The Dallas Stars took a difficult situation and turned it into perhaps the finest victory of the season so far. With a grocery list of recent troubles, including four top players sidelined for crucial, back-to-back divisional battles, the team still found a way not just to beat but to dominate the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Friday night.
Mike Heika writes that the Stars truly made lemonade out of a sack of lemons:
Not only are the Blackhawks (41-22-6, 88 points) the defending Stanley Cup champions, they are standing in the way of the top seed in the Central Division playoffs, and their fans filled AAC with red sweaters and annoying chants. So with Dallas missing four key players to injury, even the most ardent Stars fan had to have some doubt in a head-to-head match.
But the Stars (41-20-8, 90 points) were dominant. Ruff juggled every line, and that appeared to help shake Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin out of deep slumps. Benn and Seguin each had a goal and an assist, while Jason Spezza stretched his goal-scoring streak to five games, and a restructured Stars defense allowed Chicago just 23 shots on net.
Yet even this satisfaction must be tempered by knowledge of the job ahead: beating the white-hot St. Louis Blues on a back-to-back for both teams.
"St. Louis might be the best team in the league right now, the way they're playing," Ruff said of a Blues team that took a 5-2 win Friday over Anaheim and has won five straight. "It's going to be put this one away and get ready for [Saturday]. That task is going to be even more daunting than putting things together the way we did [Friday], changing lines around and coming up with the effort we did."
Get more at Heika's place. [SportsDayDFW]
In case you missed it, Speznasty actually may be playing better now than he was 10 years ago.
And head coach Lindy Ruff observed an important individual milestone himself.
Lindy Ruff (@DallasStars) earned his 693rd career win and passed Dick Irvin (692) for 5th on NHL’s all-time wins list among head coaches.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 12, 2016
DBD will have the usual coverage for the Stars-Blues game tonight – in the meantime, check out Mark Stepneski's preview. [Stars Inside Edge]
Meanwhile, enjoy Razor at his best in the latest Emporium. (He's got your Chelsea Dagger right here.)
Jason Spezza – he's so hot right now. Will he hit or even exceed 70 points this year? (h/t ben2430) [All In Hockey]
And at Sportsnet, Andrew Berkshire devoted an entire article to what the "underrated" Spezza is doing for the Stars. [Sportsnet]
Also at Sportsnet: The latest Four Things We Learned leads with the Stars-Blackhawks blowout. [Sportsnet]
No one enjoyed last night's win more than Antoine Roussel.
Remember yesterday's links, when Melissa found Patrick Sharp tweeting out a Stars ticket offer to Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden? As it turns out, DMC picked a great night to see his first game. [SportsDayDFW]
Don't forget that Pevs Protects Night has finally arrived. Get to the AAC by 6:30 p.m. for the Rich Peverley Q&A with Razor on Victory Plaza.
After all that, it was a relatively quiet night in the #MDK. Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals and an assist as the Blues pummeled the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 and, for about 30 minutes, held the division and conference lead. [St. Louis Game Time]
The Blues have also re-signed second-pair defenseman Carl Gunnarsson for three years and $8.7 million. [Yahoo Sports]
Feeling good, and feeling the love. Thanks for all the support!!— P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) March 11, 2016
The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets last night, but the cost may have been steep: Evgeni Malkin left the game favoring his left hand after a collision with Dalton Prout and will be evaluated today. [Puck Daddy]
Also from THW: Former Stars head coach Marc Crawford is leaving the ZSC Lions (current home of Auston Matthews) and is eyeing a return to North American hockey. [THW]
Reputation matters: Independent arbitrator James Oldham specifically noted Dennis Wideman's "11 years of discipline-free performance as a professional hockey player" before slashing the Calgary Flames defender's suspension in half. [ESPN]
Wideman has already served 19 of the original 20-game sentence, but he'll collect more than $282,000 in back pay – and his originally rejected plea that a concussion suffered moments earlier had affected his ability to form intent when he knocked linesman Don Henderson to the ice was a factor in Oldham's conclusion. [Deadspin]
Meanwhile, the league says the Montreal Canadiens did not "act inappropriately" by trading Jarred Tinordi, now serving a 20-game suspension for PED use, to the Arizona Coyotes for Pacific Division All-Star captain John Scott, now playing in the AHL. [CBC]
And Gabriel Landeskog is embarrassed about the "really, really, really dumb play" that earned him a three-game suspension just as the Colorado Avalanche's playoff race is coming down to the wire. [NHL on NBC]
With a little more than a month left until the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs begin, Sean Shapiro has taken a review of the Texas Stars and their AHL Western Conference competition.
A 35-save goaltending battle finally tipped in the Stockton Heat's favor as the Texas Stars dropped the first of back-to-back games in California.
Rookie defender Stephen Johns may have had the best first day on the job ever.
Pretty good first day of work when the boss stops by to congratulate you. pic.twitter.com/9OiFXCXWLf— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 12, 2016
Finally: Always never not pick up your phone when John Klingberg calls.