Medium Nova
With Spezza up on the top line, we really do have a "middle six", not a clear 2nd & 3rd line.— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) February 24, 2016
Jason Spezza would open up the scoring with this gift wrapped scoring chance. There's not a whole lot to unpack here except to note that Ruff is back to overloading the top line with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Jason Spezza. I would be ok with this if Radek Faksa got to enjoy some time with Patrick Sharp on his right wing. Both guys are getting their chances yet seem weighted by their respective lines.
3. Nuke Roof'Em
Oh god, Val Nichushkin has learned how to elevate pucks?!? Watch out, rest of the NHL— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) February 24, 2016
Nuke will probably get his name bandied about pretty often around here as the trade deadline approaches, not because there's smoke (well, depends on your definition of smoke) but because he's often seen as the kind of trade piece Dallas can afford to lose if it nets them what they need. He's finding chemistry with Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky. They're a potent third line, all things considered. It's a big deal to see Val actually shoot above a goaiie's toenails, but only time will tell when it comes to actual shot improvement.
4. Polar Play
The tenth shorthanded goal allowed this season by the Stars matches the Arizona Coyotes for the most in the NHL.— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) February 24, 2016
Dallas let Winnipeg back into the game first by operating one of the most lazy, limp noodled, esophageal reflux diseased power plays in recent memory. Before Andrew Ladd scored short handed, Winnipeg managed two prime chances, one of which hit the post. Even Dallas fans would have felt unclean if the Jets didn't score shorthanded before they actually did.
5. Virgin Bogey
Last 2 games: Val snaps 19-game goal drought, Sharp breaks an 18-game one, and Sceviour ends one of 15 games. That's a lot of loose monkeys.— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) February 24, 2016
In the third period, not much would happen until Colton Sceviour shot a puck into a gaping net and ostensibly missed. Turns out, it was a good goal. So were the next three that would follow for both teams. Winnipeg couldn't keep their crosschecks to themselves and that turned out to be the difference; dumb, overaggressive penalties.
6. Murder Death Still
And with that, Dallas, Chicago, and St. Louis are officially neck and neck with one another. Make no mistake, the difference between first and second in the Central will be the difference between a first round loss, and advancing through the first round. As for the usual stray observations:
- Radek Faksa was brilliant tonight. He hit a post, and snagged several truly prime chances. The stats probably don't corroborate as much, but Vernon Fiddler always seems to have modest chemistry with rookies, at least in pockets. That line with Sceviour seemed to be getting a ton of chances. In a parallel universe, they probably score all of Dallas' five goals.
- The Cody Eakin / Patrick Sharp experiment needs to end. If you're scared of gruesome sports injuries then you won't want to click the picture of Eakin's teammates with or without him because it will haunt you. To a man, everyone gives up less shots without him than with him (Jason Demers is the lone exception, but he also shoots more without Eakin). If Ruff wants Sharp to get going production wise, breaking him away from Eakin is the answer.
- This was neither Jordie Benn's, nor Patrik Nemeth's best efforts. Both looked they had Tolstoy books for shin pads, plodding around like lord of the rings characters made of cracked bark and old root.
- Would you trade a first rounder and prospect like Devin Shore for Andrew Ladd? If you're Mattias Janmark, you'd want this to happen before Thursday, so this doesn't have to happen again.