It's a good thing the Stars are coming off a high of clinching a playoff spot while demolishing the Blackhawks, because this game was absolutely maddening. This game was the doorbell ringing just as you close the bathroom door. This game was discovering the prematurely soured milk when you have five minutes to eat breakfast before work. This game was the neighbor mowing his lawn at 6am on a Saturday when you're trying to sleep in just once. This was a game against the Coyotes.
Like a juvenile winemaker, I'll just get all the sour grapes out there first. The Stars were whistled for seven penalties tonight, and a solid three of them appeared to be pretty bogus, including the Jamie Benn "trip" that gave the Coyotes a penalty shot. (And kudos to Kari for not dignifying said shot with a response, by the way.) This doesn't include an embarrassingly uncalled icing when the Coyotes shot at the empty net from a full ten feet before the red line, and it also doesn't include the very obvious (for everyone except the officials) incident in which Louis Domingue played the puck in the "no-play" zone. As Razor said, the trapezoid is stupid and it needs to go, but your Faithful NHL GMs are currently trying to port the NBA three-second-violation rule over instead. You cannot make this stuff up. I hope someone asks Kari how he feels about being the only* goalie in the history of the league to have ever been called for one of those "played outside the trapezoid" penalties.
So, yeah, the Stars were good at even-strength tonight, but they didn't have quite as much of that as they needed. Incidentally, Oliver Ekman-Larsson played over ten minutes on the power play tonight. So, you know, that happened.
Sometimes, like Obi-Wan standing in front of the laser-wall thing in The Phantom Menace, you just have to test the laws of the universe just to make sure they still work. Jab 'em with the lightsaber to make sure they're really there, you know? That is what John Klingberg did tonight, and I'm honestly shocked that he couldn't get through:
John Klingberg with 11 shots on goal tonight, 15 shot attempts.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 25, 2016
In that same vein, do you ever suspect that Ales Hemsky is a supernatural being sent to our universe under strict direction that he look like a "fallible human" from time to time so we don't catch on? It makes sense, is all I'm saying, because how else do you explain Hemsky and no one else scoring tonight? Ales Hemsky is probably going to be in the new X-Files, because he is too amazing not to be. I hope he doesn't read this.
It became abundantly clear as this game plonked its way through the third period that Dallas was not meant to win this game. Or maybe fate had shown its hand ever earlier, after the second Phoenix (I'm just not even bothering anymore. It's like the "Los Angeles" Angels thing) goal, when the Stars rushed right back to the Original Jets' net and somehow couldn't beat a human goalie named Louis despite generating a succession of glorious chances.
Phoenix runs their offense from the points, as less skilled teams are wont to do, and that's where the Stars were invariably burned from, throwing out the time where Fortuna herself dragged Goligoski's skate into the puck for a wonderfully lucky goal for Arizona. In that vein, even the shorthanded goal was a comedy of errors that ended with a shot from the blue line. I hate those moments, you know? Where you see the shot coming, and you wince while yanking your eyes to the net, hoping not to see the puck arrive there before it inevitably does. Tonight, "inevitably" was the proper word.
Now, a couple players earned a brickbat or two, and Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn would probably be the first to raise their responsible hands here. They both had opportunities to step up tonight, but they met the same laser wall (seriously, what is that thing called in Ep. 1? I'm going to look....*looks* "Laser gate." Yeah, okay. That's pretty stupid. Also, can Obi-Wan just not use the Force through those things or something? Seems like a well-placed Force Push could have sent ol' Spikehead for a nice laser bath, but whatever, I'm not Master Plotter George Lucas or anything. I am enjoying talking about this more than I enjoyed every part of that game except the Hemsky goal. Episode 7 was average.)
It's good to keep fans engaged by tossing souvenirs into the crowd, but when Jamie Benn committed the third delay of game penalty of the first period, you had to wonder if the Stars were actually treating this game as a scrimmage in which to fine-tune their penalty kill. Unfortunately, the officials appeared a little too willing to play along with that, but hey, 6-for-6 on the PK makes those stats look good, I guess. They might get to "Almost Average" before the season ends!
I don't know what else to say. Jamie Benn is better than any player on the Coyotes, and it's not close, but it's hard to be happy about that when he can't score. Tyler Seguin feasts on teams like these, so you really do miss him at times like this. And speaking of absent players, how great would it have been to have Mattias Janmark in the lineup tonight doing his best Klingberg-As-a-Forward impersonation? I suspect we'll be seeing him in San Jose, so all's well and all that. Obviously he'll need a bit to shake off some rust (as Sharp still appears to be doing), but it'll be wonderful to see him back regardless. Lotta listlessness out there at times tonight.
Final theory: Dave Tippett may have some sort of tontine arranged with Jim Lites that involves a fortune of pirate gold buried underneath the House of Blues near the AAC. This doesn't really make sense, but I just wanted to reference tontines because goodness knows those are more interesting to speculate about than this game ended up being. I'm going to bed now. Sorry you had to stay up and watch this. Let me know if you find the gold.