The Dallas Stars are officially back in the playoff fold. Which is good. Now we can stop hearing about how the Dallas organization has failed to make the playoffs in 6 of their last 7 seasons.
It's not that said statement is untrue. It's just that I prefer to think of Dallas under Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff's tenure, in which they've been successful in leading the way in two out of three seasons. The one miss felt marked by anomalies rather than a lack of leadership, or prudence. There's plenty of both the former, as well as the latter now.
1. Fiddler Raising the Roof
wow stars taking care of hawks with relative eaves tonight— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) March 23, 2016
I'm not even sure the first pair of goals could even be accurately described as a 'good start' so much as a crash of fortune. Fun language fact (since this game boiled down to basically one period which will require me to pad the word length on this one): in Arabic, a crash between two cars is called an istidam. An unhappy event is called a sadmah. One who causes a sadmah is Saddam. Not all that ironically given his life and times, this is where the former dictator of Iraq got his name.
And this would be Chicago's first period in a nutshell: as one big unhappy event. As I said in my breakdown of Ruff's line blender, Colton Sceviour and Vernon Fiddler should be attached at all times. They have a palpable chemistry and their work behind the crease paid dividends in ways both legitimate, and fortuitous.
2. Freight Slain
Stars have outscored the Blackhawks 8-0 in the 1st period of their last 2 games at United Center— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) March 23, 2016
Patrick Eaves would slam one home in some excellent tic-tac-toe passing on the power play. Thankfully for Dallas, Chicago has an awful PK, and the Stars took full advantage of it. Also thankfully for Dallas? Chicago's PP has been slumping, and Vernon Fiddler managed an unbelievable short handed tally that you kind of just have to see to believe:
3. Radeks in Foxholes
"Faksa says playing with Hemsky is like playing with his dad; he's a calming influence on him."— x - LJ (@splendourella) March 23, 2016
Dallas' dominance in the first period kind of happened before anyone knew what to do. The best part about the goals is that despite the culprits, they were well earned. Dallas forced some Chicago breakdowns, but they also took advantage of self imposed breakdowns. Chicago would open up the second period like a team down by 1 goal rather than 4, and it showed for the bulk of the period. Radek Faksa would answer right back to reclaim Dallas' four goal lead. It was a great goal from Faksa because it came off a shot from a modest distance: we know he's capable of garbage goals with his nose for the front of the net. Displaying the silk to his shot will only instill more confidence heading into the playoffs (which he has earned himself a part of).
4. Dazed and Abused
Man, the only thing missing in this game is a Stephen Johns breakaw-...oh, there it is— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) March 23, 2016
In addition to Faksa's steady, overgrown play, Stephen Johns made only one "big mistake" but ended up being Dallas' best possession player at 5 on 5. It was another mostly quiet game that saw him play big in his own end, and smart outside of it. It's good to see him look the way he did when he became Captain on the Texas Stars; he craves that leadership role, and it's been illustrated in his play thus far despite a massive uptick in quality of competition.
5. Clocked Watching
Chicago would make a game of it for some time in the third period. However, Dallas held them to only 4 high danger area scoring chances for the night. It was a good defensive effort despite some lapses here and there. Into the third period, there wasn't much to do except enjoy the beatdown and just make it all official already.
And just like that, Dallas is back in the thick of it, chasing Lord Stanley. There's not much else to say except it's nice to see the team playing like a collective group rather than the sum of it's "supernova" line or whatever sillyness they called Spezza with Seguin and Benn. On to those pesky stray observations:
- Kari Lehtonen made some pretty miraculous saves. He didn't have to work overly hard, but he was there when it mattered. I've been one of Kari's more vocal critics. I'm still a licensed skeptic. But he played a truly great game tonight.
- Jordie Benn was a team worst -16 in shot differential (though he and the other defensemen took some very tough zone starts with a variety of partners as Nemeth was sheltered). It was his first game back, so no need to trample over a man's first game post-injury but some trademark Jordie things were happening: a few icings with zero pressure, and some turnovers made for a sometimes frustrating experience but I don't think he's had chemistry with Patrik Nemeth for a minute. There weren't many positive possession players thanks to the massive lead early on in the game so take it all with a grain of Corsi salt.
- On to Arizona next, which is fine. Dallas was embarrassed last time. Hopefully they realize the importance to trying ti finish out the season in style. With home ice in their favor all the way through.